Developer: Amusement Vision
Release Date: August 26, 2003
Buy 'F-ZERO GX': GameCube
Today’s racing games are looking better and better, with not only meticulously modeled vehicles but also very detailed tracks, obstacles, and backgrounds. F-Zero GX is definitely not an exception to this trend, as the skyscrapers, trees, and starships that make up the background look fantastic. What keeps F-Zero GX separate from the pack is that when you are going over the speed of sound if you blink you’ll never know that 10,000-story skyscraper was even there. Speed junkies take notice; there has never been a racing game as fast as this.
F-Zero is the racing phenomenon of the 26th century, where the brave and crazy strap themselves into jet-powered hovercraft, then blaze a trail through courses that turn, bank, wind, and corkscrew in their quest to come out on top. The F-Zero series of games started off with the original F-Zero, a SNES game that used the FX chip to create pseudo 3D graphics. F-Zero 2 was more of the same, but was only released in Japan. With the advent of the Nintendo 64 F-Zero fans were treated to F-Zero X, which brought over 20 new, playable racers to the table as well as true 3D graphics and polished gameplay mechanics. F-Zero GX essentially picks up where F-Zero X left off, taking the solid gameplay established by the previous titles in the line, adding a few more features, and giving them a major facelift.
In the first F-Zero game and every game since there has always been the four main racers. Captain Falcon, Samurai Goroh, Pico, and Dr. Stewart. All of the racers from F-Zero X return, such as Octoman, Silver Neelsen, and Blood Falcon, although slightly changed. Four years prior to the events of F-Zero GX a huge crash happened during a grand prix race involving all of the F-Zero racers. The crash was extremely horrific, but due to the heroic efforts of Dr. Stewart none of the racers were killed. Due to the tragic accident it was ruled that F-Zero races were to be banned, a ban that held for four years until F-Zero races were finally deemed legal again.
There really isn’t a racing game quite like F-Zero GX, on any system. Sure, many games tout their speedy gameplay and awesome gameplay, but none of them hold a candle to GX’s blistering pace. Each grand prix race pits you against 29 other F-Zero racers, where the only rule is that the first one to cross the finish line wins. Depending on the difficulty level you select, each grand prix race is somewhere in between controlled chaos and sheer mayhem, with each and every one of the racers jockeying for position, boosting through hairpin corners, and hurtling through the air. On the first lap of a race you are limited only to your driving skills and boost pads on the track to try and claw your way to first place. On the second and third laps every car’s booster system is enabled, allowing a racer to temporarily boost their speed at the cost of a portion of their crafts energy reserves. Using your boosts strategically is key, especially on harder difficulties, in order to not only stay in the lead but also to avoid weakening yourself.
To give you the upper hand you can force other racers off of the track, eliminating them from the rest of the race. While there are no weapons or powerups to do so, you can simply use your racer itself to slam into another craft, damaging it or destroying it entirely. The two main moves you can do are a swift side dash to slam other racers into the guardrail or off of the edge of the track, or a spin attack that can send other racers wildly off course. Of course, other racers can do the same moves back to you, and do them more and more depending on what difficulty level you select.
Every time you place in a race you get a certain amount of standing points depending on what you placed in. At the end of each 5 race cup, he who has the most points is deemed the champion. Every time you win a grand prix cup, you get a victory lap cutscene, an interactive interview with your racer, as well as a handful of tickets and the ability to buy a new custom part. Custom part you say? Yes ladies and gents, for the first time in the history of F-Zero games you actually get to build and customize your own F-Zero racecraft. To build your racer you first pit what body, cockpit, and booster engine you want. Each part has their own strengths and weaknesses in the forms of durability and weight, as well as their own impact on how the vehicle handles and performs. Once the racecraft is assembled you can pick the color of each of the parts, using three sliders (Red, Green, and Blue) to get the exact color you want. Finally, for that personal touch you can add up to four emblems to any part of your vehicle, using either the 30 or so original icons or using the emblem editor to create your own. Custom vehicles can be used in any game mode except for the Story mode, allowing you to unleash your new beast anytime, anywhere.
Another first in the series is the afore-mentioned Story mode, which puts the player in Captain Falcon’s shoes as he lives a racer/bounty hunter’s life. The idea behind having a story mode in this type of game is not a bad one, but F-Zero GXs story mode is exceptionally hard, even by the third chapter. To compare it to the grand prix mode, playing and winning a grand prix on the master difficulty level is easier than completing a story mode chapter on standard difficulty. While they can be a great way to hone your skills at racing, they can also be extremely frustrating and there is very little incentive to continue trying.
F-Zero GX also has a time attack mode, which pits you against the clock and optionally against a “ghost” to try and beat your best times. The practice mode allows you to hit the track without any worries, letting you get a feel for the track and learn each ones intricacies. The meat and potatoes of the game is still the grand prix mode and the story mode, which can allow for hours and hours and gameplay or get repetitious really quickly depending on your point of view.
F-Zero GX just might be the best looking game for the GCN yet, not only faithfully recreating the racecraft and racers F-Zero fans already know but also updating the classic tracks such as Mute City and Big Blue. Tracks like Port Town have detailed docked freighters in the background, while in tracks like Aeropolis “streams” of hover cars follow airborne highways. The sparks that fly from your craft when you boost bounce along the track, racecraft in the distance appear as little stars due to their bright engine flames, and when a racecraft sings its swan song it throws off a steady stream of smoke, sparks, and particles of metal as it bounces along the guardrail before finally coming to a rest in the form of a crumpled mass of smoldering metal. F-Zero GX has speed in two areas, not only does the extreme speed of the race itself catch your attention the game always runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, totally immersing the gamer in every second of a race.
F-Zero GX doesn’t have quite the edge, but still stands well enough on its own. The guitar-laden background songs of F-Zero X are gone for the most part, giving way to a more techno sound for F-Zero GX. While this can displease a few of the more hardcore F-Zero fans, the songs still fit the games futuristic theme well. Each racer has their own theme song, some of which are complete with vocals. While some such as Dr. Stewarts are a little bland, some themes such as Samurai Gorohs fit just right and sound really good.
Fans of the previous F-Zero games already know what to expect in F-Zero GX as it has more or less the same gameplay as the previous titles, and gamers new to the F-Zero experience will find a futuristic arcade-like racer that plays very fluidly and is easy to just pick up and play. F-Zero GXs replayability can be judged in two ways, you either think that every race feels the same over and over again, or you feel that every race is never played the same way twice and each one feels fresh. Racing game fans who believe in the latter statement will find that F-Zero GX is a quality, polished game with looks to kill and speed to burn.
Score : 9.4/10