Review: F-Zero GX - Gamecube

Fast times at Future High

Back in the SNES days there was a game that paved the way for futuristic racing games. That game was F-Zero. After a solid showing on the N64 with F-Zero X comes the newest update on the Gamecube, adding a G to the name...F-Zero GX. All of this fancy letter adding instead of assigning them numbers proves appropriate with a game that feels like an update rather than a true sequel.

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Sega's AV team got the nod to develop this version this time around in an effort to free up first-party resources for original games. Overall they did the franchise justice.

No second chance for a first impression

Out of the gate, however, F-Zero GX feels too familiar. I wasn't engaged in the speed as much as I had hoped. Some of that is due to blah-ish track design for the first couple of tracks. Once things progressed however, the tracks became more interesting and intense. The difficulty may turn some people off, but once you are used to strafing with L or R and drifting by pressing both at the same time, your enjoyment should increase. And even with the spinning attack (Z) and side swipe attack (X), I didn't get the fresh "wow" I was expecting.

Making amends

New to the series is an emblem editor. You can create a logo a la a mini paint program and put up to four emblems on your vehicle. You can also buy chasses, cockpits and engines with tickets you acquire by winning different modes of the game. When you buy the vehicle parts in the garage mode, you can create your own vehicle. Better parts require more tickets. You can customize the color of each part as well. For instance, my cockpit was blue, the chassis was red and my engine was yellow and ended up looking like a Jayhawk-colored origami goose. It was a pure joy to see that ugly duckling racing around with the nicely designed default vehicles.

You have your normal grand prix, vs. and time trial (ghost) modes. In vs. mode you can team up with three other players and go head-to-head and the game still never stutters from the impressive frame rate although the tracks aren't as detailed.

New to the series is the story mode in which you have different tasks to perform other than winning a race like "collect 25 cones in 80 seconds" and the like. You are treated with a CG scene in between of your character's developing plot. It's cheesy but endearing in a Cartoon Network sort of way.

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Graphics on speed

F-Zero X on the N64 was the fastest racing game at the time. But to create that sense of speed for that system meant that the graphics had to take a hit to maintain a solid frame rate. With F-Zero GX, the graphics didn't have to take a hit to maintain the great sense of speed. With 30 crafts on the track, the frame rate doesn't slow down...ever. It locks in at an amazingly impressive 60 fps. Even though the graphics look much better than its predecessor, they fall a little short of today's standards. But there is still something to be said for scaling the graphics down to let the processor concentrate on keeping a solid frame rate.

Don't get me wrong, the game isn't ugly. In fact the ship models are nice, but get by with fewer polygons since the ships can be so angular. The game runs in 480p progressive scan and widescreen for HDTVs. Kudos to Sega for that inclusion.

But for the love of God, can someone please make a game where particles fly when a vehicle blows up? Here you get a flash of red and orange and smoke coming from a lump of coal that looks the same each time.

The rest

The music takes some of the old themes and drenches them in a fairly generic early 90's techno that works, but is entirely unoriginal. The voices are well-acted for the comic book style they are trying to create. The Pro-Logic II surround really adds to the immersion. You can hear cars roaring behind you and zooming past you.

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The presentation is a mixed bag of great CGI scenes and an awful menu selection screen. There are nine options to choose from at the start and each option gets its own square. The problem is that it clutters the whole screen

If you look beyond the minor unrefined aspects of F-Zero GX and the insane difficulty later on, you end up with a very enjoyable game, especially if you are a hardcore racing fan dedicated to refining your skills to blaze the tracks with your best time. However, I fear that the casual gamer may be intimidated by its difficulty, alienating a big portion of Nintendo's intended audience. But a fine effort overall.


Graphics: B+
Sound: B
Gameplay: B+
Replay: B
Overall: B 85%

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