Finally, F-Zero GX smashes into the office at lightning speed, leaving us completely floored by the fruits of Sega and Nintendo's genius collaboration. Here's our verdict.
When news first broke that Sega's Amusement Vision would be developing the next installment of the popular F-Zero series for both arcades and the Gamecube, the oceans rose, cities fell, and life as we knew it was never the same again. With Sega's very rich arcade tradition, it only made sense to entrust such a franchise to them. To see both Sega and Nintendo logos together fills our hearts with pride as gamers. Who'd have thought we'd ever see the day?
After almost tackling the UPS driver and trampling him within an inch of his life to get our hands on our copy of F-Zero GX promptly, we ripped open the delivery box to fond some nice box art with a cool shot of the four veteran F-Zero drivers and their crafts on the cover. Hopefully, this box artwork will make it to western territories in tact.
Besides the usual contents of game disc and manual, bundled in the box was also an F-Zero GX/AX arcade card called an "F-Zero License Card". The card is for use with the arcade version of F-Zero, together with your GameCube memory card in order to transfer data between both versions. With this featrure, players will be able to race their home built machines in the arcade, or transfer new pilots or machine parts that can be used for customization on the Gamecube version. It's just too bad that arcades supporting this feature are impossible to find outside of Japan.
For the new-age baby boomers out there or those who've been living under a rock since the start of the 16-bit era, F-Zero began life on the Super Nintendo and impressed gamers with its hovercraft style racing and futuristic environments, while showing off the special Mode 7 visual effects. These effects were a big deal back then, and it was one of the first titles many Super NES owners bought.
At the beginning of the game we were treated to a very brief CG intro that showed two racers speeding like bats out of hell, one eventually drove the other into a wall, demolishing his vehicle and then confronting him. With fear in his eyes, the fallen driver looked up at the approaching figure who turned out to be his boss. The fallen driver begged for his life and promised to win the F-Zero Grand Prix next time. In return, his boss promised him punishment if he fails.
Gameplay is where the F-Zero series has always delivered most, and F-Zero GX is no exception. The action really is 'fast and furious', with plenty of vehicles on-screen making a bid for 1st place, but there can only be one! At the start of the game you select from four hovercrafts, each with their own attributes with plenty of others available at a later time to unlock or purchase from the F-Zero shop. Overall there are 20 courses and a total of 30 vehicles to choose from. Since each of them handles differently, you'll need to give each a test run in order to find what's better suited for you.
After the camera provides a cool sweeping intro of each course layout you then blast off and attempt to steer your vehicle to victory, while trying not to incur too much damage so you don't crash and burn before hitting the finish line. Speed boosters, which are located at various conveniently placed locations throughout the tracks, return to give you that much needed edge when trailing behind in a race. Just ride your craft over them and watch as you're sent through the tracks at warp speeds, but careful not to lose control and ram into a wall or worst yet, careen off course into a long death defining pit. Along with the use of the speed boosts throughout the tracks your craft also becomes equipped with manual boost power after completing the first lap in each of the courses, so with just the flick of a switch, or better yet, the press of a button, your futuristic hovercraft will receive a much needed turbo thrust, rocketing it past many of the other 29 opponents.
After racing through several courses in the Grand Prix mode we came away very, very pleased with the game. The difficulty of F-Zero GX feels just right, it's not too difficult but not very easy neither. We had to work at it a bit just to nail 3rd, 4th and 5th place during our first few plays, but afterwards it was smooth sailing with a few occasional bumps thanks to the clever course designs. The other racers are pretty aggressive and will do whatever it takes to beat you to the finish line, including side swiping you just to send your damaged vehicle snowballing into a wall and turning into a fiery mess. All of the vehicles we were able to access handled remarkably well, each hovercraft maneuvered almost perfectly through the courses and were very responsive to the touch of the analog controls as we weaved in and out of the populated tracks with ease. In a nutshell, the controls are PERFECT.
The Wavebird controller was a perfect fit for this beyond awesome racer. All of the buttons served an important function with the analog stick controlling the craft's movements, the Digital pad controlling the different viewpoints, the Left and Right shoulder buttons providing the ability to drift in either direction, a much needed feature to help clear those tight turns that would normally send you head first into a wall. The other buttons control the acceleration, brakes, turbo boosts, and the spinning and side attacks that each vehicle can perform.
The course designs are very well done, filled with long, winding, suicidal twists, turns, and stomach churning loops to help you regurgitate the lunch you didn't finish digesting yet. After completing the Grand Prix courses, players will be awarded points that they can use to spend at the F-Zero shop, providing the game with plenty of depth and a rich feature set to give it enough replayability to keep gamers coming back for more.
The only minor, extremely minor gripe I had with the game was the lack of digital controls. It's always nice to have the D-pad alternative to fall back on for more precise controls in some games in case analog isn't really cutting it, but fortunately that's not the case with F-Zero GX as it already controls like an absolute dream.
Graphics is an area the F-Zero series never really excelled at in the past, taking a backseat to everything else in those games. F-Zero GX finally changes that. Visually, F-Zero GX is quite astounding. If you're looking for photo-realism and real world cars, look somewhere else. If you're looking for beautifully designed futuristic courses filled with neon lights and thirty super fast vehicles rocketing through death defying loops and half pipes to an unwavering 60 fps, then F-Zero GX is where it's at. No pop-up, slow-down or any other graphical imperfections.
The visuals are very clean, the vehicles look very well modeled and textured, exhibiting very subtle specular highlighting and gloss - they look great. Displaying some great attention to detail, the four classic F-Zero vehicles have little scratches and dings to show their age, and really need paint jobs, which goes to show the wondrous amount of detail and love lavished upon this jewel during its development.
The backgrounds are even more impressive. Showcasing some very detailed backdrops complete with gorgeous skies, lush detailed trees, cool futuristic buildings and fantastic lighting effects, the backgrounds are full of life and activity.
Some of the backgrounds were so dazzling to look at we got distracted during a few of the races and kept ramming into the walls and going off course because we were too busy gazing at the visual wizardry of some of the levels. In the Multiplex, all the golden buildings look like giant microchips and circuit boards connected by a central processing unit. In the Forest level the fog, gorgeous trees and incomplete tunnels that you rotate as you speed through, is just stunning use of videogame graphics.
One of the coolest surprises in F-Zero GX is the reappearance of Nintendo's R.O.B. (Robot Operating Buddy). As the camera performed its routine panning and sweeping through the courses before the start of each race, good ol R.O.B. the robot was shown standing tall alongside the other buildings and structures, towering above one of race courses, something that had the Nintendo booth erupting in cheers of nostalgia back at E3 2003.
Each of the courses featured intricate and well designed tracks that will have you weaving hectically to avoid bouncing off of concrete and energy walls, falling to your demise, and running into mines or fixed structures, positioned in later levels to make life difficult. For those with a weak stomach, prepare for some motion sickness.
The replays are exceptionally well done, allowing you to watch the races from many different viewpoints.
Sporting plenty of geometry with smooth rounded edges, great texture work, impeccable draw distance, gorgeous and surreal looking backgrounds, very fast sense of speed, and a perfect framerate, F-Zero GX has finally brought the series into the next generation.
Admittedly there was a bit of concern that some of the trademark F-Zero music such as Mute City's original theme song wouldn't return because a non-Nintendo developer was handling the game. Fortunately this is not the case. Driving through the Mute City course we were presented with a beautiful hard rock rendition of the Mute City them mixed with futuristic Techno sounds complete with fast beats and twinkling spacey sounds.
The overall soundtrack is predominently techno but the real highlights are definitely the songs that blend a variety of musical styles together. There's even a great sounding Jazzy piece in a later course that's mixed with rocking guitars and a techno style beat. It's this fusion of different musical styles that makes the soundtrack of F-Zero GX quite memorable. Very nicely done and is why I've always felt that Sega is one of the best music creators in the business.
The Sound Effects are also well done with the hull of your hovercraft banging against a rival's, scrapeing against the walls or exploding into a fiery mess in a huge boom. What little voice work there was in the game sounded good as well, including that of the excitable announcer shouting your rankings as well as announcing the start and end of each race.
Overall, F-Zero GX leaves us wanting more and more. The game is a true audio visual tour de force, the greatness of which can't be expressed with mere words. Everything about the game is extremely polished, and everything loads up quickly as well. If we had to list one downside, it would be that there aren't many F-Zero AX cabinets around to try out the F-Zero license card on.
Finally, a strong word of warning to those considering importing the game before its scheduled US and UK releases in August and October respectively. F-Zero GX isn't perfectly compatible with Datel's Freeloader boot disc. If you're using a USA or European Gamecube console, the actual game itself runs fine, but you'll be missing the on-screen options/menus as well as the Title screen. They're not visible, making the menu selection process very similar to maneuvering around a select screen with your eyes closed. F-Zero GX seems to use a graphic overlay to display some data on-screen which is rendered separately from the main graphical portion of the game.
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F-Zero GX Video 1 (480x356)
The fantastic new E3 F-Zero GX trailer. Lots of fast action here.
F-Zero GX Video 1 (320x240)
As above, lower resolution
F-Zero GX Video 2 (480x356)
The same trailer that came out a couple months ago, much better quality.
F-Zero GX Video 2 (320x240)
As above, lower resolution.
F-Zero GX Video 3 (320x240)
Brutally, impossibly fast gameplay video from the showfloor.
|F-Zero GX: Japanese TV Advertisement||1.17m||7.98 MB||WMV|
|F-Zero GX: Three minutes of glorious direct-feed action on GameCube - very fast. Awesome.||3.10min||21MB||MPG|