In 1990, Nintendo essentially created the futuristic racing genre with the release of its high-speed racing game for the Super Nintendo, F-Zero. Since then, especially once the 3D era of gaming took hold, we've seen a lot of different developers do a lot of different things with the genre. For example, while F-Zero was always about pure speed and racing, with a limited focus on smashing up your opponents, the Wipeout series came up and made a more combat-focused racing game. But regardless of the approach, the one thing that has always been key to making a good futuristic racer is the game's sense of speed. Over the years, the various entries in the F-Zero series have done a nice job with that fast feeling. The latest entry in the series, F-Zero GX, delivers on the promise shown by the last console entry, F-Zero X, by offering an unmatched sense of speed while still keeping the same basic gameplay elements--track memorization and a couple of combat maneuvers--completely intact. The result is a great and challenging racing game that runs perfectly smoothly for up to four players.
If you love a tough challenge in your racing games, F-Zero GX is exactly what you're looking for.
While the game has a handful of customization options and a story mode, F-Zero GX's main mode is the grand prix mode. Here, you'll eventually be able to choose from more than 30 different vehicles, though only four are available at the outset. Each of the game's rides has its own statistics, so each one handles differently than the next. A vehicle's body strength comes into consideration, as do rankings for boost power and grip. The game is broken up into cups, and each F-Zero cup tournament is a five-race event. Points are totaled up as you race, and the points leader at the end of the series is the champion. Three cups are available right away, at three different difficulty levels. But you'll unlock more options as you play. You'll also earn tickets that can be spent in a shop.
Beyond the grand prix, the game also has the standard practice and time trial options that you'd expect from a racing game. You can save your replays to a memory card and race against ghost racers for the fastest time. You can customize your racing machine with unlockable parts and your own decals and emblems. The game also features a nicely done four-player split-screen versus mode that maintains the game's high level of speed pretty well. F-Zero GX also contains a story mode that gives you some unique challenges while taking you through a cutscene-filled romp starring F-Zero poster boy Captain Falcon. The mode gets almost unfairly difficult at a few spots, but the delightfully campy cutscenes keep you wanting more.
The story mode isn't the only spot where the game gets difficult. The AI is a pushover at the easy and normal settings, but it eventually gets pretty tricky. But the real opponents in F-Zero GX are the tracks themselves. The high speeds you'll race at don't give you a lot of time to look ahead to see what turns are coming up, and some of the game's camera views take away even more of your view of the horizon. Because of these things, you essentially have to memorize each track to truly master the game. Considering that some tracks have open sides, and that spilling off the track forces you to forfeit the race and try again, you'll have to be a quick learner. Some players will find the game's difficulty exciting and will happily rise to the challenge, but in the end, it does limit the game's appeal a bit.
The game has support for steering peripherals, such as the Logitech Speed Force. The wheel works reasonably well, but you get more-refined control from the standard GameCube controller. So the steering wheel is fun up to a point, but if you're playing seriously, F-Zero GX is at its best with a regular controller.