F-Zero GX – Second Opinion

Here at GameCritics.com, the Second Opinion is supposed to be used to reflect on aspects of the game that the reviewer might feel that the Main Review glossed over, or perhaps to highlight the areas where the opinions of the reviewers differ. In the case of Scott's F-Zero GX review, there is a rather obvious motif, that being the difficulty of the game. So, without further ado, let's get down to brass tacks.

The most important aspect of F-Zero GX's difficulty is that it is fair. The CPU ships are subject to the same rules and restrictions as the human player. For example, there is no "catch-up" or "rubber-banding" used by the computer opponents, at least as far as I can tell. I feel that the difference between games that utilize these "CPU advantages" and those that do not is an important distinction, as it separates F-Zero GX from games that are "artificially" hard—that is, those games that make themselves harder by essentially cheating the gamer. (There is a large exception to this in F-Zero GX, and that is Story Mode, which often offers up situations where the CPU has an unfair advantage[s].)

So I feel that Scott's criticism of F-Zero GX as being "unfair" to be a little off. Hitting off the wall once and shooting from first to last is frustrating, yes, but if the game allows the player to build the skills necessary to succeed in the game and does not allow the CPU access to a larger set of possibilities than the player, then I feel that the game is being "fair." It's that "building" of the skills that becomes the problem.

If the player is a hardcore gamer, someone who can sink days and days of practice into the game, then F-Zero GX is a near-perfect racing experience. But if the player is someone who wants to come home and spend an hour or so playing a videogame, the experience will quickly turn into a frustrating one, because F-Zero GX pretty much requires a certain level of dedication and investment of time in order to succeed. The game is "fair" in that it's possible to do well, but when that requires learning the "perfect line" for every track, becoming completely familiar with the handling of a particular ship, and learning to deal with opponents who are both vicious and precise, it will be overwhelming for many gamers, especially those without much experience with futuristic racers.

The reason that we see this disparity in experiences is the fact that F-Zero GX has an essentially flawed learning curve. Although most people will be able to step up and win the most basic cup on Novice difficulty, there's a giant hill to climb after that, with the tracks becoming incredibly hard and the competition becoming increasingly perfect. The jump between Novice and Standard difficulty is particularly nasty, serving as a harbinger for what's to come. It's a jump that can be made, but only after much hard work on the part of the gamer.

I do find this to be a flaw in the game because the game could manage to be just as difficult and yet more accessible. If there were intermediate difficulty levels between the existing ones, the game would become easier to learn and thus would seem less difficult while still maintaining the same rigid standards at the higher difficulty levels. By consistently rewarding the player with goals achieved as their skill increases, the game would positively reinforce the player. But as F-Zero GX is currently configured, there are two few rewards spread out over a large section of learning. As it currently stands, it's too much like being thrown into the deep end while still learning to swim.

And the game deserves a wider audience than those who already have their lifeguard's certification because F-Zero GX is a labor of love that hits all the right notes, especially aesthetically. The controls are tight and responsive, offering up a configuration simplistic enough to learn quickly but deep enough to provide myriad racing styles. The blindingly fast races show almost no hiccups, and the soundtrack is appropriately energetic for a futuristic racer. One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was the Pilot Profiles. It's one thing to have a quick backstory for each character, but Sega went far enough to provide an individual theme song for each character as well (and these are not quick little ditties, either). Considering the amount of pilots there are in this game, it's commendable that so much work was put into providing a unique persona for each of these pilots. The Pilot Profile section is an example of a videogame done right, with care taken not only for the mechanics of the game, but for providing a cohesive and multi-faceted experience.

The aesthetics are incredible, the gameplay is as smooth as butterbut does the difficulty level kill the experience? It's a hard question to answer and I feel that the only reliable answer to say that it's up to the player to make that call. Everybody's reaction to this game will be unique, depending almost entirely on the previous experience that the player has had with other videogames, especially racing videogames. It's too bad that the game couldn't have been accessible to more gamers, as that really is all there is standing between F-Zero GX and being a great game. This game is rated 7.5 out of 10.