Rez review

A screenshot of the original Rez for Playstation 2.

This is something that perhaps we can identify with more than most given that we’d rather enjoy a highly anticipated release on a Friday than go out on the town. The things we’ve seen and done, places we’ve been, without stepping outside of our homes. Since details on Rez were first announced I have followed its development eagerly and now the finished version is here.

Rez is already the source of controversy in America as when the game was deleted by Sony after its initial launch pressing. Was Sony unhappy about Sega’s lack of support for its machine or were they worried that Rez would affect the sales of their own game Frequency. Perhaps we will never know but the trouble is many punters won’t understand Rez and will take it at face value. This is shown by the varied reviews that it has already received, loathe Rez or love Rez, you must experience it to know for sure.

The story like the control method is simplistic. You are a cybernetic character labelled by the developer as an endorphin machine. I’m not sure about the tag as it sounds like a medical appliance. Rez is set in the future where networks represent life and network crime is on the increase. A better system was created, within it Project-K (couldn’t they think of a better name?) is the central axis of the system. This works in tandem with Eden; which represents the power and intelligence of the system. Before perfection is realised Eden becomes self-aware and questions its own function and existence. The answer is simple; Eden shuts itself down barring anything from the outside gaining access. You are sent into cyberspace to locate and reactivate Eden from within. Standing between you and Eden are viruses and firewalls contained within different areas, which are broken down into levels.

As you hack into each new area viruses will appear intent on destroying your form; these come in many different shapes and sizes. At the end of each area you will meet a firewall (boss) and here you will try to shut it down, constantly fighting against the every changing pattern as it rebuilds itself and swarms in an attempt to be victorious. In cyberspace it seems that viruses and firewalls have unique identities and characteristics rather than just data or patterns that we perceive. To succeed you only have a lock on laser capable of firing only single shots and your senses.

A screenshot of Area 2 in Rez for PS2

There are no health bars in Rez rather your status is shown by your appearance. A disco ball is your lowest form, rising to a wire frame then a dural type figure and so on. Instantly recognisable and freeing up the screen from more icons than necessary. Your health increases by shooting and collecting blue orbs that are scattered around the levels, often in limited quantities. Your health is not measured by levels and is quite severe, one hit will send you scuttling down to the form below your original status but this is no hardcore shooter. If you judge this as an R-Type game then you are taking it on visual appearance alone. Rez is very much an assault on the senses like no other game before.

The visuals are stunning incorporating familiar shapes and figures from history in a variety of styles ranging from simple wire frame drawings to modern art. The game when running is a moving art form in itself, always changing, surprising, and never ending. The world that United Games Artists have created is like no other before it, forget realism; this is what games should aim for. It could be described as encompassing the whole period of videogames from the beginning with such titles as Pong or Battlezone to modern day graphics with lavish colours and shapes.

Not content with capturing your vision UGA have assaulted your senses of touch and hearing in an attempt to capture your heart. The game uses the vibration feature of the controller more than any other game, the bass will thump and you will feel it. In Japan they were lucky enough to have the option to buy a peripheral, which plugged into the USB port. This vibration pack could then be placed under a cushion or in a pocket resulting in a higher level of immersion. For now I’ll have to make do with my B&W 603’s Series 2 however if anyone should come across this item, please let me know.

Music in videogames is often cheated; name the genre and you could predict the style of music contained within. To label Rez as dance, trance, Electro-beat, Jas-dub is meaningless as the most important aspect is the player because you control where the music goes and this is central to the whole concept of Rez. Each time you fire a shot, hit, destroy or lock onto multiple viruses a musical note applies. The note varies according to what type or how many viruses in question. You can shoot everything in sight but then you realise the control that you have over the music. I find myself waiting until the suitable moment in my tune to destroy a virus. The viruses in your mind become musical notes to be plucked from and put into the order that you feel is appropriate not enemies which can harm you. Build, create, this is the way games are heading.

Those who criticise Rez for its limited nature or playtime have taken the option to shoot till reaching Eden not realising every time you play you create a unique accompanying soundtrack. Yes there are only five areas each with ten levels and a lost area making up the main game. There are score attack and travelling (where you cannot die) modes to offer life beyond the main mode if you so desire. Judged purely on a basis of shooting games Rez will offer little challenge but this was never the intention. It is the first 3D shooter that works even though you are very much on the rails and only able to control the aiming sight and firing of the laser. I never felt limited as the field of vision throughout is 180 degrees but during boss battles it doubles. On the first few boss attempts I ultimately failed because I could not conceive that I had total vision.

Boss fights are fantastic to participate in or view as the boss dissolves and circles all around you. In fact Rez is a hypnotic experience like no other as my skill of being able to have a conversation with the girlfriend whilst playing a game is useless on Rez. I doubt I even blink at the screen anymore, yes I know the patterns and levels yet I must have my fix whenever I return from a stressful day. Perfect to chill or lose yourself in, UGA have succeeded in what they wanted to achieve.

As I own both the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 versions there is no difference between either. You could state that as the project was conceived for the Dreamcast hardware it is perhaps the more graphically smoother of the two versions. Even with the Playstation 2 optical output being used there is little sound difference between either game, the Yamaha soundchip in the Dreamcast is a wonderful thing. If only the Playstation 2 version included a Dolby Digital signal, perhaps next time? Be thankful for the Playstation 2, otherwise you may never have had the opportunity to play the game. The Dreamcast version has been released in such small quantities in Europe. A city such as Edinburgh that boasts large EB and Games branches has had only three copies to date. One belongs to me and two reside with lucky staff at Game, not much joy for the public. This scenario is common when a machine is on its last few releases but as stated elsewhere it pays to stick with a console to the bitter end.

When it comes to scoring games overall or in any single category I perhaps am the most critical and cynical at Gamestyle. I am never happy, there is always something wrong, and five represents average to me not seven! Given this and the fact that I have never scored a game as being perfect overall or in any single category I feel I am about ready to do so. Scoring Rez is the hardest task that I have faced on Gamestyle to date. I cannot find fault with the game, although it is a single player experience, watching can be fun and the developer deserves praise for pushing the boundaries further. If I were to put the game away it would be placed alongside Radiant Silvergun, Gunstar Heroes, Zelda, Elite, Goldeneye and Tetris in my collection.