At the turn of the millennium it was clear that Sega was still struggling to find its identity at the tail end of the Dreamcast era. Changes had to be made to put the developer on a firmer footing for the challenges ahead, and today we can see the results of these endeavours. Looking back at this period it may not have been one of great commercial success however it did produce several offbeat titles that have stood the test of time including Space Channel 5, Phantasy Star Online, Skies of Arcadia and of course Rez. Today such projects would probably struggle to receive the green light in most major studios.
When this reviewer had to summarise Rez upon its original release in February 2002, it was extremely difficult not to be blown away. Here was a unique experience on several levels, whether it be visually or the game play itself. It was one of the few games to receive the legendary Gamestyle ten score, or at least from this writer. Now thanks to the Xbox Live Arcade we have a revitalised high definition of the classic title.
Those expecting something new will be disappointed as this version is a firm believer in the maxim ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ In a way that’s a good decision as Rez HD sets out to give the same experience, albeit with high definition, 5.1 surround sound and widescreen options added to its arsenal. For enthusiasts or those who refuse to pay the collectable price for a PS2 or Dreamcast version, the original edition of the game is kindly included.
On paper only four levels with a bonus area may seem like a short-lived affair, but Rez is not something you can measure in terms of size. You will return again and again to experience its unique charms, chasing high scores, trying new modes or simply enjoying the pleasure of travelling. Online leaderboards give that added incentive outside the standard achievements to be the best if you so desire.
It is easy to critise what could be called an on the rails shooter with the same predictable enemies on each playthrough. Somehow Rez manages to overcome all of these and still be as fresh and entertaining. Since 2002 music has become an integral part of many video game titles, with Frequency and Guitar Hero all managing to produce something different. Rez still manages to hold its own and nothing has come close since.
For Xbox Live users Rez HD is the chance to relive a classic, experience something as fresh today, as it was six years ago. The game will not appeal to everyone, especially players who enjoy big epic titles or rampaging shooters with extreme difficulty curves. For the price of just 800 Microsoft points you can acquire a gaming classic and one that still is relevant in the high definition era.