Video games are designed to take the player into worlds that may not exist in real life. Often games give us a glimpse of a possible future, an unlikely past, or even a chaotic slice of modern day that is rarely seen. These trips breed intense reactions and can engulf the player. Rez is a game that will suck you in and cause you to pound the controller until your forearm is numb and your eyes have become glazed and burning.
Rez is the newest game for PS2 that has come from Sega. Created by the same team that created the quirky Space Channel 5, Rez is another exploration into the symbiosis of music, visuals, and gameplay. Rez is a 3D vector-graphics rail shooter, if I were to categorize it outright. However, it would be a pity to throw this game in with anything else that is currently out there. Rez is a unique trip all of its own, a voyage exploring music and the patterns that create music. The player flies through this virtual world, “hacking” a computer in an attempt to reach the central core. During the trip, the player encounters a plethora of enemies and mind numbing visuals that will incite reactions of “Whoa”, “Ahhhh”, and “Holy crap, what the hell is going on here?”
The graphics in Rez are very simple but at the same time quite complex. As the music plays, the levels are generated through a combination of spectral analyzation and pre-scripted level design. This creates a dazzling array of lights, shapes, and mythical structures which have never been seen before. Everything is vector based and texturing is not quite apparent. This may make the graphics seem dated at first but I feel that the little touches in this game help to make it one of the most visually impressive games I have seen in a while. The complexity of scenes is staggering and all of it executes flawlessly even when there are over two hundred enemies on the screen at a given time. Special effects, such as motion blur, digital explosions, and other staples, are used quite liberally. I feel the developers were able to find a good balance with their use of effects; although plentiful they do not feel overused or played-out. The graphics in this game are something to behold and complement the theme of the game quite well. I am happy to see the developers break tradition and try something new. I feel it worked out beautifully.
Music provides the basis for all of Rez and I feel that the music is excellent. Rez’s soundtrack is a collection of assorted electronica. Most of it is very related to trance but just a little faster and a little darker in feel. The music is the spirit of Rez and although there are only five or six tracks, they are all very well done. When you target and shoot enemies, the game makes little sounds that help to accent the music. I never was able to determine if destroying enemies with the beat made a difference but I feel that the game distributes more power-ups to those that are rhythmically inclined. Much like the graphics, the sounds are minimalist but very well done. The sounds and music hold this game together and help bring the player deeper and deeper. I just wish there were more tracks and more areas of the mainframe to explore.
Rez’s gameplay harkens back to shooters of yore. The gameplay is simple, only two controller buttons are used, but addictive. Rez consists of five levels of a mainframe. Each level consists of multiple stages, which the player must infiltrate. As the player speeds through the computer he is confronted by a massive number of enemies and soon the game falls into a furious storm of button-mashing, controller rumbling, and all out chaos. The dual-shock vibration is intense in this game and after a while your hands may go a little numb. However, it contributes extremely well to the intensity of the game, which, with the visual, aural and physical overload, quickly pushes the player to the brink.
The frenzied nature of gameplay only increases as the player becomes more powered up and the number of effects and visuals begin to increase. By the end, all context had been lost and I could hardly determine what I was supposed to shoot, what I was shooting, and what in the background was just damn cool. The game recognizes that it is an experience and provides additional play modes that allow for simple exploration of the levels without danger of being hurt. Overall the gameplay is simple, but it’s addicting and I feel that is all a good shooter needs.
I thought Rez was a blast but I will admit that it is not a game for everyone, rather its more fitted for hobbyists and collectors. I will keep Rez frontline in my collection for some time to come and I will be proud to show it off. Congratulations to the development team for creating a unique and solid game that while not groundbreaking, is pretty damn close.