Game Description: Rez, the action shooter brought to you by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (the talent behind Space Channel 5 and Sega Rally), is a fast-moving, wire-frame adventure backed by industrial beats. The story of Rez takes you deep into the world's computer network, which has recently been updated to handle the overload of information brought by the rapid expansion of the information age. The core of the new network is known as Eden, an extremely advanced artificial intelligence. But problems begin when Eden becomes self-aware and suffers a breakdown. You must take control of the network while you manically search for Eden to bring it back online. The network was built to keep intruders out at all costs, so you'll have to fight off enemies from all sides. To reach the system's core, you'll need to shoot your way through each area and take out its specific firewall (boss) to wipe out that part of the system. By hacking the system, you'll alter the visual output and even take over the music, creating your own rhythms and eye candy as you dig deeper into the dreamlike cyberworld.
Games like PaRappa The Rapper and Space Channel 5 (SC5) have coupled rhythm to the experience of playing. If those games involve performance with a direct connection to the music (rapping in PaRappa, dancing in SC5), how well would the use of rhythm go when coupled with the frantic nature of a shooter thats more about traversing a network? Could the visuals go one step further, exploring how sound would "look" rather than how characters would dance or move to the music? How would the player deal with making new beats while trying to manage a firefight at the same time?
For a moment, enter a venue in Las Vegas: the Blue Man Group. After garnering popularity at venues in Chicago and New York for their innovative "new media" performance, the Blue Men are a group of three who use percussion and sound to explore media and how people connect to each other in various ways. One segment of their show features an original song titled "Rods and Cones" in which the Blue Men play along to their custom instruments and explore what sound would "look like if we could see it," according to an electronic scrolling text marquee placed in the background of their stage. Projected waves and bars appear against "drum walls" on the stage with the visual graffiti becoming more intense as the music becomes more complex.
If the Blue Men had to choose among the games Ive mentioned, Im sure they would enjoy a game like Rez compared to PaRappa and SC5. Where the latter two games end, Rez begins. Sight is significantly linked to sound and both are exhibited visually, just like the Blue Mens performances.
Rez is the child of Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The father of Ulala and Space Channel 5, Mizuguchi announced the release Rez last year under the United Game Artists label. U.G.A.s first title for the PlayStation 2, Rez takes place in a future where computer network crimes have gone out of control. In order to take care of matters, a system called "Project-K" has been devised with an advanced artificial intelligence core named Eden.
Because of the information overflow circulating in the network and an increase in viruses attacking it, Eden became confused and eventually shut itself down. Now, someone needs to hack in and re-awaken Eden by breaking through the viruses and firewalls that have turned the construct inside out.
The presentation of the network is quite psychedelic when it becomes the background (both visually and contextually) for a shooter. Prior to its release, I was discouraged to see that Rez was rail-based (read: a guided experience where the player doesnt control movement through the playing field). Fortunately this does turns out to be an advantage, allowing the player to stay focused on targeting and, most importantly, creating light and music.
Creating sounds and visuals takes place intuitively in Rez. Holding down the fire button locks onto enemies. So with a maximum number of eight target locks I can let go and beams are released from my "avatar". Whenever an enemy is targeted, hit or destroyed, a sound is made. It could be a drumbeat, a clap or a musical note. This is where the enjoyment of playing Rez really takes place. No matter how the timing goes when I lock onto or fire at enemies, every one of them synchronizes with the music. I dont feel pressured at all to time my shots or associate myself with the beat to make catchy sounds. The player creates new beats while playing, effortlessly.
During play, the dual shock function of the PlayStation 2 controller is utilized, thumping to the rhythm of the music. This is definitely an added attraction into the world of Rez and intertwines the musical, graphical and tactile to make for a very cool experience. As multifaceted as this is, however, the graphics for Rez are much more simple in their direction.
Rez projects minimalism effectively. Everything looks simple, with wire frame landscapes, architecture and enemies that resemble anything from spacecraft to aquatic mammals. Streams of color explode when enemies are fired upon. At rapid speeds, flying through the levels can be breathtaking with so many effects taking place at once. The situation can get extreme, with a full compliment of missiles and other strange projectiles headed towards the player. Its at these times that Rezs framerate dips just a little. Its noticeable, but not enough to throw someone completely out of their trance.
When I play Rez, I reminisce about the film Tron. Although the former is recent while Tron itself is 20 years old, both feature graphics with basic shapes and simple shading for everything that moves. Rez clearly has Tron-based inspirations: one of the bosses is clearly inspired by the films Master Control Program control tower. Additionally, both deal with reaching the center of the network in order to liberate users access to information (or, more specifically in Rezs case, freeing the network itself).
Its interesting that Rezs graphics, so technical and mechanical in nature, have such organic qualities pulsing to the musical beat and reacting in other ways to the music. Even my avatar (the character evolves as enough power ups are acquired) pulses correctly to each stages music. Each area appears to be ethnically and culturally inspired. The first level of Rez, for instance, has Egyptian qualities while the fourth area clearly has Chinese influence with complementary sounds and instruments. This referencing makes the network appear as an encyclopedia of evolution and progress. When reaching the fifth and final area of the games normal mode, I was teased with text telling the story of Mans evolution and the possibility of a future evolution - human and technological prophecies, indeed.
Transcendence (or perhaps even just ascendance) appears to be one of Rez themes, clearly shown in the fifth and final area. Here, the best electronica of the game plays on: Adam Freelands "Fear" remix. Obviously slower in rhythm with its strong percussion, I felt that Rez would have been stronger if the songs for the first four areas of the game were more distinct like this one. Id like to think that the best was saved for the last stage, but at the same time the first four areas had seemingly formulaic techno compositions that were not as inspiring or powerful as the fifth. Since this area is the games last area of normal play, I was sad to see the game over so quickly.
Because Rez is very short and only mildly difficult (I finished the five areas in under two hours), the player will be left naturally wanting more. Shooters in general are never really long per se, but Rez takes the cake for being the shortest shooter Ive played, unfortunately. Thankfully, there are other modes that became available as stages are repeated or, for instance, areas are completed without letting any enemies escape unscathed, making replay value worth the time. Extra modes include a "score attack" and a "beyond" mode, the latter of which contains extra levels unrelated to the main mode of breaking through to Eden. The extra modes are a necessary addition to the already short game, but for any casual gamer who doesnt like to replay levels these extras may never see the light of day if he or she cant sit with the game to replay levels and unlock them.
Playing Rez can be highly infectious even if for just a few minutes, so even the casual gamer might want to try that stage "just one more time." Because targeting and shooting is always associated with the music, the creation of beats and sounds is something I couldnt escape. I replayed the entire fifth area of the game when I originally intended to check a few visuals for just a moment. The addiction I had certainly maintains Rez with a higher rating in addition to its alternative approach to graphics. The mix of visuals and sound makes it as fun to watch as it is to play.
Consider, then, how the Blue Man Group performs. Movement with light, sound, and the body is essential. Another of their songs, aptly titled "Synaesthetic" is something Rez claims to be a visual exhibition of sound. If the game even covered a slightly wider scope of Electronica in its main areas of play (or perhaps even other genres of music), and if it explored the meaning of Eden more so, than Rez would be a more intriguing shooter than it already is.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
Rez is something of an odd duck to review, like many recent genre-bending Sega games. I can definitely appreciate its richness and vibrancy, but I can also understand why it didnt exactly become a blockbuster hit.
Personally, I thought the music aspect of it was an interesting novelty, but not really that big a deal when you get right down to it. I focused more on playing it as a shooter and appreciated the quirky sounds in an incidental fashion. Im not the biggest techno-music fan in the world, and the soundtrack to the game never really grabbed me or put me in a groove. To my ear, it sounded mostly like blips and bleeps atop a bass beat, and only resembles a fully produced track when youre firing up a screen full of enemies. I echo Jamess thoughts when he says that the final piece of music was the strongest, and I also concur when he says that it would have been interesting to see what Rez would have been like with a wider range of music. While hardcore clubgoers may want to take a few "mood enhancers" before playing Rez, the aural selection really didnt do very much for me.
Visually, James is right on the money when he calls Rez psychedelic. I thought the presentation of the simple wireframes and trippy colors was extremely fresh and appealing in an electro-minimalist-retro kind of way. The concept and general flavor appealed to the art-y side of me, especially when you take into account the games premise. The simplicity of the stages matches the simplicity of the music, giving a good sense of balance on a metaphysical level.
Looking at the actual gameplay, Rez plays like Panzer Dragoons second cousin, twice removed. Being the Panzer fan that I am, I found the shooter portion of game itself to be reflexively enjoyable. However, be warned that its pretty simple and shallow. After getting accustomed to the games visual barrage, I managed to zone through it in about two or three well-glazed hours. Its short and sweet, but when I was done, I was DONE. None of the extras were compelling enough for me to put any serious effort into replay, and despite Rezs strange, hypnotically addicting personality, its charm wears off rather quickly. Its powerful when taken in small doses, but Rez is not a game to be played for the long haul.
For those gamers who are willing to take Rez on its own terms, theyll find an interesting, unique experience thats exactly what the psychiatrist ordered. However, its more of a mind-altering novelty than a traditional game, so some people may find that the brief high isnt worth the crash of being $50 poorer.
According to the ESRB, this game contains: Mild Violence
Parents have nothing to fear about Rez unless a pulsating avatar is something that may frighten you. Worth noting, though, is the epilepsy warning that appears upon loading the game the game contains a mesh of intense color splashes and flashing at times. Enemies consist of all that look mechanical but some resemble aquatic creatures such as fish or insects. None of the music in Rez has explicit lyrics so naturally the ride is safe, at least aurally. Music game enthusiasts of titles such as PaRappa The Rapper and Space Channel 5 will want to experience Rez for its unique art direction and pumping music.
Gamers shy of rhythm games can approach Rez easily because it doesnt require that the player possess a good sense of rhythm or pacing at all.
Fans of rhythm games such as Dance Dance Revolution may feel hindered since the experience relies more on reflexes and split decision shooting than it does moving to a beat.
Deaf and hard of hearing gamers are provided with enough visual (and vibration) feedback on where and when to shoot enemies. Since half of this game's value relies on the aural the action may become repetitive.