Turn the lights off. Close the curtains. Sound proof your home and get that 500 Watt SubWoofer in. Rez is probably the best Shooter, Aurally and Visually, that you’ll ever play. It’s ancient in terms of gaming (Released all the way back in January of 2002), the original version came out on the all but defunct Dreamcast and it’s a pain in the arse to find as well. There were an awful lot of poorly made disks for the Dreamcast, eBayers charge a fortune for the games and the DC version never even came out in America. That doesn’t change the fact that Rez is the pinacle of on-rails shooting. That’s to be expected with Tetsuya Mizuguchi behind the creative wheel, the man behind Space Channel 5, Meteos and Lumines for the handheld markets and now Ninety-Nine Nights for the Xbox 360. This guy has one of the best track records out there, and it shows in the game.
For the uninitiated, Rez is an on-rails shooter, in the strain of Radiant Silvergun, R-Type and similar, which involves you flying your avatar through a series of five levels and bosses, shooting down enemies as you go. Gameplay revolves around chaining together locked on shots of up to eight at once, blasting away anything from tiny enemies smaller than your characters head to huge death-missile firing behemoths of Doom and Decay that soar past your head in the sky, raining down fire on you at every chance they get. The usual power ups are there, one that clears everything off the screen and the health pick ups, but the health system works in a unique way. You “evolve” after picking up eight pieces, morphing your avatar up to a higher level, letting you take more damage and fire faster too. Every time you’re hit you drop down on the evolutionary cycle, all the way down to a ball before you die entirely. Dependant on how well you do in the main section of each level, you may face a different difficulty level of boss as well.
Visually, every level is unique. There’s not really any way to describe some of the thinking, but you never see the same enemies from one level to the next, so when it comes to dealing with them it’s quite a visceral experiance, as just waiting isn’t going to help you live. It’s all themed around the idea of hacking, with a scrolling list of the commands you’re throwing in at the side that tells you when you progress, when you level up and other things in it’s own language. It’s really bright, with distinctive colors and patterns, different locations and it all has an artificial edge about it, that the game tries to keep. However, if you’re not a fan of neon colors, then it may not be right for you.
The music is one of the best features about the game by far. Each track is distinctive, and as you progress through each level it develops into a aural feast of deep bass with distinctive rhythms and samples. Starting off with nothing but a beat, you add the rest of the track yourself as you go along, progressing from layer to layer to move further on. The rumble of the controller helps too, keeping the beat as well as vibrating when you’re hit and when you’re attacking. I’m very fond of the audio, which should have won awards but hasn’t been recognised. It’s the focal point of the game, which is more of an experiment of gaming as an art form than anything else.
My personal view is that if you see this game, buy it. It’s worth the purchase if you enjoy uniquely styled games, and whilst the gameplay can be shallow, it always draws me back with the fantastic range of music and the sparkling display of lights. If you ever see it in a pre-owned rack, it shouldn’t be particularly expensive to purchase, I managed to pick it up for £10 quite a while back. It deserves an expensive home theater setup though, so maybe it’s time to invest, eh?