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Rez (PlayStation 2) artwork

Rez (PlayStation 2) review


"While her husband was away, she had the opportunity to entertain herself. She reached into the wardrobe, pulled out the shoebox, and took it to the bed. There she opened it, and pulled out the monster. Trembling with anticiapation, she started .... hold on. This is a video game review. Sorry!"



With a title like 'Rez', you probably wonder what the game is all about. Well, let me tell you. It is a story of innocence lost, of conviction, of courage, and mostly, of heroes. A story of the quest for truth. Set in a fantastic land, where magic and technology combine. Sounds like any other RPG, then? Maybe, but then Rez brings something new to the mix. Actual real-world physics. Swords weigh like swords would, and characters need strength to actually wield them effectively.

Ok, so I lied.

Thing is, Rez is not an RPG. It has no real-world physics. It has no 'dynamic real-time lighting'. No swords, no dragons, no plot. Well, the tiniest of plots. That being, you are in a computer system, trying to free some female organism that is trapped. But what it does have, in spades, is good old-fashioned back to basics GAMEPLAY. Did you see that word? Remember it? Or has it been consigned to the history books yet?

To even attempt to describe Rez, one has to imagine that you are familiar with the entire history of games. This basically means that you have to have played stuff before the invention of the PlayStation. You didn't? Then, stop reading now, because you won't be impressed at all. Rez may look all new-age, and certainly has more than a few late 80's/early 90's hippy type elements in there, but the gameplay is rooted firmly in the golden age of arcades. We are talking straight out shoot-em-up gameplay, of the kind we don't get any more.

Oh, and what a joyful thing the gameplay is!

In a nutshell, here is what happens. You start off heading into the screen. The screen has some basic wireframe type graphical background. There is a fairly simplistic music track as background. You have a target that you can move around. It can lock onto things. Up to 8 at any one time. Every thing you lock onto makes a high-hat sound. If you shoot 1 thing, you get a sound effect. Shoot 2, you get 2, but they are in time with the music. Shoot 8, and you get more of an orchestral stab. Eventually, there is a box to shoot. Shoot it 8 times, and the level warps. The background gets a little bit more detailed, and the music gets another layer added to it. This happens up to 10 times, then you fight the boss.

I know it doesn't sound very exciting like that. But, you have to realise the overall effect this has on you. See, by making it so that you add the layers, the game draws you in that little bit more. And, by putting the musical sound-effects in, the game actually allows you to use an extra one of your senses to help you play with. Many times, you will find yourself locking onto a target and firing more by sound than by sight. There is a particularly stunning set-piece halfway through level 5, where you will find yourself tapping the fire button in tune with the music, shooting things you haven't consciously registered as seeing yet.

Oooohhhhh, that music! Wow, Sega have found the perfect complimenting tunes. Especially level 5's 'Fear'. Ambient and techno inspired, these tunes have a way of getting into your mind. Possibly because you have such an effect on them yourself. Never before have I found myself singing sound-effects from a game in my head at idle moments. I mean, a game where you can actually compose tunes whilst racking up points? What genius came up with this?

Graphically, you may have seen the occasional screenshot, and just been plain unimpressed. Well, that is because the graphics don't make any sense until you have seen them build up over the last 6 layers. I'm telling you, this is a game you have to experience, not just read about, or even just watch. There is no real way to see just how astonishing this is until you have sat yourself in front of that screen and ...... LIVED it! The game may look like something from Tron, and it makes perfect sense that it looks that way. You are supposed to be in a computer system, after all. Lovely virtuality memories abound. Of course, the other thing about these texture-free polygons is that they can move about the screen so much more quickly and smoothly. And, again, trilinear bump-mapped gouraud shaded realistic stuff would look completely out of place. The look is totally consistent with the theme.

As to the gameplay that I keep on raving about, well, if you can think of Tempest 2000 (or X3), or Panzer Dragoon Zwei, or maybe even N2O, or maybe even the bonus sections from The Lawnmower Man, then you are partially there. It is a shooter of the tunnel variety. Head into the screen, shoot things, and get a high score. A high enough score will unlock some more bonus items, such as an extra level, or a new musical form. High score? What do you mean, what's a high score? I told YOU to go away, didn't I? Damm casual fools...

Play this game. No, don't play it. EXPERIENCE this game. It is a reminder of everything that is good about this industry. No hype, no triumph of style over content, no hour-long FMV's, no added sugar. This is that rare occasion where technology catches up to someone's imagination, and creativity. I suspect the designer has been dreaming of this game for years. I also suspect that I will for quite a while to come.

There has to be something to criticise. Well, let's just say it is very short. 5 levels, and 1 bonus level. Any reasonably skilled gamer should be well on their way to finishing the lost world inside a day of play. Then, it just becomes a matter of how much you enjoyed the game as to how many of the extras you wish to unlock. Like, I know there must be something for shooting 100% of the enemies in each level, but I am damned if I have achieved this goal yet. But, I will. This is the type of game that I am happy to go back to. Gamers bought up on Final Fantasy 7 and Gran Turismo would probably do better looking elsewhere. Still, I can wish they would play this and love it. We need this kind of innovation in the games industry, and the only way we are going to get it is if games that DO innovate are commercial successes.

Incidentally, Sega, PLEASE don't ever make a Rez 2. Make a special edition, or stuff like that. Give us extra levels, bonus packs, whatever it takes. But this game is currently unique, and it deserves to be treated that way for at least a while.

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by cheekylee (Date unavailable)

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