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Rez (PlayStation 2) artwork

Rez (PlayStation 2) review


"Rez defied my every expectation. Of course, when you’re dealing with a game like Rez, it’s a bit hard to go in knowing exactly what you’re going to get. The only thing that was clear was that Rez was advertised as a music-based “rail shooter” (a shooter where you have no freedom of movement, or are “on rails,” as it were) that was going to integrate audio, video, and gameplay into one never-before-seen type of experience. With Rez, I was expecting a game with a unique (but perhaps unimpre..."



Rez defied my every expectation. Of course, when you’re dealing with a game like Rez, it’s a bit hard to go in knowing exactly what you’re going to get. The only thing that was clear was that Rez was advertised as a music-based “rail shooter” (a shooter where you have no freedom of movement, or are “on rails,” as it were) that was going to integrate audio, video, and gameplay into one never-before-seen type of experience. With Rez, I was expecting a game with a unique (but perhaps unimpressive) look, overly simple gameplay, catchy music, and very little replay value, but a game that would nonetheless provide a breath of fresh air. Boy, was I misguided.

Rez is the brainchild of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of the oddball Dreamcast title Space Channel 5. While Rez and SC5 are both titles with strong musical influences, fantastical visuals, and simplistic gameplay, Rez is a trance filled tale that intertwines technology with New Agey historical themes that contrasts sharply with Space Channel 5’s alien invasion theme, set to the tune of infectious jazz beats/,

Rez takes place in the future, a future in which a supercomputer has been created in order to handle the huge flow of information circulating throughout the world. Your character, a hacker of sorts, is called in when Eden, the heart of this supercomputer, develops a consciousness and shuts itself down. It’s your job to bypass the countless viruses (enemies) and firewalls (bigger enemies) that block the path to Eden. Cutting a swath through five areas of the supercomputer, which are based on the world’s most ancient civilizations, you take a quasi-intellectual tour of the history of mankind.

This entire plot, however, is secondary. The big thing about Rez was supposed to be its seamless integration of gameplay and audiovisuals. Each attack and movement (of you or your enemy) would result in the music and the surroundings changing in tune. Unfortunately, this whole aspect of Rez was a big letdown. You, the hacker, float through the five areas with no freedom of movement, only able to aim the cursor at enemies and their projectiles. The cursor can lock on to eight enemies at a time, and you press the X button to fire. Locking onto enemies and shooting them is basically all there is to Rez.

Rez is certainly playable, sometimes bordering hypnotically addictive, but very shallow. It doesn’t help that this whole “seamless integration of gameplay and audiovisuals” thing was terribly overhyped. After a few stages, it was apparent how little your actions actually effects what is going on around you. Each time you hit an enemy, a note plays, and your surroundings will occasionally vibrate or oscillate in time with the music. Although the sound effects differ from stage to stage, and little melodies can be made depending on how many enemies you have locked on, this is hardly ‘creating your own music.’ It would appear that all Mizuguchi and his team have done is replaced an exploding sound effect with a few small musical sounds.

It doesn’t help that Rez features some insipid trance music. Not being a big raver, I haven’t listened to a huge amount of trance, but most of what I have heard is better than the music in Rez. The main flaw with the music is that it is doesn’t really fit with what is going on around you. A game that properly integrates sound should have intense, heart pounding music when the enemies are closing in with great force, and mellow sounds during breaks in the foes’ attacks. Unfortunately, Rez does neither of these, and it’s music plods along at the same lifeless pace.

Although I have chastised Rez for weak visual integration, the graphics are beautiful on their own. Insanely colorful and warped, Rez has moments of visual brilliance. The simple, polygonal surroundings belie the fact that there is plenty going on at one time, with blasts of color and exploding everywhere and buildings, vaguely resembling Egyptian pyramids, Mesopotamian ziggurats, and/or Chinese palaces swaying to and fro.

The one way in which Rez positively surprised me was in it’s strange, gripping appeal. I expected this game to last me two hours, but I probably spent about ten on Rez before things started to get boring. I know ten hours isn’t much in this massive RPG type of world, but it was much more than I expected. While it is about as simple as simple gets, Rez is truly an ensnaring, entrancing game. Could someone fall into a daze and play this game for hours? Sure! It also helps that Sega has included a bevy of modes with which to noodle around. After getting everything there is to get, you can fine tune several aspects of your playing experience (color schemes, the character’s form, attacks) and tailor the ideal playing scenario.

A shallow but surprisingly mesmerizing game, Rez is a title that can hook you for the duration of a long weekend. Beyond that, Rez will probably outlive its usefulness, and it will go happily back to the rental store. Some nice graphics might draw people in, but poor sound, unsophisticated play mechanics, and the painfully disappointing amalgamation of its sound, graphics, and gameplay all are downsides to Rez. Look forward to an interesting, unique, not-quite-as-refreshing-as-you-expect ride.

Rating: 5.5/10

hoodedjustice's avatar
Community review by hoodedjustice (July 16, 2004)

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