ometime back in 2006, film critic Roger Ebert wrote a controversial editorial in which he stated that video games "could not be art." Although he revised his position slightly in July of 2007 by saying that they "could not be high art," one thing still remains clear: Roger Ebert has never played Rez. It's not every day that a video game is recognized by the arts community at-large, but such was the case with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's masterpiece back in 2002. Nearly seven years after its original release on the Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, a larger audience is finally able to experience this (still) cutting-edge marvel on the Xbox Live Arcade.
Here's one of Rez's immense
end-level bosses.Often mislabeled as a music or rhythm game, Rez is at its heart an on-rails shooter. Although its soundtrack is phenomenal and changes dynamically based on your performance, that soundtrack doesn't provide the core of gameplay as is the case with DDR or Guitar Hero. Rather, it helps lay the framework for the complete Rez experience, giving aural feedback as you travel the depths of this virtual world. As "rave-inspired" as Rez is, a few of its tracks are complete departures from the world of dance. Take the game's closing theme (which sadly goes uncredited and untitled) — as if from the future, this beautiful (albeit short) track sounds more like Ulrich Schnauss than Paul van Dyk. All in all, this is one of the best game soundtracks to be found outside of the Wipeout franchise.
Each level has a unique
color palette.Not to be underestimated, the simple vector graphics that make up Rez's environments and enemies look better than ever on the Xbox 360. The game can be played through in its original 4:3 aspect ratio or in an entirely new widescreen mode — although the new 16:9 aspect may make the game a little bit easier, owners of high-definition displays are almost certain to prefer this immersive new perspective. If you thought Rez's straight lines, simple textures and vibrant colors looked great on the Dreamcast and PS2, prepare to be amazed. They're downright jaw-dropping on the Xbox 360 — hardware antialiasing and the increased resolution come together to make every line in Rez razor sharp.
As complex as it is from a design perspective, Rez's gameplay is as simple and accessible as you're likely to find anywhere. Two buttons and the left thumbstick guide your avatar as you float through a virtual reality in an attempt to resuscitate a failing computer mainframe. The game's many enemies are merely the embodiment of that mainframe's defenses, which see you as a threat. It's a simple idea that should be familiar to anyone who's seen Tron or is experienced with cyberpunk. Although many game designers have tried to simulate this experience, only Mizuguchi and his team at UGA succeeded in making it fun. Rez consists of five primary levels which the skilled player should be able to blast through in about an hour. Countless unlockables, however, greatly extend the game's longevity.
There are a lot of shooters out there, but few address the genre from as unique an angle as Rez. Even after nearly seven years, the game still feels fresh and innovative — a true testament to the design team at UGA and their minimalist style. I would have been willing to spend $80 for a used copy of this title on the PlayStation 2. Combine the Xbox 360 version's new features with a $10 asking price, and Rez is a downright steal.