Thursday, June 12, 2008

REZ: Truly Sublime

Humanity has completely linked itself with the computer system known as K-Project, controlled by a massive AI known as Eden. In a philosophical identity crisis, the computer decides to commit suicide and shut itself down. It's up to you, the computer hacker, to travel inside the computer system, destroy all viruses and firewalls, and Rez the system back online. You are armed with anti-virus software, to be delivered upon (in laser form) the virtual avatars of sentient computer programs. They've got plenty of computer-crashing missiles of their own. And lasers. And an almost endless supply of computer code with which to attack. Luckily, you also have the ability to analyze packets of code, unlocking the virtual K-Project. You can absorb powerups and transform your avatar to higher levels, with faster (blazing) lazers.

Rez was an obscure Dreamcast title for a few years. Thankfully, Sega decided to release this badboy for the PS2 when the DC tanked. It was designed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who is one of the best game designers working today. He's the brainchild of Meteos and Lumines, both of which share lots of qualities with Rez. Recently, the game was re-re-released for XBoxLive Arcade in the form of Rez HD, sporting high def graphics. I've played the Xbox Version, and found it faithful to the original, but I was playing on an SDTV and can't comment on the HD graphics.

What makes Res so special? For starters, all of your actions are part of the music. Attacking is timed with the beat, and the entire experience is, as the box advertises, synaesthetic. When I say Rez is sublime, you will believe me. You can choose how the music unfolds, but you have to balance your desire for a beat with your desire to score points. Tapping the attack button furiously will produce fast-paced percussions, while using the combo system will create organic samples.

I found the game at a local EBGames for 40 dollars, used. Normally I hate EBGames bullshit prices, especially on used games (which used to be about half of the new price until they flooded the market with used games), but I had seen a friend play Rez. I remember seeing his character race through electronic cities blasting angels and insects, and knew that I had to buy this game. Price gouging aside, Rez is worth every penny, and I promise you'll get your money's worth if you happen to come across this rare-ish game.

It sports all the usual features of a Mizuguchi game: swarms of unlockable features, a kickass soundtrack, and trippy visuals. It's a shooter-on-rails, somewhat similar to Star Fox (or that Star Wars sit-down arcade machine, or Panzer Dragoon) in gameplay. In the summer of 2006 I sat in my room for a week (instead of getting a job) and played Rez with the lights out. I still haven't unlocked everything, Rez can be extremely challenging. I have managed to clear 4/5 levels with 100% and have unlocked all of the skins.

The "skins" are new color schemes for the entire game. Punk, psychedelic, ambient, etc. I had a hard time with these unlockables at first, but in the spring of 2007 one day I played through the game 5 or 6 times, each time unlocking a new skin.

Speaking of skin... Rez also boasts one of the strangest gaming peripherals. A vibrator. It is exactly what you think it is. Plug the vibrator into controller slot 2, and you'll have a pulsing rumble 6-times stronger than your typical DualShock 2. Admittedly, Mizuguchi has shown that the "rumble pack" could be placed under your feet to enhance the overall synaesthetic experience. But if that's the case, why did they include a latex "sleeve" for the Trance Vibrator? If you couldn't guess, this was a Japan-only peripheral. If you want the original article on the Trance Vibrator, check out Game Girl Advance's article on the subject(warning, pictures NSFW).

It's almost hard to accurately describe Rez, because it's very different (but eerily similar) comparatively. It is an ancient story, about a single person who destroys armies. We see it a lot in video games, and its been in books dating back thousands of years.

Rez's appeal comes mainly from its scenery and setting. The locations evoke a grand sense of perspective and size. We understand the infinite potential of computer graphics and user interface options. Rez is cool because the technology exists to make this computer system, and playing the game is proof. The game is Rez, so, in a way, everything in the game is real as well. This hyperreality paradox strikes serious tones with technologically inclined individuals (known as "gamers" in this case).

But, hey, its just a video game. And all talk aside its a pretty fun game. Chances are, if you like video games, then Rez is right up your alley. If only the internet were like Rez...


Anonymous said...

rez is "truly sublime." i could watch it for hours.

you took the paragraph on the vibrator extremely seriously... i think its hilarious... some japanese inventors really need a new hobby. ^_^

thinking about buying it if i can find it... but i refuse to buy from gamestop so it is prolly not going to happen... *sigh*


db said...

this looks pretty cool.

have you read "snow crash" by neal stephenson? i think you would really dig it.

8bitcity said...

I have read it, and I did dig it. Also, Neuromancer. Rez is very similar, I always thought of Neuromancer when playing this game.

db said...

thanks for the recommendation, i'll have to check out neuromancer.