Rez In­fi­nite

Rhythm shooter Rez In­fi­nite of­fers big ideas and an ex­cel­lent sound­track.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Sav­age

Let’s start with the ba­sics. Rez is an on-rails shooter, orig­i­nally re­leased in 2002 for Dream­cast and PlayS­ta­tion 2. You travel along a set path across five wire­frame lev­els, and shoot ev­ery­thing that you see. Some­times en­e­mies drop one of two types of power-up: One up­grades your form, giv­ing you ex­tra pro­tec­tion against en­emy at­tacks, the other lets you auto-shoot ev­ery­thing on the screen. At the end of each level is a boss. Are you with me so far? Good. Rez is an at­tempt to break down the sen­sory bar­ri­ers—a synaes­thetic cat­a­lyst that wants you to visu­al­ize sound and taste feel­ings. It’s about the art of an­cient civ­i­liza­tions, about the evo­lu­tion of life, about the emer­gence of AI, about self and con­scious­ness. It’s a metaphor for life, yeah, in­spired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and the art of Wass­ily Kandin­sky. You could ac­cuse it of be­ing pre­ten­tious, to which the ob­vi­ous re­tort is, ‘Yes, and?’

Each level opens to a mostly bar­ren space, with lines scrolling be­low you. Rather than mu­sic, the back­ground is an am­bi­ent tone. Soon, ba­sic en­e­mies ap­pear. You can point and click at en­e­mies to shoot them, or hold the left mouse but­ton to lock-on—queue­ing up to eight shots. Re­lease, and you’ll fire at those locked tar­gets. Are you with me so far? En­e­mies ex­plode into the­matic iconog­ra­phy. The Eye of Horus, or the Lion of Baby­lon—brief bursts of re­splen­dent color fad­ing into the dark­ness. Clear a wave, you move to the next sub­sys­tem. The am­bi­ent tone gains a beat. The scrolling lines take on con­tours and def­i­ni­tion. You don’t fire in­stantly. Rez is a rhythm game, and it isn’t go­ing to let your des­per­ate bid for sur­vival spoil that. Shots are quan­tized to the beat of that level’s mu­sic—fir­ing off in rhyth­mic pat­terns that ac­com­pany the beat in of­ten play­ful ways. This changes the pace and pur­pose of com­bat. It’s not just about killing things—mouse con­trols make that fairly triv­ial—but also about play­ing with the mu­sic. It’s about pro­tect­ing your­self from in­com­ing fire, but also creat­ing riffs through chains of kills. It’s part-chal­lenge, part-jam ses­sion.

As you move deeper, the lines evolve into roads flanked by com­plex ar­chi­tec­ture, and the mu­sic builds and gains new lay­ers. My sec­ond fa­vorite level, Area 4, starts with a sin­gle, driv­ing drum beat, onto which more per­cus­sion is added as you progress. It builds in in­ten­sity up to the sev­enth layer, when the whole thing shifts and warps into a sin­gle syn­the­sized riff. And then it builds again, grow­ing un­til you’re fight­ing a boss made of cubes in the shape of a run­ning man, set to guitar riffs over its drums, and a syn­the­sized voice scream­ing “ROCK IS SPONGE”.

My fa­vorite level, Area 5, is a poem about evo­lu­tion set to Adam Free­land’s Fear—a beau­ti­ful song that shifts from am­bi­ent sound­scapes, to break­beat drums, to a per­fectly used sam­ple of Mar­lena Shaw’s Cal­i­for­nia Soul. I have thought about Rez a lot over the past 15 years.

Rezur­rec­tion

This PC re­lease fea­tures all of the up­grades and op­tions you’d want of a mod­ern PC port, and also brings VR sup­port. I tested on an HTC Vive, and I’m dis­ap­pointed to say that VR Rez doesn’t do it for me. There’s lit­tle sense of im­mer­sion—of be­ing in this vi­brant, sub­lime ex­pe­ri­ence. In­stead, there was a flat­ness, like I was play­ing on a room-sized mon­i­tor. But Rez In­fi­nite also fea­tures a new level, called Area X. This is Rez for VR, with full free­dom of move­ment and a new vis­ual style. Played out of VR, I found the abil­ity to move some­thing of a dis­trac­tion. But in VR, with head track­ing, it felt nat­u­ral. The real dis­ap­point­ment is that there’s only the one new level. As it stands, it’s an ex­cel­lent proof of con­cept.

If you want to be re­duc­tive, Rez is a sim­ple shooter with just a hand­ful of lev­els. But if you want to be re­duc­tive, Rez prob­a­bly isn’t for you. Ac­cept its big ideas and sin­gu­lar pur­pose, and it’s like noth­ing else you’ve played. What Rez does still feels re­mark­able, but only if you’re pre­pared to meet it half way.

It’s not just about killing things but also about play­ing with the mu­sic

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