Rez, the latest game from Sega's United Game Artists, has a lot in common with the developer's last game, Space Channel 5. Like Space Channel, Rez is very easy to pick up and play, it oozes with a unique sense of audiovisual style, and it's a game that you can finish in under an hour. How much enjoyment you'll get out of this far-out shooter depends on your priorities.
Rez is the story of a virus-plagued cyberspace. You essentially play as a hacker who has entered the computer world to fight through area after area, eliminating the virus and restoring cyberspace to its previous state of digital beauty by reviving Eden, the computer in charge of the whole place. You do this by shooting anything that gets in your way. The game plays like other Sega shooters, such as Panzer Dragoon or Planet Harriers. You float through the level at a predetermined speed and course, controlling a targeting reticle that can lock on to up to eight enemies at once. Holding the fire button down locks on and releasing fires your shots. As you progress, you'll come across evolution spheres. Every time you fill your evolution meter with spheres, you upgrade to your next form, moving through a few different humanoid forms and eventually moving up to a pulsating sphere. Getting hit with enemy fire, however, drops you down a level. Losing all your levels ends the game. You'll also collect overdrives, which can be used like smart bombs to attack everything on the screen for a brief period of time. Each of the game's main levels ends in a spectacular boss fight, though none of them are overly difficult, and most players will likely be able to cruise through the game's main mode without much trouble. Doing so unlocks additional modes and other little bonuses. Aside from the main mode, there is also a mode that lets you play through the game without incurring any game-ending damage, making it good for practice or simply indulging in Rez's visual splendor without having to worry about dodging attacks or shooting much.
Yes, Rez is a game, but its focus most definitely isn't on its gameplay. The real star of Rez is its presentation. Rez doesn't look like anything you've ever seen before. Most of the time the game has an almost vector graphics look to it. Everything is made up of simple lines and shapes that pulsate and pound in time with the music. The game runs at a smooth pace and delivers some really amazing looking landscapes, and the low poly counts seen in most of the standard enemies give the game the power to throw tons of things at you simultaneously, though this only really happens in a few key spots throughout the game. The music is also somewhat interactive. Each level starts out with a very simple music track that grows in complexity as you progress. Additionally, the sounds of enemies being locked on to and destroyed also emit musical sounds, ranging from snare hits to synth stabs. So, in a sense, you're creating music as you play the game, but you don't really earn anything for destroying enemies in a rhythmic fashion. In fact, your shots are automatically released on time with the music, so it's technically impossible to play the game off-beat. The music tracks fall squarely into the trance genre, and they fit into the game very well. Also worth noting is that the US version of Rez features support for ASCII's Trance Vibrator, a small USB-compliant brick that, well, vibrates. The idea behind it was probably to simulate the feeling of a loud, pounding dance club, and as silly as it sounds, it actually does enhance the game a bit. It also happens to be one of the craziest peripherals ever released and isn't currently scheduled to be released in the US.
On paper, UGA's "music shooter" may sound a little dull, but it's one of those games that simply must be seen--and in this case, heard--to be fully understood. The game part of Rez is most definitely lacking when compared with that of other shooters. But the visual design and pounding beats make up for the lacking gameplay and turn Rez into far more than a basic five-level shooter. Of course, Rez isn't for everyone. Anyone looking to Rez for gameplay depth and challenge will likely be completely disgusted by what they find. But if you're in the mood for something that is decidedly different than other games on the market, Sega's quirky, abstract art-influenced shooter just might fit the bill.