Rez Reader Review
In the eternal debate as to whether games can be considered as an artform, one game tends to get namedropped more than most. Rez, one of the first products of Segaís multi-platform approach, was never destined to top the charts. Itís highly stylized wire-frame visuals didnít lend well to magazine screenshots or box-candy, nor its uniqeness to lazy if-you-like-x-youíll-like-y reviewing, nor Segaís marketing budget to overcoming these problems. a 9/10 score in EDGE magazine had to share issue space with, and was overshadowed by, Haloís 10/10 and a controversial review of Grand Theft Auto III. In the end, Rez found its way into the hands and hearts of only the most adventerous of gamers.
Rez, if it must be pigeonholed, is an on-rails shoot Ďem up, somewhat along the lines of Space Harrier. I use the word somewhat because while the only control of on-screen events is through the weapon of your constantly advancing avatar, the appeal of Rez does not lie in the typical genre money-shots of navigating screens filled with enemy ships, or of high-score pursuits. With Rez, itís something a little deeper.
In The Beginning...
The very beginning of Rez is barren, consisting of a screen filled with your avatar, a wireframe horizon and the most basic of beats coming from the speakers. However, every enemy you target, every shot you fire, every power-up you collect and stage you conquer adds another layer of visual and aural complexity. Before you know it thereís all manner of electronic beeps and thumping bass beats pounding from your speakers, as the screen girates in a rainbow of neon colours - all to your actions. You donít want to destroy the enemy because of some wrongdoing against you outlined in the opening pages of an unread manual (in Rez, the story is something to do with computer virii, ignore it), rather you want to destroy it because you want to add more and more sound and vision to your journey.
Thatís the pay-off, the money shot, and itís far more potent than seeing any explosion or any body flap around with ragdoll physics.
Who's The Boss?
Then, it gets kicked up a gear. At the end of every area (of which there are initially four, each divided into 10 stages) the music reachs a crecendo, the visuals are an orgy of bouncing reds, greens, purples, blues and everything in between and your avatar is - and crucially, so are you - thumping along with it all. The boss battle begins, and you find yourself up against some of the most inspired creations to ever grace a video-game. From being chased through corridors by a giant figure made up of hundreds of individual cubes - each one to be destroyed as they snake around the screen, morphing from one shape to another - to being surrounded by ever growing branches of an electronic tree, the tips of which spew forth unpleasantries mere seconds away from impacting on your fragile avatar; each boss battle offers up something different and something memorable, on par with any of the lauded encounters from the glory days of shoot Ďem ups, and indeed on par with any of the top gaming moments from the last ten years.
But is it art? It is undoubtedly beautiful, both in terms of visual and aural style, but also in content - wonderfully illustrated by an unlockable area that takes on a journey of human evolution right from the primordial seas up to the present and beyond. If itís not art, itís certainly the closest the medium has ever come, and is ever likely to come while not abandoning what makes it a videogame in the first place. And though the game never technically pushes the capabilities of the PS2, it perhaps comes closest to justifying the Emotion Engineís moniker.