Rez, a true modern classic
17 Aug 2020
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Do you remember the time you saw your first video game? For me it was at a shopping center and I must have been around 8 or nine. Walking out (or was that being dragged?) I very clearly remember passing a brand spanking new Space Invaders machine. After a brief glance I was pulled away but it was too late, even without playing it I was hooked.
Fast forward several years and I am living in Australia’s premium holiday destination. Other than the miles of endless beach, there was not a lot going on… except for the ever expanding ‘arcades’. For a boy in his early teens this was nirvana, beach all day and then hang out playing video games at the arcade, or catch a few games on the walk back from school. Looking at it, this had to have an impact on me and where I ended up (that and a lust for science fiction). 20 cents was all you needed to escape into a whole different place – Moon Patrol, Galaxian, Asteroids, Battle Zone, Galaga and on the list went. The variety was relentless.
I continued to play into my late teens, when the games started to change; remember the first dollar coin game? At this point it seemed the video games industry lost the plot as games were increasingly geared towards motion based platforms, impossible levels (that cost lost of money to master) and game play that was pretty damn average. The death of the game cabinet saw the end of the great video game in my mind as substance, no matter how basic, was replaced with flash and physical motion.
When the PS2 hit the market things were already in a state of flux; in the mid 90s everyone was guessing that home based systems would take over but it was not until the release of the PS2 that the future being spoken about finally arrived.
My favourite games were always the ones where you could loose yourself, they would not only immerse but drag me in and transport me off to somewhere else. The old arcade games were brilliant at doing this, the strange mix of the physical environment and games that, while graphically simple, had demanding game play. While the PS2 and similar platforms at the time, and since, certainly provided all the graphic punch one could ever want, there always has been something lacking, maybe it’s the whole sitting in your living room and playing games on your TV?
Created by a Japanese Sega team back in 2001, Rez is a bit of a black collectors piece; maybe even a classic. Certainly in Australia it’s hard to come by. Yes, it is a very basic shoot ’em up in it’s most fundamental essence – there is nothing more challenging than trying to get to the next level, but what Tetsuya Mizuguchi did in creating his game is to design something that pulls you in by the eyes, ears and hands. It is easily the most mystifying and beautiful game I had seen and played in a long time.
The Kandinsky inspired game uses seemingly basic but ultimately very rich and complex graphics, then mixes them with a strong dance/trance inspired beat. Turn off the lights, crank the volume (especially if you have it ported through a sound system) and you find yourself becoming entranced with dancing images and thumping baselines. But what makes the game all the more interesting and ultimately immersive, is as you shoot and ‘blow things up’ you interact with the game, not only on a visual level but also on an audial one. Each shot and resulting explosion alters the base beat and aspects of the visuals – you literally interact with every aspect of Rez.
The overall look of the game reminds me of the late 70’s film Tron – faceted, blocky forms melded with whispy wireframes (which is somewhat funny as in the game you are a character that is hacking into a CPU). It has been referred to as being reminiscent of the cyberpunk world dreamt up by William Gibson in his cult book Neuromancer. With the whole environment set on a black background, like most of the early arcade games, Rez has the ability to drown out what’s around it and suck you in as you focus on the screen and the dancing objects within it, not get lost in some overly complex backdrop. Close the blinds, switch off the lights and crank the sound and you literally end up in a very different head space. Add alcoholic beverage of your choice and it gets even better!
But there is more! As you advance through each level the beat intensifies and so does the throb coming from the DualShock controller. We now have all three senses working, sight, sound and touch. It’s mad. In Japan the game came packaged with a thing called a ‘Trance Vibrator’. We’ll be damned but the only real use for this gadget seems to have been discovered here (though not pornographic, the content has adult themes and ‘risqué’ images): www.gamegirladvance.com. Damn! It seems just too forthright to be unintentional!!!
Rez on the PS2. For a game done in 2001, it’s still damn cool.
That Mizuguchi said he came up with the idea whilst being dazzled by light and sound at a night club is not at all surprising. Unfortunately though, it seems that Rez has fallen by the wayside, pushed aside by games that offer glossy, cheap and instant thrills that for the most part leave you feeling drained at the end of them. Like most things with a higher than normal level of sophistication, Rez was too complex in thought and concept for many out there, preventing it from becoming a big seller.
But there is an upside to the Rez story…
With the release of the PS4, and its VR headset, Rez was remade to become ‘Rez Ultimate’. With richer visuals Ultimate is said to be even more captivating than the original release. Perhaps though the most powerful impressions come from those that play it with the VR headset. While Rez has always been captivating, Rex in 360 degrees VR has been described as almost mind altering! It’s something on my list of must haves in the very near future.
So if you never have, try and check Rez out. You might not click with it right away but when you do, and you will, it will all make sense.
Rez Ultimate – Rez at another level… quite literally!
Rez Infinate @ Playstation
Rez Infinate for PC on Steam
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.