Platform: Xbox 360 (Live Arcade) Price (as reviewed): 800 points (about £6.80 or $10.00)
Rez is one of those games, like Ico and Parappa The Rapper, that has achieved a wonderful kind of popular obscurity. That may seem like a contradiction, but it’s perfectly apt I think.
You see, everybody worth their salt has at least heard about Rez, even if they’ve never played it. They know it exists and they have at least a vague idea that it’s viewed as being important and wonderful.
The game exists, like Psychonauts, mainly as the much-praised but never-loved child of games journalists like me. We lavish praise on it, mentioning it whenever we can even though we are clearly resigned to the fact that most people will never listen to us – that may in fact be the root of its cult appeal.
Thankfully, the game has now seen a port/remake over on to the Xbox Live Arcade, freeing it up to let all those fans finally have a go at a reduced price. There’s simply no excuse not to.
Are you even listening to me?
At its core, Rez is an on-rails shooter and, although that may sound dull, let me assure you that Rez is so, so much more. What Half-Life was to Quake, Rez is to House of the Dead – that important and genre-shaping step forward to the next level.
The plot isn’t a core part of the gameplay, but it is there if you want it and, rather than forcing the plot down the players throat via numerous cutscenes, it is only really explained through an optional intro blurb hidden in the settings menu. Series fans won’t need to bother reading it though – Rez HD is less of a sequel and more of a high definition remake, hence the name.
The plot is littered with fairly pointless cyber-speak and made-up jargon, but to boil it down to the necessities is easy. The world’s most powerful computer, Eden, has achieved near-sentience but is unable to cope with the constant barrage of information hitting it. Overwhelmed and under-appreciated, Eden goes suicidal and enters a shut-down sequence.
Luckily, there’s one hacker with a heart left in the world – and you play the digital manifestation of said genderless and nameless hero, battling your way through cyberspace in order to stop all the Emo madness before the computer starts writing awful, angsty poetry.
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The inside of the system is presented as a constantly fluctuating digital landscape infested with all sorts of viruses and Trojans and the player’s main task is to keep these viruses at bay by targeting them with lazer (that’s how the game spells it) and let the auto pilot lead the way.
The game is structured into levels, with each level having ten sub-levels and ending in a firewall that must be destroyed. Progressing through the levels is a bit of an endurance contest at times since there’s no save points to speak of and the only way to get by is either to shoot certain items as they fly past or to survive through waves and waves of enemies.
Given that the game is essentially just an on-rails shooter, you’d be right to assume that the controls are fairly simple. The left joystick moves your over-sized reticule around, turning you around fully when needed and the A button shoots. Simple.
There are a few intricacies to the control system to keep things interesting for score fanatics though – you can hold A and swing your crosshair over a number of enemies in order to lock on and shoot up to eight of them at once and there’s an Overdrive mode in desperate circumstances. Overdrive is the only real power-up in the game, serving to wipe out everything on the screen for a given period of time.