Rez HD Review
After many years languishing with rare releases on the PS2 and Dreamcast, Q Entertainment has brought Rez to the masses. And I can't think of any better way for it to happen: for $10 on Xbox Live Arcade on the 360. This sci-fi "on rails" shooter brings fantastic, sharp visuals together with a simple control scheme but a fairly deep scoring system. And the music brings it together as all your actions in the game happen timed to the music and beat. This is not a music game, but if you can feed Rez HD a good enough sound system, you'll be rocking out along with the action.
Rez has a simple story: it's a grim future and you're hacking into a computer system that was supposed to save the world but somehow shut itself down. That's pretty much it, and for a game like this, anything more just wouldn't seem right. The action is played out in a third-person shooter framework where your body floats along with almost no control allowed by the player. All you're doing is moving a crosshair around the screen shooting enemies and the projectiles they sling at you. The unique part is that you can "queue" up to eight shots at a time and then release them all at once, making for less button mashing and requiring a little more finesse in timing and control. For those who play Rez to maximize their score in the Score Attack mode, it also allows you to get big multipliers for maximum points.
There are five stages in Rez, each with unique themes, although you'll find that most of the game consists of simple, shaded geometric shapes. You'll see a ton of enemies that all behave a little differently and will appear in front of you in many changing patterns. It's up to you to take them out with maximum efficiency to increase your character's level, and shoot down the enemies that charge you (or the shots they fire) so that you aren't de-leveled by their attacks.
What makes this game so much more interesting to me than the rest of the rail-shooting genre (Sega's classic Space Harrier and the Panzer Dragoon series come to mind immediately) is that here, everything works together with solid, powerful electronic music. Sure, the original Rez became somewhat famous on the PS2 by having a separate "trance vibrator" accessory that would vibrate to the beat, and even in Rez HD you can set up either your main 360 controller or a second one to shake to the beat. But if you hook this thing up to any system with a decent subwoofer and crank the volume up to 11, then you won't need any of that. If you have a good sound system, Rez HD will bring the art right off of your walls. At least, that's what it did in my house.
While the game does include the new, enhanced HD mode, you can play the game in its usual standard definition mode as well. If you've got an HDTV, the game plays no different either way, so stick with the HD mode. And with plenty of sharp, diagonal lines, jaggies would have been a problem but Rez includes a pass of antialiasing (courtesy of the 360 - many games simply don't have the processing headroom to be able to justify turning on the console's antialiasing) to make everything smooth. Because of this, Rez HD winds up looking better than many games released in the last year, and while the whole thing is stylized and a little oversimplified, it simply looks excellent on a worthy HDTV.
5.1 surround sound is also included, and while Microsoft requires that all retail 360 games have surround sound, few recent titles seem to take much advantage of it. Rez HD is only $10 through Live Arcade and it manages to pump out better surround sound than many $60 titles. If you want an audiovisual experience to test your new home theater, put this game on your list.
Rez has also come into modern times with online leaderboards. That itself is not new, as almost every game on the 360 has them, but what they don't have is a recording of games played along with the score on the list. Here, you can check out players' scores in the Score Attack mode and then download the replay and see how they did it themselves. Replay downloading has been seen on the 360 before, of course, but here it happens automatically. I suppose that it can be bad if you're a top scorer and don't want other people to copy your super-secret technique, but for the large majority of players this can be a really good feature. The only downside is that Rez doesn't include any score tracking or Score Attack mode on the fifth and final stage.
In fact, it's a bit of a shame that some players will never see the last stage. All you have to do to see it is to finish the first four stages with 100% analyzation (that means shooting the boxes that pop up to move you to the next section of these stages), but Rez HD doesn't have any difficulty modes and you'll need a little determination and practice to get through the first four stages with full analyzation. Still, it's an excellent treat to experience the game's incredible final level while Adam Freeland's "Fear" plays so loud that your neighbors are feeling it in their guts. When the cops show up, just tell them that you were doing chores and accidentally stomping the floor or something. You had to make that excuse for playing the drums in Rock Band and it might work here, too!
Rez HD is a perfect fit for the 360 and its affordable 800 point ($10) price tag makes this one a must have. Well, if you really hate the rail shooting genre, and you hate electronic music, and you hate fun, then you might want to skip this game. Otherwise, pick it up now.