Friday, January 15, 2010

A "Retro Review" of one of my favorite games of all-time, Rez HD

Note: This is a review I posted back in GameSpot in 2008 (in its exact text) of one of my favorite games of all-time and I wanted to give it the blog treatment here for a while.

Before Lumines, Meteos, and Every Extend Extra, Q Entertainment released Rez earlier this decade for the Dreamcast and the Playstation 2. It became a sleeper hit and a revolutionary game at the same time defining the rhythm genre into something else besides time yourself with button presses or Dance Dance Revolution style movements. The graphical style was out of this world and a simple shooter concept kicked in as well. Now it is 2008 and the second coming of Rez is here in HD for the Xbox 360. Those who missed it back in the PS2 and Dreamcast days should not miss this opportunity to play such an amazing game and witness how Rez was meant to be in true high definition. Veteran players should also buy it again because the HD graphics make a huge difference and adding in 5.1 surround sound support just solidifies the experience even better. Rez HD is a steal at 800 Microsoft Points considering how hard to find the original versions and it is arguably the best Xbox Live Arcade game now.

Rez HD is more about the experience than being a game, but the gameplay is pretty good for a rhythm shooter. It definitely has the approach of being easy to learn and difficult to master. Even the modes Rez provides both casual and hardcore experiences such as the traveling mode where you can play the levels without dying as some sort of practice mode before playing the actual game when health matters. You still have to play the real game to unlock the other levels and extra modes which gives the game some legs even in this world of downloadable games. For hardcore experiences, there is a score attack mode racking up points nailing chains and support items which adds online leaderboards support as well as replays that can be seen online. Extra modes such as direct assault, a survival mode of all five levels, also give players some sense of challenge if the normal game is too easy for them.

The simple controls of Rez HD translate well to the Xbox 360 controller with left stick being the cursor, A button being the shoot button, and B being the overdrive bomb type attack. Other controllers such as arcade sticks do work, but it feels slower to aim at enemies. Once you get in the groove of timing the A button for chains and max type attacks, it means that you are good at the game. The character's various forms is its health as one hit from enemy fire drops down a form and it is game over when your ball form gets hit. The way to level up forms and gain more overdrives is by shooting support items (some blue box for a meter to increase its level and a red box for overdrive respectively). The way to progress in these levels (with exception to the fifth and final area) is to hit these Rez portals to be transported into another zone of enemies (there are 10 of them with exception to area 5 again) which counts for the analyzation ranking. Speaking of rankings, after each level of killing a boss, you are also ranked on how many enemies were shut down and support items found (these are in percentages). The gameplay as a whole seems simple enough for casual and hardcore players, but deep enough to give them more reasons to play these levels for perfection.

As mentioned before, there are five normal levels in Rez HD (with exception to extra unlockable levels). The first four levels also feels like a warmup for the fifth and final stage, which is basically a culmination of everything in the game and longer than the first four levels combined. The final level alone is among the best levels ever in the world of video games which pretty much defines Rez as a whole. There is actually some sense of storyline in Rez, but it is probably not the reason you will buy this game. Rez is about the overall experience and that alone wants you to play these levels numerous times especially that last level.

The HD facelift for Rez on Xbox 360 makes the game achieves its full potential as a full experience of amazing vector graphics, no jaggies or slowdown, and consistent 60 frames per second. The vibrant colors and animations are better in HD as well as the various effects. This was Q Entertainment's full vision of Rez to be in high definition, no slowdown, and jaggies, which is why the Dreamcast and PS2 had its limits. Another cult phoenomeon from Rez is the infamous Trance Vibrator, which apparently works if anyone still has it. For those who do not, the substitute method is having all four Xbox 360 controllers rumble at the same time, which makes the overall experience even better than it supposed to be.

Rez HD is also known in its original release for its sound. Whether or not you like techno music, this game's soundtrack is among the best licensed (if it was) soundtracks in gaming today. If the game makes the songs better, then it feels like a success especially the song for the final area of the game. The music as you add effects to them as well shoot enemies and develop chains were executed perfectly. As a rhythm game, timing on the music side of things does not matter compared to something like DDR or Guitar Hero, It just feels like you are remixing these songs by shooting enemies up or some DJ spinning a different version of a track with all these varied sound effects. Even to this day, no game has ever replicated what Rez did to revolutionize the genre.

As a full game for the Dreamcast and PS2, Rez HD being a downloadable game almost feels like a retail game providing enough content to keep casual and hardcore players satisfied. The game feels like you are creating your own rave of sorts in some party you're hosting, which is a good thing and almost a point the developers want you to do it. For purists of the original game, Rez HD can be played without the HD and you will witness the differences clearly why Rez was meant to be released again in this HD era of gaming. For those who never played it, download this as soon as possible to witness a revolutionary. original, amazing experience that today's core games will never offer. To this day, Rez still feels original and it did pave the way for Q's recent games, but involving different concepts how to blend in music in games and controlling it instead of letting some orchestral song play in some modern first-person shooter. If video games do consider themselves as art, Rez is an example of that and its second coming is here as still one of the greatest games in recent years.

Score: Then = 9.5/10
Now = 10/10

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