Review: Rez HD

So if you’ve listened to the show, you’ve probably at least heard of Rez.  Its one-of-a-kind visuals and the legend of the Trance Vibrator (literally, a USB vibrator that vibrated in time with the game and came in a machine-washable sleeve) make this game hard to forget, much less ignore.  Well, Rez HD came out yesterday for Xbox Live Arcade, and dammit if it isn’t the best XBLA game to date.  Rez HD is the 360′s answer to Super Metroid being on Virtual Console.  Oh, did I just go there?  Did I just compare Rez to Super Metroid?  Yes.  Yes I did.
Ok, enough beating around the bush.  I need to give you the description for this game, in case you’ve not played it.  Rez is a rail shooter, much like Starfox or Panzer Dragoon.  Rez is slightly different from Starfox, however, in that you don’t press the button once for every shot; you hold down the button and move your reticle to target up to 8 shots, then let go, which releases the shots, one after the other, in a very rhythmic fashion.  And therein lies the crux of Rez: rhythm.  It doesn’t require you to have any, but rather, the game thrusts rhythm upon you.   Every shot you make, every object targeted, every enemy destroyed, produces a sound and does so in time with the background music.  Basically, it’s a shooter that lets you create your own rave by shooting things.  Does it get any better?
This game was originally released on the Dreamcast in Japan, and was eventually ported to the PS2 for both Japan and the US.  I’ve been a fan of it since the Dreamcast release, and picked up a PS2 copy later on, despite its rarity at that time.  So why on earth, if I have two versions of this game already, would a third purchase be worth it?  Well, for one, it’s only $10 (800 MS points).  Unfortunately, the only real addition to the game is a Replay Theater mode which lets you replay your playthrough, but this is really only worth it if you’re good enough to be able to impress people with it, at which point you’d be better off impressing people with something like Ikaruga or DDR.  They’ve also added some new visual and audio filters, which are cool, but ultimately only cosmetic.
Speaking of which, there is one main feature to Rez HD which makes it worth the $10 purchase, even if you already own the discs.  But since it’s directly related to the review scores, I’ll have to talk about it after the jump… 

The major addition to Rez HD is the fact that it is, as the name implies, in HD.  The graphics have been redone and my god, they are beautiful.  The story is that you’re attempting to hack a massive network in order to restore the central CPU that controls it, so of course everything in the game is wireframes and CG displays.  This may sound like it wouldn’t look too great, but seeing everything in motion and in the full psychadelic color it is displayed in is a sight to behold.  I was impressed with the Dreamcast and PS2 graphics, but the 360′s HD version blows those out of the water.  Even better, if you’ve never experienced Rez before, you will be blown away by its sheer style and presentation.  It’s no Crysis, but what it has, it does incredibly well.  You’ll have a hard time believing it’s not playing from a disc.  19/20
Anyone who’s ever purchased a port will probably be asking: "How does the gameplay transfer over to the 360?  Is everything intact, or is it broken like a old lady’s hip?"  I’m here to tell you right now, my fellow Rez afficionados, it’s all there.  The gameplay and control has not been sacrificed in any manner.  Every level is there, including the Beyond levels and the score attacks.  The 360 controller joystick actually feels just like any other controller joystick with this game: smooth and responsive, able to handle small tweak movements and large sweeping arcs with the exact same motion speed.  Personally, Rez is one of my favorite games of all time, and this version only makes the game more glorious in my eyes.
The game itself, if you haven’t played it before, is a damn good rail shooter, albeit a little standard.  The learning curve is a bit steep, but only in that it is slightly invisible.  You won’t think that you can get better at it until you find that you actually are getting better at it.  This is good, because the initial difficulty is not too difficult, but once you start playing those extra levels, you’ll start to get your ass handed to you until you get some practice.  If you don’t like shooters, this probably isn’t your bag, although the overall synesthesia experience may draw in those who would not be drawn in otherwise.  18/20
If you’re looking for a glorious sound experience, look no further.  While not everyone may enjoy the rave music soundtrack, those who object will probably forget they don’t like the music once they get sucked into the game.  Rez HD also ups the bar by have 5.1 surround sound, which coincidentally, also ups the mindblowing factor.  Everything is crisp and clear, the sound is timed perfectly, and nothing is left for wanting.  You’ll marvel at how they can fit such amazing quality sound in with those graphics at a 150MB download.  20/20
Rez pushes the idea of synesthesia, which loosely means "the blending of all the senses".  Rez has synesthesia coming out the yin-yang.  Sight, sound, and touch are all used, and they are all synchronized to work with each other to overwhelm you.  The addition of mult-controller vibration is a genius move on Q Entertainment’s part; having three vibrating controllers, all vibrating to different rhythms, working on different parts of your body (not to mention the one in your hand, also vibrating independently) will immerse you where no other game can.  This immersion is the key to Rez’s fun factor.  It is the escapist’s perfect game, pulling you into its world with everything possible and keeping you there.  I found myself with dry eyes at the end of each stage, because I was not blinking.  The stages are relatively diverse, especially the unlock ones, and the bosses are memorable as well as challenging.  Again, shooters aren’t going to rumble everyone’s controller (that is to say, not their cup of tea), but this is the epitome of rail shooters.  19/20
Rez is a game that, by its very nature, keeps you coming back for more.  The immersion is not an experience you’ll find anywhere else, and it sticks in your head, begging to be revisited every so often.  The score attacks and Beyond levels also bring the replay value up, adding new challenges and difficulty to old stages, forcing you to improve invisibly as you play.  It should also be noted: this game vibrates.  A lot.  And it vibrates more if you have more controllers.  I don’t think I have to spell out the potential for your female significant other’s enjoyment here.  If there’s any console game that has bedroom ramifications as well as the normal gameplay, it’s Rez.  If that’s not a bonus to replay value, I don’t know what is.  19/20
OVERALL:  95/100
Am I biased towards Rez?  Probably.  But I am biased because it was an amazing game to begin with, and having beautiful HD graphics as well as 5.1 surround sound only sweetens the pot.  If you’ve never played Rez, but you even remotely like shooters, don’t even bother with the demo, just pay for it and download it now.  You won’t regret it.