Rez has built itself an enviable reputation in its short but storied history since its release in 2002. Perhaps the game's most amazing feat has been its consistent upward trajectory in critical acclaim, culminating with the release of the game's newest incarnation, Rez HD. It has, in surveying a smattering of reviews from both the original and HD versions of the game, gone from being a slightly overpriced linear shooter with a gimmick, to a transcendent experience that is proof of why games can indeed be art. Unfortunately, while I agree that games can be art; Rez is not the concrete proof for which we have been longing.
Rez was the future of videogames, as portrayed by mainstream culture in the mid 1990's. With its neon colours, electronic soundtrack, and esoteric looking gameplay it represented a type of entertainment that only our future selves could hope to understand. The creators of Rez knew this and the game wears its references on its sleeve: Tron, Tempest, electronic music, computer hackers, and virtual reality all make their way into the game's presentation. Its glowing wire frame world was the setting for all virtual reality demonstrations during this era; its music, the novel sounds driving so many ravers towards their goal of a transcendent group experience. It is an amalgamation of all those cultural elements found in that era of silicon mirages and, like those illusions, is itself similarly devoid of substance.
At its core, Rez is an on-rails shooter, in the tradition of those other 90's classics, Star Fox and Panzer Dragoon. That its primary gameplay mechanic is conservative, is a point everyone concedes. Where Rez's critical cache starts to rise is in its integration of music into the shooting gameplay. In practice this means shooting objects creates additional random, but aurally synchronized, sounds into a level's soundtrack. Ostensibly this makes for a unique playing experience each time, despite the relative repetition of elements in each level. This music making through shooting, coupled with the fluorescent visuals and possible controller vibrations, approximates, according to the game's fans, synaesthesia.
What Rez actually approximates is a slightly more interactive version of the ubiquitous music visualizer. Except that instead of the visuals being tied to your personal music tastes, they are tied to a generic and benign electronic music soundtrack. Besides the music, Rez's other major appeal should be its visuals. And while they do show consistency, with the last level in particular aiming for some measure of conceptual glory, I cannot help but feel that Rez's aesthetic moment has passed. Perhaps a decade or two earlier the game could have been innovative, but now it is merely derivative - a nostalgic curio that will one day entertain us all for a few hours as a free web game.
Recommendation: Don't buy it.Tendo82