Rez HD Xbox Live Arcade Release: January 30th, 2008
(that means get it now)
Cost: 800 MS Points
So by now you're either in the camp of the rabid Rez fans who have played the game over the last 7 years (6 if you were stuck with the PS2 version) with their Set-top boxes and 2 channel sound. Or you are one of the ones who hasn't played it yet and haven't quite figured out what is so magical about it. Well children, much like sex and drugs, you aren't going to even come close to understanding the experience of Rez by just having it described to you. You have to bring yourself to the experience with an open mind ready to feel the power of a large, throbbing apparatus in your hands as you feel the sounds and hear the sights. But for those of you who like to read stuff, this one's for you.
First things first, you're getting a lot for your money. You are given the option of being able to play Rez HD (the High Def visuals and widescreen display) or Rez Standard (Rez in, well, low res visuals and a 4:3 aspect ratio). You can also access a 'story' pane in the options menu which is two pages (with pictures!) lining out what you are doing there. From here you can blow through the main game's 5 stages in one sitting, whizzing past stage specific creatures, bosses that want your ass the fuck out of the system, and a story of evolution. Gameplay is easy. Hold down the A button, move cursor over enemies to rack up laser shots (8 total per hold-release pattern) and release to unleash the fury on the digital pests. Shoot a box that appears every now and then to advance to the next part of the stage and advance the song, and kill the boss at the end. It's on rails too, so there's no freedom to roam around. But this is never a bad thing, as the game never feels as if it's restricting you at any time. Once you beat the main game you can unlock Beyond Mode which contains two new stages (Lost Area, and Trancemission), a Direct Assault mode (take on all 5 stages in a row, and with various color variations for later playthroughs) and a Boss Rush mode. The nice thing about Rez HD is that if you beat a level and unlock something on Rez HD, you'll unlock it in Rez Standard and vice versa.
New stuff (!) includes a replay theater which lets you view replays of levels so you can see where you went wrong trying to get that 100% shot down on level 5, and Visual and Audio options. Now these aren't just the usual "brightness/contrast" and "volume" options. You get your choice of altering the graphics of Rez HD to further your audio/video experimentation, as well as adding effects that change sound on the fly. Rez Visual Effects: Sepia, Tile, Blur, Bloom, Glare. Rez Audio Effects: Cave, Forest, Underwater, Hall, Plate.
These effects are pretty cool and help add a new dimension to the gameplay. Sepia turns everything (except for your HUD, which is not effected by any of the effects mentioned) brown-ish, cutting you off from the rich range of colors each level has. This really fucked with me and almost ended me mid level. Tile turns everything 8-bit and pixelated, which is really nice looking and makes you feel even more nostalgic playing it. Blur makes everything appear as if you are looking at the screen in a Sauna. Bloom turns everything really fucking bright, and when you fire your lasers or blow something up (two things that happen quite frequently, believe it or not) the screen basically becomes a ball of fire, tearing holes in your retinas. Glare is basically Bloom Lite, from what I could gather. Now mind you, all of these effects do nothing to slow the game down, as it never, ever dips below 60 frames a second.
The Audio effects also give you some interesting new experiences. Cave makes an interesting echo which seems to preserve low-end sounds. Forest makes some awesome echo noises which come at you in different directions. Underwater makes the bass muddled and everything sounds a little dull, in a good way. Hall is like Cave, but..with less low-end. Plate, I honestly have no clue what it does and is kind of like 'Glare' on the visual options and is kind of a useless option.
Speaking of the Audio (and pardon me for taking this long to get to it), it is as crystal clear and thumping as ever. New sounds are thrown in to the mix, which will surely make Rez vets turn their heads a few times. The Stereo mix is worlds better than the Dreamcast version (trust me, I booted my copy up just to make sure) and while I would love to say something about it, I was unable to test the 5.1 surround sound. This is fucking killing me on the inside, but I will get to getting one of those cables for this 360 soon. But if the stereo mix is any indication, those blessed with the 5.1 setup and a nice TV will have the most amazing experience yet.
And to tie in with the audio is the rumble. Ok, so you're thinking "Sarge, baby. Every fucking game has rumble these days." To which I say "You sir must be a very lucky individual to have your dualshock 3 for your PS3. But tell me, does any game let you use 3 other controllers as vibration machines?" That's right, riding off of the cult-status of every girl gamer's wet dream is now a wet reality. You can use up to 3 other 360 controllers which will all offer force feedback. This offers even more possibilities to customizing your Rez experience and if you have the spare controllers you should give it a shot. Try placing them in different places each time and see how it changes your feel for the beat, and therefore the level as well.
All in all, this IS
your daddy's Rez. With a whole new bag of tricks that will keep you coming and coming for months, or dare I say years to come? Q? Entertainment has brought their baby out of retirement for the 360, and Rez is right at home. With the usual leaderboard and achievements for the totally hardcore (as well as a few unlockable gamerpics, unless those got there before I played the game) this is the total package, and the best goddamn deal on Xbox Live. For your 800 Billy Bucks, you will be getting a game worth $50 for practically pennies. The file size is pretty tiny too, at under 120MB (at least when I first went to the download page) which also somehow makes it smaller than the Dreamcast and PS2 versions. Perhaps Q? took some tips from the masters of compression, the demoscene? It sure seems like they aimed to please, and they have delivered what could easily set the bar higher for XBLA developers. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, my hat off to you once again sir.
FINAL SCORE: Fuck you there ain't no number that can categorize this game. Go read the review or buy it already.