• When enjoying Rez for the first time, preparation is everything. You will need the following:

    1 surround sound system

    1 HD projector or similarly obscenely large TV

    No neighbours

    No distractions (so take the phone off the hook and switch your mobile off)

    Then you can indulge yourself. Switch off the lights, crank up your subwoofer and prepare yourself for battle with a game that really seems completely out of place on the Live Arcade.

    Rez, for those of you who missed out on the game when it first appeared on the Dreamcast and PS2, is a sublime arcade experience that feels like the gaming equivalent of an intense euphoric sugar rush. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this game is nearly 7 years old because whether you choose to play this in classic block-o-vision mode, or the fantastic HD-polished mode you’ll see that the game was years ahead of its time.

    Rez HD

    As an artificial intelligence probe construct, it is your task to infiltrate Project K (otherwise known as ‘Eden’), a vast multi-layered artificial consciousness in order to prevent it from shutting itself down. You see, Eden has begun to question its own morality, its state of existence. With too much valuable information at stake you must act quickly, penetrating each layer of Eden and destroying viruses, firewalls and security programs that will try to stop you.

    Rez needs a storyline like a lemming needs a jockstrap so don’t concern yourself with the whys and wherefores. Leap into the action in the main game mode and your task is to shut down the “boss” at the end of each of the five game levels (Yes, there are 5). It’s up to you to work out how to unlock them all.

    From the moment you start playing, the rhythmic techo tunes will pulse through you (quite literally if you pull that rather naughty trick with a second 360 controller – unfortunately the Rez Trance Vibrator doesn’t work with this version of the game you pervs). Rez’s beautifully constructed soundtrack and complimentary trigger sounds whenever you hit and destroy a target make this game feel like no other shoot ‘em up. This is not merely some burbling dreadful lift music tacked on by an unthinking developer, Rez’s soundtrack is as important to the game as its futuro-retro visuals. As I mentioned in my opening passage, make sure you either have very understanding neighbours or a very good quality pair of headphones. UGA have enlisted the brightest and best musicians so you definitely need to hear this stuff loud!

    For novices, Rez may seem quite simplistic at first. Gameplay is easy to pick up but oh, there is much to be learned if you want to master it. At a basic level you control a target reticule which can be placed over an enemy drone, virus or artificial construct. Press and release the A button to loose off a laser shot. If you hold down the A button and target other enemies, you can lock on to a maximum of 8 enemies and then loose off a volley of shots. In this way you can chain together your totals in order to score more points (particularly useful in score challenge mode but not a deal breaker in the main game mode).

    Each area in the game consists of ten separate layer levels which must be mastered before your final showdown with the end of area boss. You can progress naturally through each layer when all enemies are defeated, or you can shut down and disable the password protector drone which appears from time to time in order to access the network opening, triggering the skip to the next layer level.

    The art of Rez is to put off doing this for as long as possible. The longer you stay in a layer level, again the more points are at stake so if you hurry straight through each network guardian you could be missing out on some exquisite enemy battles. Definitely relax and take your time here, you’ll see why.

    Movement of your character is largely predetermined but from time to time your perspective will shift, and you will be able to pan your reticule around to move the in-game camera in order to combat baddies that try to sneak up on you.

    Your in game form is a primitive wire-framed figure at first, and there is one sub-form below this too. As you progress, you can nail support progress items to build up your progress gauge. Fill this gauge and you can evolve into a higher form (there are six forms in total from zero to five). However, if you are hit by enemy fire you will quickly devolve to a lower form. If you do this when you’re the biosphere (form zero) it’s game over.

    Some support progress items will grant you one progress block when targeted but special support progress items will grant you three so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these bright silver geometric forms whenever they crop up.

    The other gauge on screen is the overdrive gauge. When you target an overdrive marker (a red geometric form) you will collect a block for this gauge. Save these up for times when you’re under intense attack and then hit the B button to loose off an overdrive bomb. This will effectively act like a “smart bomb”, clearing all of the viruses and enemies from your screen for a limited amount of time. Durned useful when you’re attacking some of the bigger bosses who have complex attack patterns and bombard you from all sides.

    So what sets Rez apart from other shooters? Many people just don’t “get” Rez and think that it’s merely a Panzer Dragoon / Space Harrier type game with stylised Tron-like graphics. Rez’s beauty is in its simplicity, and if you’re an arcade junkie who will quite happily play through a game for scores rather than to experience a multitude of levels and variety then Rez will instantly feel as familiar and comfortable as your favourite pair of trainers.

    In normal mode you can charge through four of the game’s areas pretty quickly even if you’re not a particularly accomplished gamer. Unlocking the fifth area (particularly on the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game, which feels instantly tougher to me coming straight from the PS2 and DC versions) will take you considerably longer, and topping the online score leagues will take you longer still. If you can nail 120,000 points on level one you’re definitely on the right track.

    Rez’s other modes allow you to do just that – measure your ability against the best and brightest on Live by practicing particular areas. There is also a “Travelling” mode which allows you to explore any areas you’ve unlocked without the fear of being shot down. Quite a neat touch if you’re analysing attack patterns in order to nail the perfect score.

    As a final thought, it’s worth remembering that this game is an extremely reasonable 800 points. This seems amazing when you consider its stablemates and the fact that games like the truly abhorrent Feeding Frenzy or the dire Undertow cost the same. It’s also worth remembering that up until the XBLA release, Rez was pretty tough to get hold of so don’t miss out this time if you’ve never seen it before, go and grab this now as it comes with the highest recommendation.

    Score: 10/10

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