Publisher: Q Entertainment
Developer: Q Entertainment/Hexadrive
Release Date: January 30, 2008
Gamer culture is such that we are taught to revere that which is unique. In a medium where sequels to popular franchises and copycats of big-selling titles rule the landscape, it is the rare treat to find an original game that truly delivers. Thankfully, that is exactly the experience you'll find in Rez HD.
The original Rez debuted on the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast roughly six years ago. Like many offbeat titles, it garnered critical praise and a rabid cult following, but found little mainstream success. It quickly earned a spot on the list of rare games every hardcore gamer had to play, even if it meant shelling out $100 or more to find a copy on eBay. Supporters called it a game that defied description. Part shooter, part rhythm game, it broke the mold in so many ways that it had to be experienced to be understood. Now the title has found its way onto the Xbox Live Arcade, and with a $10 price tag, it should hopefully be able to break out and finally garner the mainstream attention it deserves.
The environment of Rez HD can best be described as what would happen if Tron were set in a cyber dance club. In a futuristic society based solely on digital technology, the central AI (not so originally named EVE) has become so overwhelmed with data that it has begun to break down and question its very purpose. You must therefore go into the mainframe, fight your way past EVE's defenses, and deal with the now-hostile unit.
Your avatar surfs through the digital waves, taking out enemies and picking up power-ups on your way to a showdown with each level's boss. The basic design is that of an on-rails shooter, where you only control the targeting reticle and enemy attacks cannot be dodged, only shot down. This leads to some hectic moments, as a wave of enemies unleash a barrage and you must lock on and take down all the targets before you are "deleted."
What makes Rez HD stand apart from the pack is the way all the elements come together in a holistic experience that is rarely seen in modern gaming. As you attack enemies, you add beats to the thumping soundtrack in the background, and every time you progress through a stage another layer of beats, rhythms and lyric samples is added to the base track. In the meantime, you are zooming through vibrant, breathtaking worlds, and the controller rumbles with every single beat along the way. The full experience borders on sensory overload, but it's all so sublime and wondrous that you can't help but bob your head and tap your foot along the way.
The game features five levels, each of which is broken up into 10 stages. While this may have been a bit on the short side for a full retail game, it's perfect for the quick, casual experiences of Xbox Live. The levels are easy to beat, but very difficult to master, and the truly hardcore will likely find themselves repeating runs over and over in order to snag those coveted Achievements. The only real drawback of the level designs is that since the entire game is based around concepts of rhythm and patterns, all enemies will show up at the exact same time, in the exact same formation, every time you tackle a level. It's not a big deal if you don't mind repetition, but for a game so fresh in every other respect, relying so heavily on patterned enemies is a surprising step back.
It's hard to really come up with any reasons to not recommend Rez HD to anyone with $10 and a penchant for fun, unique games. The premise and presentation may be a bit too "out there" for some, but those who aren't afraid to try something new will likely be pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, given the fact that there's a lot of junk polluting the gaming atmosphere, it's always good to support one of the truly innovative titles that actually manage to see the light of day. If you're on the fence about this one, then do yourself a favor and go ahead and take the plunge. You'll likely be glad you did.
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