Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Liam Butler’s World – #46: Rez

In Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox 360 on September 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

Today’s article is by Liam Butler, who runs Angry Flat Cap.

Title: Rez

Format: Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox 360

Released: January 11th, 2002

Rez Box Art

Now then. My name is Liam and a I love a game called Rez.

I don’t use the term ‘love’ lightly. There are plenty of games that I’ve really enjoyed. Plenty of games that have blown me away. But few that I love.

Rez is different. I pretty much wore out my PS2 copy during my teenage years. I wish I’d filmed my adolescent self playing that game, so I could make a montage and set it to the theme music of The Wonder Years.

(Come on, lad. A few of these won’t know what Rez is. Slow down and explain.)

Firstly, take a gander at this video. Then I’ll try to elaborate on what the frig you just saw (and heard):

Rez is an on-rails shooter. Some artificial intelligence has become self-aware. Instead of going Skynet, it went all introspective and retreated to its room to listen to The Cure. Your mission: make your way through the AI’s network in the hope of coaxing her outside to get some fresh air. En route, you fend off firewalls, viruses, and a whole manner of other malware that would love nothing more than to tear you a virtual new one. I may have taken some artistic licence with my synopsis.

Released by Sega in 2001 for the doomed ship Dreamcast, it soon jumped on a dinghy and made its way to the PS2. Later on came the HD submarine to bring it back to the surface for the Xbox 360 re-release.

It got a bit of attention at the time for its unique style. It had beautiful Tron rave visuals, and every sound you make syncs with the electronic beats. That’s cool and all, but it isn’t enough to make me fall in love with a game.

Rez boss

So what makes Rez so special? I mean, it had plenty going against it.

• The gameplay didn’t offer anything new. You move a cursor around to shoot enemies. When you think about it, that’s just Lylat Wars without the mint dogfights.

• It is short. With five levels, you can boss the whole game in just over an hour.

• It came out in the same year as GTA III and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Just as games were exploring the (then) next-gen potential for wide open expanses, Rez opted to give you the monorail experience.

monorail

What Rez did do very well was to overwhelm you, and then make overcoming this so bloody satisfying.

I was fourteen when Rez came out. I don’t know if you’ve been fourteen recently, but it can blag your head. Hormones. Hair. Horrid skin. It’s difficult to concentrate when the world makes you anxious and self-conscious. Here is an approximation of my inner monologue around that time:

I’m walking funny. Why am I walking funny? My voice sounds weird compared to everyone else’s. Do I have as much hair as the other lads? Do I have too much hair? Oh no, I forgot to put deodorant on this morning. Shit. Do I smell? Did anyone see me smelling myself? Will I ever get a girlfriend? Why did I phrase my sentence like that when I had to answer Mr Crossley’s question during English? Everyone must think I’m a right bell end.

Ad infinitum.

Rez presented a world that was every bit as overwhelming. One of its aims was to induce synaesthesia. Sensory overload. It hurls more sights, sounds, and assailants at you than Hull Fair at closing time.

screen

I tried to take a screenshot at a point that the screen was clear enough for you to understand what’s going on. They all came out like this one. And this is from the first level.

At the time, I didn’t understand why I kept coming back to this game. Now, I reckon I do. You’re thrown into a world that you don’t understand. Everything seems to be out to get you. There’s too much going on at once. You’re clumsy and ill-equipped to deal with the task at hand.

Slowly, you begin to find your way. You learn to handle yourself. You start making sense of what you’re seeing and hearing. You cut out the superfluous and begin to focus. And, ultimately, you succeed.

What chubby 14 year old boy would not find solace in that?

In fact, why would anyone not find solace in that?

me+hippo

Liam writes for Angry Flat Cap. It’s unlikely that you’ve heard of it. Once, he was retweeted by The Guardian. He never misses an opportunity to inform people of this fact.

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  1. […] wrote a guest blog for Games that Rocked, all about my love for the synaptic overload that is […]

  2. So awesome! I love it when a developer reminds us that games can be excellent and simple (not that pairing music with visual elements is that simple). Rez is a great example of fun with 2 buttons and a joystick!

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