2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the original release of Rez. The Sega-published, UGA-developed Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 game wasn't the most complicated game ever made. It's a lock-on rail shooter, it's Space Harrier with a lock-on. It's Panzer Dragoon without the need to manually rotate and find things behind you. But it's also got style. The most style, perhaps.
Rez was never some huge system selling juggernaut. But it was important. And it stands out now as a solid indicator of where Sega's head was at back around the turn of the century. The company was still interested in taking risks and making stylish projects that stood out. Visually, Rez was wonderful. It left a mark on me that few games do, such that I find myself thinking about Rez out of nowhere, reminding myself that I should probably dig out my PS2 copy and my Trance Vibrator to give it another go. Whenever I do, I usually play the first level, the Lost Area level, and drift away from it again. It's tempting to say that Rez deserved better, or that it should have been a huge sales success. But, ultimately, I think the right people found Rez and appreciated it on its own terms.
That's code for "Rez is important to me but I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I think Rez should've been turned into a franchise with tons of sequels and reboots. But some part of me would be insanely thrilled if that's how it went."
It is 2016, and there is time for Rez.
Yesterday, during the keynote address at the PlayStation Experience 2015, Tetsuya Mizuguchi appeared on stage with Rez Infinite, a new take on the old game. It will (optionally) support Sony's PlayStation VR peripheral, taking Rez to virtual reality, the place it deserved to be all along. It's not a massive reboot or remake of Rez. Having played a brief chunk of it, I can tell you that, so far, it's Rez. It's a sharper-looking version of Rez, not entirely unlike Rez HD, which came to the Xbox 360.
I played the first level with the headset on. From a mechanical perspective, this means that you're playing Rez, but you can aim your reticle by looking around. You can, of course, also use the left stick to aim, but that kinda defeats the purpose. Playing Rez--a game that was originally released in a 4:3 aspect ratio--with the game's graphics wrapped around your head is a wholly different experience. For one, the action feels spread out a bit. Also, Rez may be one of the more delightfully disorienting games I've played in VR thus far. The levels in Rez are split up into "layers." While most of the layers position you behind your avatar and give you the perspective of moving forward into cyberspace, some layers position you on the side of your character. So there's an abrupt transition in your direction of movement that, in VR, feels extremely dramatic. Actually, the blurs and blasts of color that mark the layer transitions take on a way more dramatic and disorienting role when you're playing in VR. I could see this being off-putting to some, but at the same time, that disorientation and slightly uneasy feeling makes the game feel a lot more intense and satisfying. I definitely had to take a second to get my wits about me once the helmet came off.
I played through the entire first level with just the helmet on, then I tried an abbreviated level with the area four boss battle bolted onto the end up it while strapped into the evolution of the Trance Vibrator. This "synesthesia suit" is a cluster of 26 actuators, wired up to a rack mounted system, and it's all designed to vibrate and pulse in different spots around your body as you play. On one hand, it was amazing. The beat pulsates and travels around your body, starting in your chest and arms and eventually working its way down to your legs over the course of the level. But it didn't feel like this insanely expensive body suit was required to make the game intense. The headset is more than enough to do that. That said, there's something to be said for a new type of Trance Vibrator rig that works with Rez in VR, and it sounds like the developers are willing to investigate what would it take to make something more reasonable than the one-off suit, if players are interested. It's cool. Anyway, here's a pile of photos of me (and a couple of Capy's Nathan Vella) taken by John Ricciardi and Mark MacDonald from 8-4:
The stage demo given at the PlayStation Experience also mentions something called "Area X" and showed a quick bit of something that almost looked like it wasn't on rails, so there will be some brand-new things coming to Rez Infinite. But that wasn't in the version I was shown. We don't currently have any footage of Rez Infinite just yet, but it looks like a sharper, 16:9 version of Rez HD when it's spit out onto a TV. Here's some of that, in case you need a refresher:
So just imagine all of that... but imagine it's all taking place all around you, I guess? Yeah, I suppose it's still pretty hard to convey VR to people who haven't tried it.
The game is due out on PlayStation 4 in the back half of 2016. With the game's 15th anniversary happening in that time frame, I wouldn't be surprised if this thing landed on the exact day, November 22, 2016.