Rez Review


Date Released: 22 November, 2001
Date Reviewed: 3 September, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 1-2 Hours
Replayability: Moderate



Rez is a third person rail shooter, in the vein of titles like Panzer Dragoon, which fuses the shooter element with electronic music and abstract visuals. It follows the concept of synesthesia, in particular the vision of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. Rez is the brainchild of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, a former designer at Sega and arguably one of the most talented that has ever worked for the company.


Rez is set in a futuristic world where society lives connected in a network. Overpopulation and the rapid expansion of this networked society originated an increase in crime rates which threaten its balance. To solve this problem a system named Project-K was created. Deep within the core of this system lies Eden, the most advanced artificial intelligence ever created. Eden is capable of processing high amounts of information and it is said it might even have developed a conscience. As it acquired data, the artificial intelligence started questioning its existence as well as the consequences of its actions. Eventually, it shut itself down, submerged in an ocean of paradoxes and contradictions.


As a hacker, the player is sent travelling across the network, in an attempt to bring Eden back online.

Concept originalreviews

Each of the five areas of Rez has a theme. The first four refer to the Egyptian, Indian, Mesopotamian and Chinese civilizations. These represent cultures that made major breakthroughs in understanding various fields of science in the history of Mankind. The final area represents Birth and Evolution. The player is taken on a journey, as if he or she was travelling through time, finally jumping back and experience birth through the eyes of Eden.

A security breach in area 3

To see it all, the player must destroy the various viruses (enemies) that are scattered among the levels. Along with these, one must also take advantage of security breaches, which will grant access to a deeper layer of the network. Each area features ten layers which are proceeded by a firewall hack (boss battle).


As with any rail shooter, Rez is somewhat restricted in its gameplay. Targeting is performed by locking on targets. It is possible to target up to eight enemies (or weak points, if the enemy has several of them) before releasing the attack. The number of locked targets appears on the reticule. Enemies will always be hit as long as they are in range of the gameplay area. The player is also capable of unleashing a powerful attack that destroys everything on the screen for a few seconds. These attacks, or Overdrives as they’re called, can be obtained by shooting red fragments the occasional destroyed enemy may leave behind.

One locked target as evolution takes place

Enemies may also drop blue fragments. Because it is an important aspect of the artistic element of Rez, evolution also plays a role in gameplay. It’s what these fragments do. When a set number of fragments is shot, the player evolves into the next form. There are six forms of evolution. However, if the player is shot, a downgrade to the previous form will happen. If on the first form, the game will end.

While not being anything out of the ordinary, the gameplay is efficient for the most part. The speed the reticule moves cannot be changed. This might lead to a bit of frustration in some situations with many enemies on screen, as it takes some time to move the reticule across the screen.


The soundtrack of Rez consists entirely of electronic music ranging from chill out to more aggressive beats. While it surely won’t please all crowds if heard separately from the game, it definitely fits its setting like a glove.

The importance of synesthesia in this component is of note. The music will react according to attacks and combos performed on the enemies, therefore changing or adding rhythms and new beats. The intensity of the music will also increase as a new layer opens as does the vibration produced by the controller, which also reacts in time with the music and attacks. Using a pair of headphones or a surround sound system is highly recommended to take full advantage of Rez.


While the overall implementation of the game is remarkable in what concerns the fusion between sounds, visuals and sensations, most enemy designs aren’t overly complex. Such beautiful simplicity sided with a broad range of effects and transparencies allowed the developers to further develop the abstract blend with elements from the pictured civilizations. This abstract nature of the visuals ensures they do not look dated at all, even if the recent high definition release isn’t taken into account.

Differences between versions

The different versions of the game

The Dreamcast version features 30 frames per second animation and anti-aliasing. The PlayStation 2 version features 60 frames per second animation but no anti-aliasing. While the vibration is more varied on the Dreamcast controller, the PlayStation 2 received a special edition in Japan which featured a device called Trance Vibrator. Its features are left for the reader’s curiosity. This device works independently of the region coding of the game. Overall, the Xbox 360 is the best version of the lot, offering 60 frames per second animation, 720p graphics with 5.1 surround sound support and four controller trance vibration. It is also the easiest version to obtain. Content wise all versions are the same.


Rez is much more than just a game. It’s an experience. As a game it fulfils expectations without being overly promising. Artistically, however, it’s a whole different story. Its name is often mentioned in “Are games art?” discussions for a reason. It’s a magnificent trip of sound and colour. It’s not without its faults. Completing all five areas of the game takes about an hour. To overcome this, the developers included a score attack mode as well as a hidden mode with several unlockable options (including an extra level). Unlocking these takes a while and some of them are actually worth giving a go unlike most games.

It took a while for Rez to receive recognition from the general public. It’s possible that the world wasn’t quite ready for the concepts Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team were trying to introduce in 2001. Fortunately, the high definition release brought a long overdue attention over this title.


Format(s): Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360

The Dreamcast version was never released in North America. The release date indicated refers to the Japanese edition of both Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 versions.  The Xbox 360 version is available digitally, through the Live Arcade service, and was released on 30 January, 2008. It is also available in a physical format, through the Qubed compilation, alongside Lumines Live and Every Extend Extra Extreme, published by Atari.


One Response to “Rez Review”

  1. omgwtfbbq Says:

    Great review. I have to get the XBLA version.

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