| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Shooter_3D; loc=JPN] |
|It always kind of pisses me off when there's a backlash on a good game just because some dorks bought into the hype too much. This happened with Rez, and I suppose you could say that Sega brought it on themselves by calling it by all kinds of fancy-sounding artsy pretentious names, but come on people, how about evaluating a game for what it is, not for what it was hyped to be?|
Rez is a simple into-the-screen third-person shooter. You have your shot button, which you can hold down to lock up to eight targets by waving the large crosshair over them, and you have your bomb, or "Overdrive" button, which activates an Overdrive that, for a few seconds, shoots everything onscreen for you, automatically. Good for those moments when you're overwhelmed by incoming shots.
Initially, Rez isn't too difficult (people knocked it for this, too). You play through four stages, then unlock and play the fifth and final stage, and you probably won't be stressed too much in doing so. You get graded based on how many things you shoot down and collect, so you can replay to try to max those out, which is tricky. You can also play for score, and the simple gimmick is that the more targets you have locked before you release fire (up to eight at a time, remember), the higher the score multiplier you get when they get hit. It can be tricky to know when to wait for more locks and when to release--if you don't fire soon enough, targets sometimes escape offscreen, and you've missed your chance for any points from them (and lowered your shot-down percentage too, doh!).
Eventually you unlock a "Beyond" menu, which gives you a couple extra levels to play through, and lets you play "direct assault" mode through all five stages in sequence, with I think rather tougher difficulty. There are a lot of options to unlock in Beyond mode, and I've only got about half of them, but they include things like allowing you to start in a powered-up state, giving you different camera angles, color schemes, and so forth.
Oh, the powerups. There are three types, and they pop out when you shoot down certain foes, I think (you may also need a certain size combo to get some of them, I'm not sure): blue powerups increase your power meter to "evolve" your character so that you can take more hits (up to four or five), green powerups give you points, and red powerups give you Overdrives (bombs).
For the most part you're flying straight ahead into the screen, but sometimes ships come along on the sides or behind, and the camera swivels around your character to track them, although sometimes you have to nudge them a bit with the directional stick. Bosses in particular have a tendency to travel all around you, so part of the challenge in facing them is keeping them in your sights.
Generally, then, you encounter waves of four to eight ships, and have to shoot them down before they fly away. Some of them shoot at you, and then you have to shoot down their shots, too. So you can try to milk the score a bit by letting them get some shots off before you take them out, but this takes a lot of timing and good reflexes, and the payoff probably isn't that large as far as points go. Every little bit would count if you were in a scoring competition, of course, although I dunno if I've ever heard of anyone having such a thing for Rez.
In later stages there are larger ships that take take multiple hits (up to sixteen or so for the larger ones, I think), and fire multiple shots, and that's where things start to get a bit hairy, at least in Beyond mode. I think I used to be better at this game, as I haven't played it in years, and today I can only get up to area three in Beyond mode. Particularly thorny are barrier ships/obstacles that can spring up, and you have to take out the glowing targets on them to knock them out of your way before you bash into them and take a hit.
Things get the most elaborate in boss fights, and most of the bosses go through three or more forms as you try to take them out. They tend to have shifting target zones and larger bullet swarms. Bullets in Rez never come at you very quickly, so you always have time to shoot them down, but Rez can trick you by shooting from the side, so unless you're paying really good attention and have good situational awareness, you don't see the shots coming until it's too late, or by spamming you with so many shots that you can't get past them to take out the enemy that's launching them--and then if you get impatient and go for the launcher, you risk getting nailed by the shots they've already fired.
All of these mechanics make for a fairly original shooter, really, although I understand that the lock-on shooting style has been done a number of times before, like in one of those popular Saturn games that Sega made that I never played.
Where Rez really stands out, though, is in the audiovisual department, and here is where people got a little carried away in terms of their expectations. Each area has its own techno soundtrack, very professionally done (the artist's name is displayed next to the stage name) and mostly very nice to listen to. Locking on to enemies and shooting makes little tones and snare hit noises, so your shooting activities can contribute, very slightly, to the overall rhythm, but they never actually change the background soundtrack at all (this is what some people thought they'd be able to do, I think).
The game is pretty kick-ass graphically, too, which a trippy wireframe/flatshaded style where really smooth blur effects contrast and complement the naked polygons. The non-interactive backgrounds pulse, morph and blur with the music as you fly along, although they're pretty spare and abstract until you get to the extra-long fourth stage, where you go through this really awesome sequence of backgrounds and enemies representing the evolution of life on Earth, and here the polygons can be seen to represent undersea vistas, cloudscapes, forests, and so forth. It's a beautiful and unique visual style that doesn't capture all that well in still screenshots. When I got my projector I figured Rez would be the first thing I would turn on and enjoy playing in massive size on my wall, but somehow I never got around to it until just now, and it was indeed quite nice.
Supposedly the later PS2 port has a smoother framerate, but the framerate in the DC original is plenty smooth most of the time, and where it does slow down a bit it usually feels, to me anyway, like part of the pacing of the stage, and adds a feeling of thickness or heaviness to particularly intense sequences. What this really means, I suppose, is that the slowdown in the DC never gets anywhere near unplayable, and unless you're on the lookout for it you probably won't even notice it, so not to worry.
The designers provided a few modes where you can just play without taking any damage, and here's where you're supposed to sort of "zone out" to the music and graphics, I guess. That doens't really appeal a whole lot to me, but I didn't expect it to. Sega went so far as to sell a "Trance Vibrator" force-feedback accessory, that I guess you wear somehow while playing the game to help you bliss out and "feel" the soundscape, and yeah this does seem like an example of Sega thinking they're on to something a little more sublime than what they actually have (which is a creative and pretty shooter), although I've never played the game with a vibrator, so I suppose I could be missing something special (I can live with that).
I can't believe I suck so bad at Direct Assault mode now. I gotta get better at that and get around to unlocking all the Beyond mode goodies one of these days.
|Download added: area5_boss_incoming.jpg (82046 bytes)|
"Just about to get beaned by the final boss trying to take a screenshot."
Your character "evolves" as you collect the blue powerups, going from a simple sphere through various blocky man-things, up to a rounded dude in a bubble, and then finally a pulsing ball of spiky energy. Each form has a different style of shot, but they're all equally effective, I think--that is, there's no difference between how the forms play, so being at a higher form just means that you can take that many more hits before you "devolve" and rez out.