Rez Infinite Is The Best Argument Yet For VR

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Rez Infinite Is The Best Argument Yet For VR
November 6, 2016

Rez originally released in 2001 and was lauded at the time for its unique blending of music and gameplay in ways not seen before. Despite having a cult following for many years, if feels like only now, after being re-released in virtual reality nearly 15 years later, has the game achieved its true potential.
 
Rez Infinite is one of a handful of launch titles for Sony’s Playstation VR headset, but it stands out among the pack. Though it’s primarily a remastered version of the original Playstation 2 title, experiencing the Tron-like graphics flying all around you as you zoom through a digital world makes it feel like something altogether different.
 
The original Rez could be described reductively as a rail shooter in the vein of Star Fox, but with a musical twist. You play a hacker trying to infiltrate a computer system and unlock the secrets kept inside, which you do naturally by shooting down wire frame enemies in a vector graphic paradise full of polygonal valleys and temples. The game features a trance music soundtrack, which the player can add to and interact with, as each enemy shot or lock-on produces a note that forms part of the soundscape. The music becomes more complex as the player moves deeper into the system and evolves their avatar.
 
Infinite features the same five levels from the original Rez upgraded for virtual reality, including adjusted enemy placements and new control schemes suited to take advantage of VR. You can play Rez Infinite normally with just the controller of course, but you can also move your reticle simply by turning your head, so all you have to do to target an enemy is simply to look at it. You can even look behind you to target enemies that have passed you by. It’s a small change, but it’s one that makes the game far more playable than its predecessor.
 
The headset lock-on is so helpful that it might actually make the game a little too easy. Areas that I struggled through in the original Rez were a breeze in Infinite, to the point where there were a few moments of awkward silence after I had shot down every enemy and needed to wait for more to appear. Still, the added ease of control makes this version far more enjoyable.
 
The music is as strong as it was fifteen years ago, but headphones are a must for the sense of immersion. The climatic Area 5 is more awe inspiring than ever. However, there is a brand-new area unlocked after you clear the standard five levels, and only there do the developers really show off what they’ve been able to achieve in those fifteen years hence.
 
Area X is so different it might as well be part of a different game. The graphics are smooth and natural in contrast to the polygonal wire frames of the earlier levels, enemies explode in colorful fireworks displays, and a peppy electronic pop song accompanies players through. Instead of being locked onto a single path, players can turn in all directions and move forward and backward at will, providing a full range of motion. It’s a fresh experience that still feels unmistakably like classic Rez.
 
If there’s one major disappointment, it’s that Area X is the only fully new content. It’s over quickly, and like so much right now with VR, it feels like just a toe dipped into the virtual water for a full-featured product coming later.
 
The original Rez is still one of my favorite games, but Rez Infinite improves on it in every way. This is a must-buy for Playstation VR owners, regardless of whether they’ve played the original. Even those not inclined to play action games could play in “travelling” mode, which makes it impossible to die, and instead just enjoy the trip.
 
While it’s kind of ironic that one of the best arguments for virtual reality is a game from 2001, that may speak to the universal appeal of the concept more than anything. I’m fascinated to see what Rez evolves into next.

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