Title  : Rez
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher  : Sega
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 5.6
Review by  : Ken Gagne

This month marks the DVD release of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Tron. What warrants this movie being one of my Favorite Movies of All Time is not only its sleek computer graphics and video game-inspired theme, but that it was produced two decades ago. Taken in context of its era, Tron is a masterpiece — but it would never fly today. 

Neither does Rez, a shooter and Sega's first original game for the PlayStation 2. 

In Rez, the world's computer network is collapsing under the strain of too much information. A digital avatar is created to go inside the computer, eliminate the viruses and firewalls, and restore the artificial intelligence to full operating status. 

The avatar glides through the network pathways, unable to alter direction or momentum. Players hold down a button to lock a targeting cursor onto any enemies it overlaps, and release the button to send shots that unerringly strike their marks. The challenge lies in shooting the myriad swarms of viruses before they damage the fragile avatar. Their strength and quantity increases, as does the complexity of their movements, but the gamer's responsibility retains its constant simplicity. 

The graphics accurately depict what a network may look like from the inside: stark, bleak, and simple. The graphical motif is obviously inspired by Tron, but is more desolate. There are little or no curves, texture maps, or other expected details; the environments are almost entirely empty wire frames. Lighting, strobe effects, and background patterns keep the screen looking busy, though. If vector-based graphics, used for early arcade games such as Asteroids and Star Wars, were pumped up to 128 bits of processing power yet remained vector-based, you'd have Rez. 

The graphics are linked to the game's sound, both of which respond to the gamer's actions. Every enemy destroyed explodes in a burst of light, making a tone that automatically synchs with the soundtrack. The more viruses eliminated simultaneously, the greater the effect — yet it's still simple, meaningless tones set to the overall music. The technique fails to make a Pavlov's dog of players: though the sound effects are complementary to the player's actions, they serve no gameplay purpose, and could be muted without causing the player to suffer any disability. Synthesized instruments comprise a non-vocal techno beat for the rest of the soundtrack. 

Rez neglects to offer extensive challenge or gameplay. Moving a targeting cursor is the extent of the player's input; even with extra gameplay modes to explore, the main game will last only an hour or two. Being a PlayStation 2 disc, that's a pretty expensive hour. 

Rez is a game one would expect to find in an Eighties arcade. It offers little gameplay, variety, or challenge, and only a modicum of graphics and music. Sega can do better, and so can you. 

If you want something that's half the price of Rez, lasts twice as long, and has 20 years of replay value, I highly recommend Tron.


This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 21-Jan-02