Rez Infinite Oculus Quest 2 review – definitive edition

The Dreamcast classic meets the latest in affordable VR hardware and the end result is pure video game magic.

The passage of time is far more unkind to video games than any other medium. As welcome as Microsoft’s attempts are, to offer augmented backwards compatibility to older titles, it’s an admission that in their original form they’re no longer as accessible as they once were – in a way that’s never really true for older movies, music, or books. The number of games that remain as playable, and visually and aurally impressive, now as they did when they were first released is vanishingly small but such games do exist and Rez is one of them.

First released in 2001 for the Dreamcast, Rez has been re-released on just about every format since then. It’s never been a major hit but its highly stylised visuals and immediately accessible gameplay have endured while other far better-known games have seen their attempts at photorealism appear ever more unconvincing as the generations pass.

Rez owes a great deal to Sega’s arcade heritage and its core mechanics can trace a clear path back through Panzer Dragoon and After Burner. In those terms the gameplay is not especially original but Rez’s magic is how it tries to stimulate as many senses as possible, famously trying to induce synesthesia by ensuring that the gameplay, visuals, and sound are all equally interactive – the infamous trance vibrator of the original Dreamcast version making producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s intentions even clearer.

When stripped down and analysed Rez is a very simple game, its vaguely told plot casting you as a hacker invading the internet of a near future dystopia, trying to reawaken an artificial intelligence that has undergone an existential crisis after dealing with overwhelming amounts of corrupting information. Which seems more relevant now than it ever did in 2001.

The game is clearly influenced by Tron, especially in terms of the wireframe visuals and simple neon-coloured enemies, and it’s the geometric simplicity of the graphics that has ensured the game still feels fresh today. Bar the animation of the more human-looking versions of your avatar, nothing about the game has aged visually and it never well.

The same can be said for the electronica soundtrack, which remains one of the best in video game history. Not only does the music evolve with each level but the sound effects add to the aural soundscape, as your progress peppers the soundtrack with the smash of hi-hats and the crash of a snare drum.

In gameplay terms Rez is an on-the-rails, third person shooter where you control an aiming cursor that can lock onto eight enemies at once and… that’s it. Apart from a collectable smart bomb that’s all there is to the game, beyond trying to collect power-ups that evolve your avatar and act as extra lives (and a means to see the true ending).

Rez is not only simplistic but it’s pretty short too, with the original five levels only taking a couple of hours to get through. And yet it is probably our most replayed game ever, something we like to come back to at least once a year… not with the expectation that we’ll find anything new but just to wallow in the game’s atmosphere and design perfection.

All the levels have their own themes in terms of visuals, music, and story hooks but it’s the anticipation of the fifth stage, with the Adam Freeland soundtrack, that we anticipate the most. A transcendent experience that has lost none of its potency in nearly 20 years and which has only become more mesmerising thanks to VR.

Rez Infinite was first released for the PlayStation 4 in 2016, remastering the graphics and sound for 4K. The main appeal though was the VR mode, which worked perfectly while barely changing a thing. It is obvious that the game was never designed with VR in mind, since there’s only really one instance (the boss of Area 4) that benefits from you being able to look around 360°, but since it’s so much more immersive than playing on a TV that hardly seems to matter.

The higher resolution of the Oculus Quest 2 (it also runs on the original Oculus Quest) works even further to the game’s benefit, as does being able to use the Quest’s highly accurate motion controllers instead of the PlayStation VR’s aging Move controllers. On PlayStation 4 they weren’t really a problem for the main game but they were for Area X – a brand new stage not available in the original version.

Area X is still a third person shooter but this time you have full freedom of movement and the visuals are much more complex, with the endless particle effects making it feel like you’re fighting in the midst of a firework display. It’s a glorious experience, that works much better with the Oculus Quest’s controllers, but it’s also disappointingly short.

Whether Area X was intended as a preview or a footnote is not clear, but it’s been four years since the PlayStation 4 version and there’s been no sign of a Rez Infinite 2. Rez did have a spiritual sequel in the excellent Child Of Eden but that didn’t evolve the gameplay nearly as much as Area X and it will be a tragedy if this is the end of Rez’s story.

We’re dying to give Rez Infinite a 10/10 but while we certainly would’ve done so during its original release we can’t pretend that there aren’t a few grey hairs starting to appear, which are only made more obvious by the advances offered by Area X.

It may not be as famous as Tetris or Super Mario Bros. but that’s the sort of rarefied company that Rez belongs in. It is an all-time classic whose synthesis of gameplay, graphics, and sound is still light years ahead of other games whose only ambition seems to be to copy reality or cinema. Rez is not only one of the greatest video games ever made it is one of the greatest works of art of the last 50 years and it is showcased perfectly in this new version.

Rez Infinite Oculus Quest 2 review summary

In Short: A timeless classic that works exceptionally well in VR, as it melds together gameplay, graphics, and sound in a way no other game has ever matched.

Pros: Presentation that has barely aged a day in 19 years and some of the best on-the-rails shooting action ever designed. Area X is amazing, especially with Oculus Quest – even if it is very short.

Cons: The game’s age is becoming apparent at times and it’s obvious that the original stages were never designed with VR in mind.

Score: 9/10

Formats: Oculus Quest
Price: £14.99
Publisher: Enhance
Developer: Monstars and Resonair
Release Date: 12th October 2016
Age Rating: 3

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