Developer / Publisher – Monstars Inc, Resonair / Enhance
Price – US $29.99 / CAN $39.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99
Release Date – February 22, 2023
Input – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers, Dual Sense
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store – PlayStation
Reviewed on – PSVR 2
This is Rez Infinite, the 2023 VR re-release of a game that originally released over 2 decades ago for the dreamcast and received its original VR treatment in 2016 when Sony released their 1st VR headset. It’s a lauded rhythm shooter that has seen many tweaks and improvements with the PSVR 2 release promising to be the best version yet. Does this 22-year-old game stand the test of time? Is the PSVR 2 the best way to play? Do I think this game is insanely overrated…let’s find out!
In Rez, it’s up to you to venture into a malfunctioning AI and shoot the various robots? that are assailing her system. The game opens up with an all to brief cut scene before throwing you into the action and while there is some light existential story telling toward the end of the game, outside of that premise, any other narrative is next to non-existent meaning Rez lives or dies on its gameplay.
You control an avatar in a simulated system with the core game having you “on the rails” as you soar through this digital world and enemies appear around you. There are 4 control options available to target those incoming drones with most using or combining headset or controller tracking to target the enemies while holding onto a face button to lock on to every target your reticle moves across. Upon releasing the button, you’ll unleash your attacks, taking out every foe you had targeted and while this is a dated reference, this plays similarly to the Panzer Dragoon series. All of those methods work fine enough so depending upon your preference, there should be an option here for you. One of the major additions to the PSVR 2 release is the use of eye tracking which is easy to miss as it’s labelled as ‘type 4’ under the control type option so for my entire 1st playthrough, I didn’t realize what I was missing. For starters, the eye tracking works great and looking to target is pretty cool, especially when compared to the head tracked control which keeps your reticle centred on your vision and forced a lot of neck bending to highlight the enemies that come from anywhere but in right front of you. With eye tracking, I still naturally moved my head to look at enemies, but I found my head moving much less as my eyes did a bulk of the work and made for an overall more comfortable, and easier experience thanks to my faster eye reactions.
I never really understood the appeal of the gameplay in Rez and while it works just fine, I don’t find it very engaging and even when there’s a ton of stuff flying at my avatar, whom you view in 3rd person, it just felt more frenetic than fun. Each of the 5 stages is broken up into 10 smaller levels and throughout each you’ll face a variety of enemies, have to collect power-ups and try to avoid taking any damage while getting thorough that level as fast as possible. The better you do and the more upgrades you collect, will upgrade your avatar, changing shape from a humanoid collection of rectangles to more tangible forms. Outside of the boss battles, I found the game to be easy with eye tracking even feeling unfair at times thanks to even faster reaction time and with no difficulty modifiers available, I found the main game to be largely unsatisfying, especially when you factor in that it takes about an hour to get though all the games content. Each stage behaves in the exact same fashion with some encounters changing up by shifting your view to either side of your avatar so while the game brags about enemies coming from all around you, more often than not, they’ll still appear within 180 degrees of where the camera is facing so there’s no real worry about having to spin around in circles. The boss battles do mix things up as each will throw different attacks your way and need to be taken in out in different ways be it destroying tentacles, walls or just defending against the hordes of drones sent your way with these final encounters being much more satisfying than the stages. Outside of the main game, included in Infinite is Area X and if there’s one reason too not look past picking this up, it’s this, but I’ll get to that in just a minute.
With the PSVR 2 release comes the promise of even more fidelity as there appears not only be a resolution bump, which makes sense, but for the 1st time also includes HDR and in my time with the game, I didn’t really notice the latter, even when hopping from the PS4 to the PS5 version of the game. Now this is where things get a little tricky as I think, at this point Rez needs a sequel or a remake as the visuals in here look alright…for a 20-year-old game. It’s the cleanest it’s ever looked in VR and while I did notice some vibrant colors sprinkled in throughout the game, I found the overall color palette to be dull considering the promises of synesthesia with a lot of the game overlaying simple images over black backgrounds. With much of the game throwing abstract visuals your way that react to your attacks and the beat, it can be cool when it all works but with the bump in clarity, I honestly couldn’t help but notice just how dated Rez looks, especially the final stage which dared to use animals and trees and so on that really do like gaming assets from a bygone era. If you want to forgive it for being an old game ported to VR, then I guess that’s fine, but for myself, I found the core game here to be across the board underwhelming.
Now, back to Area X and what I think is really the only reason to pick this up outside of a trip down memory lane as it not only showcases the features of the PSVR 2 headset but updates the gameplay to modern standards and if they made a sequel using the gameplay and visuals found here, then I’d be all on board for that. In Area X you can now free roam these large environments, facing all new foes that are rendered with much high detail then anything else in the game while particle effects galore happen all around you all the time. It’s a visual overload that is nothing short of mesmerizing and while it won’t take more than 15 minutes to get through, you can just choose to free roam and spend as much time in here as you like.
Another boost to the overall gameplay is PSVR 2’s use of haptics which are used quite well in Rez whether you choose to use the Dual Sense or 2 sense controllers as each pulses and vibrates with each shot fired while your headset also pulses to the beat. This does add a nice tactile layer to the game and even though I’m not the biggest fan of Rez, those extra little vibrations do add a unique and positive layer to the game that I think anyone will appreciate.
Rez has always been hailed for the synesthesia I mentioned earlier which for those that don’t know is defined as “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” Rez does try it’s best to blend video, audio and haptics into a threesome of sensations, though, I don’t think the audio here works that great either. It’s a collection of early 2000’s custom made electronic beats which are fine enough, but it’s the blending of the sounds from your shots that just feels overlayed on top of the soundtrack making it sound more like noise that a nice blending of the 2 audio sources. Beeps and boops other sounds overpower the soundtrack turning much of this game into a cacophony of noise rather than slick beats, something the developers did a much better job of in Tetris Effect. Spatial audio is here and works flawlessly I guess though once again, as a bulk of the action does happen ahead of you, other than hearing the sounds of your blasts coming from left or right, it’ll mostly be all those effects and the music playing that you’ll notice before any nuanced 3D audio making much of the experience feel quite messy, though there are moments in Area X where all of this stuff blends together much more naturally.
So, to answer my own questions, I feel like it’s time to put this version of Rez to bed when it comes to VR, and I think Area X proves just how much more Enhance can do with the game other than just re-releasing it over and over. It feels more dated than retro and I’d much rather play their other VR rhythm title, Tetris Effect which utilizes the tech so much better. The PSVR 2 version is the best way to play Rez and if you already own the PS4 version than the $10 upgrade isn’t criminal I suppose, but the base cost of $30 just seems way too pricey for an old game ported to VR with 1 additional, but very cool, stage that shows this game’s true potential. Area X is stunning and fun to chill or play in, is a showcase for the headset and one I would put newbies to VR in, but outside of that, I don’t think what’s here is anything special.