It’s still early days for VR game development, but one thing almost everyone can agree on is that you need to design games from the ground up — porting 2D games to headsets rarely works well. Rez Infinite, however, is the exception that doesn’t so much prove the rule as tear it up into tiny pieces and bury it in the sand.
A PlayStation VR-enabled version of Rez, a Dreamcast title from 2001 that I don’t have too much hesitation in calling my favorite game of all time, Rez Infinite is even better than I’d hoped. After spending some time with it at Tokyo Game Show today, it not only feels like the definitive version of the game, but the way the game could have been designed to be played in the first place.
If you’re not familiar with Rez, it’s a simple shooting game where you move along a predefined path taking out enemies as you go. The twist is that the game is based around music: you start out each stage with a simple techno beat, and the track builds up in time with your actions. By the time you’re deep into each stage, you’re orchestrating a wild concoction of light and music as the controller pounds in your hands.
This works fantastically well in VR, and there are three main reasons why.
The controls: Rez is a rail shooter, meaning you don’t have full control of your character — only your aim. Character movement in VR is a big problem for many VR developers, since it’s hard to avoid nausea when you have full 3D movement, but it’s a non-issue here. You can look around and shoot with the stick, but your crosshair is also tied to your head movement; I found it worked best to use the stick for broad strokes and then fine-tune the shot with my head. But Rez isn’t really a game that requires precision — you can just sit back and forget about the controls. It's a VR game where a regular controller is perfectly adequate.
The visuals: Rez is a beautiful game whether you’re playing it on an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 2, and that’s thanks to its uniquely minimalist wireframe art style. It’s perfect for VR headsets, which need to push 3D visuals at high resolutions and frame rates; Rez looks amazing without taxing the hardware too strongly. And Sony’s choice of display for PlayStation VR works out great for Rez — although it’s lower resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, its RGB subpixel arrangement allows for a cleaner image, which makes Rez Infinite’s stark, colorful lines really pop.
Rez is ultimately all about the audiovisual presentation
The experience: The story isn’t quite the point, but it’s worth mentioning that Rez is literally a game about jacking into a computer world — wearing a VR headset while playing feels appropriate in a way that it doesn’t for, say, Fruit Ninja. And Rez is ultimately all about the audiovisual presentation; it’s a fun shooter, sure, but you’d never want to play it with the sound off. VR adds to the experience immeasurably.
Rez Infinite will come out for PS4 and PS VR on October 13th, coincidentally the date from which I will never again come out of my house.