Rez Infinite PC Review

I've now bought Rez for the third time, and I've love the game even more every time I picked it up.

That first time for me with this must-have, hacking oriented, super-polygonal, musically-dominated rail shooter was with the its initial Dreamcast release in the US, and I stupidly got rid of that copy of the game once I had played it over and over and got sick of it.  Next came the Xbox 360 release a decade later, and the sharp HD visuals and the untouched, spine-tingling soundtrack was the perfect combination of familiar with crisp and new.

Now, I've played on Windows, both with a mouse and also in VR with an HTC Vive, and yes - this is the best way to play Rez yet. I'm sure the PlayStation 4 and PS VR release of Rez Infinite last year is just as good, but I'll stick with PC where I can since it'll offer better resolutions and smoother VR tracking on a solid video card and HTC Vive for VR.

The game's simple idea, of a symbolized avatar of a hacker floating in a 1980s-inspired cyberpunk universe shooting enemies, isn't exactly new.  But where many games that played with this aesthetic overcomplicated things with RPG systems or poorly-written plots - something that, to me, do not lend themselves well to the neon-and-polygons-on-black theme - Rez merely asks you to sit back, aim, and fire.  OK, it's not exactly casual all of the time, but it's not a seizure- or rage-inducing bullet hell game and you don't have to mash any buttons or get down complex timings.  After all, the game is very tuned into a rhythm, but the music loosely follows your movements rather than forcing you to follow it.  As far as the shooting goes, the best way to take out the polygonal enemies is to put the on-screen cursor on them, hold down the fire button until you combo up 8 shots (denoted by "MAX" shown inside the cursor), and release to let loose your shots.  You can blow up groups of small enemies, devastate larger ones, and take down incoming missiles all in the same combo.

The game's played along the game's five original stages plus the new "Area X" that was first added in the 2016 release on PS4 and PSVR.  The first five stages all have a basic gameplay mode, a casual mode where you can't lose, score attack, and a few other extras.  Area X was added with enhanced visuals and a more modern choice of music.  Purists may not much care for it, but I feel like it's a worthy addition - and if nothing else, it does help bump up the amount of gameplay available.  Considering that you can plow through the main game's five areas in a couple of hours if you're good enough at the game not to die, added content in any way may be considered a big plus.  It's not like the game's expensive - the initial price on Steam is US $20, with a bump up to $25 coming later - but additional content for a game with only basic modes and no multiplayer is always welcome.

So while Rez Infinite doesn't really offer much in the way of new content for this PC release, its 4K support and VR support through SteamVR (meaning Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for headsets and controls) make for a nice, new presentation.  The mouse controls are pretty decent, although I feel like the bigger innovation is the VR controls, especially since the game gives you two ways to point the cursor - by moving your head and by moving your controller around in the air.  I thought the game might become tiring to play by making me point up in the air to shoot at anything above me, but the dual cursor movement allowed me to simply look up and only then adjust with mild waggles of the controller.  Frankly, the nature of the inputs I was sending from my Vive lighthouses and controllers themselves aren't terribly more advanced in Rez Infinite than say, a Wii Remote, but with the entire game world's immersive all-directions visuals being broadcast through the Vive headset, it does make quite a difference. I also noticed that I did much better with the Vive controls than with the mouse and got acclimated to them very quickly, too.  The PC VR controls certainly don't feel tacked on like you sometimes get with a game that started out without VR in mind.

Any fan of Rez will tell you that its unique and complementary combination of audio and visuals is key to the game's appeal and success, and the game's buildup of music along with most game sound effects acting as add-on instruments to that same beat of the music really adds to the experience.  I suppose some kind of remastered audio is possible, but I could only imagine that coming out somehow different and compromised.  Instead, improved screen resolution for the visuals is about the best we can hope for, and Rez Infinite does the best it on current technology without being a remake or remix.  Frankly, that's all I want.