While it has rarely been imitated, Rez is often seen as a defining game in the music genre. It was the first real step down a path for its producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi that has seen him time and again blend gameplay with music in a manner where it’s the player’s actions that serve to add layer upon layer to the music that spans his games.
Yet, it always seems to come back to Rez, in some fashion, as it was first revisited with Rez HD on Xbox 360 and then with Rez Infinite last year for PlayStation 4, with both 4K support on PS4 Pro and VR with PSVR. Additionally, there was the new level Area-X, showing a potential future for the series.
All of that is now brought to PC, with Rez Infinite out today on Steam and Oculus Home, supporting 4K and VR on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. However, it supports even higher resolution textures than the PS4 version, pushing the game incrementally further than it’s ever gone before.
Speaking with Mizuguchi-san – you can read our full interview with him here – he said of this continual reinvention and exploration, “We have new technology all the time,” he explained, “so when we had the PSP [for Lumines], this was like an interactive Walkman. Child of Eden, we had Kinect technology; you can play like a conductor. Now we have VR, so there’s no frame, it’s all 3D and audio is 3D too. With the PC you’ve got 4K, and it’s so high res.”
It looks gorgeous in 4K, just as it did on PS4 Pro last year. As Mizuguchi-san leans in to closely inspect the screen as the game is loaded up, it’s clear that he’s an absolute perfectionist. I idly ask him if he ever goes back to play the game on PS2 or Dreamcast. He doesn’t, and it’s likely because this game in the here and now is as close to what he wants achieve as it possible… well, before you start discussing synaesthesia suits that send vibrations across your body with dozens of motors.
As we discuss Area X, the additional level added into Infinite, he said, “Of course if you play with 4K, you can feel the beautiful particles moving, reacting and changing with the music and if you have a chance to play with VR, it’s much more immersive. I think it’s not double or triple, I think it’s ten times more, a totally different experience. Playing on 4K PC is so beautiful, but if you play in VR, it’s totally different.”
There’s definitely the feeling that Area X is the first step down a path to a new game from Mizuguchi-san. Where the original Rez was a rail shooter with a distinct polygons, lines and the trappings of late 90s and early 2000s gaming, in some ways. Area X adopts an entirely different visual style, with shapes and forms created out of individual particles that can move and react to the music and the shots that you fire. If Rez embodies the story it tells of a futuristic hacker fighting viruses in VR, the Area X has a very different tone, almost etherial in nature.
“This is a prologue for a future project,” Mizuguchi-san told us. “I can’t say a future Rez, but maybe. Area X is very important to me to show and present the future vision.
“I wanted to make it Rez, basically, but to create a new experience using the new technology. We decided to generate many, many particles and have them react to the sound of the music. So as you shoot, the particles spread, and the blending of this lets you feel synaesthesia because you can see the sounds, you can see the music. I think this is a totally new experience for everybody.”
You have more freedom to explore this area as well, as you’re no longer on rails, but can fly freely, with a simple indicator in the reticule to suggest that you might head towards the next enemies to shoot at instead.
In terms of performance, reaching 4K still demands a lot from your PC. With a Radeon RX 480, I was able to play the more demanding Area X at 4K, albeit with a number of dips from 60fps. Tweaking settings and accepting a drop in resolution might bring you closer to that ideal performance barrier. If you’re a perfectionist, higher performance parts might be in order, but there’s no denying the magical way that this game combines music, visuals and gameplay together.