Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hidden Gems: The Return Volume 2

I arrived home last night and discovered that one of the two new Xbox Live Arcade titles for this week was none other than Rez HD - Sega's classic Dreamcast shooter all tarted up with full HD support and a 5.1 Surround Sound mix. If you've never played this game then there's never been a better time to try it, and even if you don't own an Xbox 360 you should be able to find a used copy of the Dreamcast or PS2 version for the same or less money it would cost you to download if you look hard enough. What makes the game such an overlooked classic? Yes, you guessed it - I'm going to tell you!

Title: Rez HD
Format: Xbox 360 (original available on Dreamcast and PS2)
Genre: On-rails shoot 'em up
Expect to pay: 800 points or about £8 for a boxed copy

If you've ever played an on-rails shooter such as Panzer Dragoon or one of the Star Fox games then you will already be familiar with the basic gameplay or Rez. Fly along on a predeterimed path, locking onto enemies and taking them down, before facing off against a boss in an epic encounter. What really makes Rez different from these titles though is the way it uses sound and music and the way they interact with each other. The game has a wire frame neon Tron style look to it, which makes sense because the plot involves you hacking a computer in order to save the CPU (personified by a woman) from a nasty virus that is attacking the system. Before you can get this far you have to get past the various security systems yourself however in the form of the games bosses.

The soundtrack includes a stunning contribution from Adam Freeland who has gone on to moderate fame and fortune in his own right since the game was originally released. As you progress from one section of a level to the next by shooting down and opening network points, the music builds up stage by stage until you have a thumping dance track by the end of the level. Shooting down enemies or items also produces various drum, cymbal or synth sounds, so in a way you are effecting the music as you play.

There are five levels in the standard game which will take you a little while to play through, but after you finish that there's a whole range of bonus modes which become available, including a boss rush and more difficult, reskinned versions of the regular levels. Unfortunately there's nothing new content wise in the 360 version, but there's already plenty to keep you busy and if you've never played Rez before you should be more than satisfied with what you get for your money.

I hope this trend of releasing hard to find classics continues on the 360. We've already had Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and now Rez HD, and Ikaruga is also on they way. Who knows, maybe we'll even get Radiant Silvergun one day (which sells for silly money on ebay). Whatever format you have, be it DC, PS2 or 360, you should give Rez a go, you won't regret it.

Facing off agains the first boss in the fantastic looking (and sounding) Rez.

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