Rez Infinite is the greatest VR game to date

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I’ll defer from any commentary on the health of the VR industry and speak only personally: until today, there was enough dust on my goggles to craft a life-size Jeff Fahey statue. With the shock release of ur-console musical shooter Rez Infinite [official site] on PC last week, that’s all changed. Whatever the future might hold for VR, the blissful lines, colours and rhythm of Rez writ wraparound and gigantic is a moment of redemption for the whole concept.

Rez was one of those games that seemed almost like virtual reality, long before any of us really knew what that meant. Gridlike sci-fi abstractions, a persistent but non-oppressive beat and a world of ever-changing wonders that pulsed and twitched and throbbed in time with its inextricably interwoven soundtrack. Virtual tourism to a higher state of consciousness, and also a fluid shooter whose on-rails flight and lock-on system both spared it from frustration and meant the action did not overwhelm the soundscape.

Then I played it in actual VR, and it comfortably passed a test that I’ve found precious few other VR games have done: it made its non-VR equivalent feel entirely redundant. On a monitor, Rez Infinite now seems so flat and small, absolutely like looking through a small window – a window to a better place, yes, but not stepping through the threshold into it.

I mean, I’m sure I’d adjust back and the goggless incarnation of Rez would regain its grandeur if I left the VR version alone for a while, but for now I’m lucky enough to have the choice.

Traditional Rez – a high definition remastering of the Sega-published Dreamcast and PS2 original – is one thing. Its precision-directed on-rails motion and simple polygon shapes retain bags of style and even some lingering sense of the futuristic 16 years later. But it does show its age, arguably even more so in VR, where the fuzzy image amps up the CRT vibes.

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That’s a comfort blanket of nostalgia in some ways, of course it is, but there is a very slight sense that the overwhelming thereness of using your head to look around this vast otherwordly space that wraps all around you is undermined by the great simplicity of Rez’s original graphics tech. Then I fired up the other major mode from the main menu screen, Area X, and…

…this dark world of ours was blessed with absolute good. Area X is a sort of trial run for a full this-generation Rez, moving from the simple shapes and on-rails movement of its original form to a celestial vision of coloured particles and free flight of a sort. Your little Rez-fella is no longer some manner of cyber-thing but instead a creature made of starlight, occasionally adopting a zen meditation pose in the one thing here that’s perhaps a little too on the nose.

It’s majestic, all told, and it feels like a statement: this is what can be done with today’s technology, this is why Rez is still relevant and, most of all, this is what your ridiculous, sweaty plastic face-box is for.

Area X is a dramatic spectacle, a real toe in the waters of a different reality. All issues around room-scale controls are discarded, as you use your controller (or motion controller) to waft your entity around the beautiful void and feel as though you have infinite space even though you are sat or (ideally) stood still. You can pull a trigger to ‘fly’ or brake, and seem to cover galactic distances in a heartbeat, even if the reality is that you rarely travel far from your next target. Smoke and mirrors, but what smoke and mirrors they are.

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Area X’s action is similar to Rez’s – you essentially paint targets onto your chosen enemies, release the button and then they’re automatically shot. Rinse and repeat, although increasingly you need to prioritise foes (and their missiles) and respond rapidly in order to avoid death. It’s less frantic than trad. Rez can get however, which I think is a combination of changed design values in 2017 and being determined to create and enable you to soak in a more blissed-out atmosphere.

Enjoyment of either mode requires that you can give yourself to the music, however. Some of us have souls and some of us are cold and dead inside, to reignite the Audiosurf wars of 2008, and so I acknowledge that there are those who will find Rez/Area X to be dull and pointless, mechanical pew-pewing to a constant soundtrack that never goes anywhere. These people are villains whom you must excise from your life without hesitation or regret.

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These are not songs that I hum in the shower or dredge up from Spotify. It is another sort of a music, fuel for a disappearance into another state of mind, effective only in tandem with Rez Infinite’s two art styles, coupled with boss fights and level transitions and those moments when your every action not just matches but augments the sounds perfectly. I think sound has been a secondary, if not tertiary or lower still, element in too much VR, which dismally sidesteps the idea that virtual reality is supposed to be a sensory takeover, not merely another way of looking at a screen.

Rez, and particularly the majestic Area X, understands that ears are as important as eyes for that other place illusion to be sustained past the initial moments of goggling at big 3D things. I think that’s a major element in why this feels like the single most essential VR game to date. (What a shame it is that the Rift’s middling built-in headphones and the Vive’s fiddly wire-nightmare make hearing those sounds with a degree of splendour to match the sights overly complicated).

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Poor old standard Rez Infinite. An amazing, groundbreaking thing rendered so plain by dint of another option in its own menu. Clearly, it’s only an option for a few of us, but for those this is VR gaming’s highest watermark. A reason to buy a headset? Well, perhaps not, given that anything else is diminishing returns after this, but it’s certainly a reason to not regret your purchase.

Don’t forget about our ears, developers. They matter too.

Rez Infinite is available now for Windows PC, via Steam and the Oculus Rift store, for $24.99/£19.99 (currently discounted to $19.99/£15.99 until Aug 23).

44 Comments

  1. Eleven says:

    I think I said this in another thread, but the Area X mode really is a work of minor genius. It gave me one of those precious moments in gaming, few and far between, where I lost myself in it like a great movie or a good book. It wasn’t the simplistic gameplay, though it kept me engaged, more how perfectly they executed their concept of synaesthesia, of how different graphics and music feel when you’re actively participating. It’s exhilarating, an impressive achievement when a player needs a awkward headset strapped to their face for full effect.

    I hadn’t considered that Area X might be a sign of a new updated Rez, but now you’ve got me hopeful.

  2. Sakkura says:

    You need to try some of the other stuff that’s come out in recent months. Lone Echo is absolutely amazing, and Echo Arena is bordering on being VR’s Rocket League.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      Seconded! Lone Echo is my favourite game of the year so far. Please do give it go, while you’ve got the Rift dusted off and plugged in, Alec.

  3. Unclepauly says:

    Buy a VR and play this or smoke DMT? Choices, choices

    • Fiatil says:

      Why are you not doing all of this at once?

      • Zanchito says:

        If you’re smoking dmt and can still hold a controller, you’re smoking it wrong. 25 MG of lsd or a shroom tea, on the other hand…

  4. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    “until today, there was enough dust on my goggles to craft a life-size Jeff Fahey statue. ”

    I bought a Rift a few weeks ago at the start of the sale.

    … Yeah. Same.

    Robo Recall was fun, Superhot VR was fun, but there’s just not much.

    But hey, here’s another title to take a look at. $25 is cheaper than most VR titles, so all the better.

    • Sakkura says:

      Lone Echo, Echo Arena, Thumper, The Mage’s Tale, Witchblood, The Climb, Dead & Buried, Edge of Nowhere, Ultrawings, Arizona Sunshine, Chronos, Redout, Subnautica, Windlands, Onward, Gorn, Dirt Rally… there is quite a lot of content worth your while.

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        Drib says:

        Of those:
        Echo Arena: Makes me nauseous, if I’m thinking of the right one. The thing where you lean side to side to woosh over that direction?
        Subnautica: 2spooky. I can manage on a desktop. In VR, I… super cannot manage.
        Gorn: Too much movement, makes me ill. Also, the animations/styling is in that ‘deliberately wacky’ territory which isn’t funny to me and just grates.
        Dirt Rally: Sickness again. It’s weird, because I never get motion sick except in VR.

        But yeah, I’ll grant there’s plenty for folks who don’t get sick easily or have money to drop. I feel like VR titles in general have to rely on high price per sale rather than volume, for obvious reasons.

        • Sakkura says:

          First one sounds like Ripcoil, not Echo Arena. Fair enough about the sickness in some of the games though.

          Some games have received external funding and sell for less than they’d have to if they were going to be profitable just via sales revenue. Oculus has spent particularly large sums on this.

        • hotmaildidntwork says:

          I’ve been told that the sort of motion sickness caused by VR and the sort caused by something like a car are actually mostly unrelated, and don’t really predict each other. Something about experiencing less motion than anticipated as opposed to experiencing more. I’m not really clear on the details.

      • Vandelay says:

        Agreed. I bought my Vive about 6 weeks ago and I’ve been using it pretty much consistently since. Only games I’ve played that haven’t been VR since have been Dota with friends and a bit of TellTale’s Game of Thrones.

        Perhaps the novelty just hasn’t worn off yet, but Alec saying that this is the only game that he has played where he wouldn’t rather play the flat screen version seems completely bizarre to me (the only game I can think where that could be understandable is Subnautica, but that is more to do with some obvious UI issues that they just need to get around to fixing and those don’t deter my enjoyment enough to make me want to play on my monitor.) I really could not imagine wanting to play Project Cars or Elite on a regular screen unless I had to.

        • Fiatil says:

          The audio complaints are odd too — a lot of VR games take advantage of the binaural audio that VR offers, and do it really well. There are definitely some that don’t give it love, but that is not the norm at all.

          But hey, we actually got a generally positive VR article out of RPS post $600 price announcment. It’s the first, even if it takes a few shots that don’t have much basis in reality.

          • Herring says:

            All it took was a VR game that looks like how VR was predicted to look in the 90’s

            You can imagine the RPS crew waving their sticks in the air with a headset on while yelling, “if it doesn’t look like Tron it’s not VR!”

            Rezzed is fantastic.

  5. DoomBroom says:

    Deluxe Audio Strap!? It’s a must have accessory to the Vive! Please get it for a much more comfortable and practical experience! The Vive is a very moddable HMD with lots of third party stuff that can expand upon the base experience. Here’s an example: link to youtube.com

    There’s also really a huge amount of games and experiences for VR now and even more if you install Revive to access the Oculus exclusives. There’s sooo many hidden treasures if you just care to look around.

    And Rez Infinte’s Area X was a very delightful transcendental experience. I really hope they expand upon that!

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      The eagerness, intensity, and language choices in this post make it read like it was written by HTC’s marketing division.

      • DoomBroom says:

        Yes I’m a shill from HTC… They made a great VR HMD mostly thanks to Valve, although by no means perfect. There’s issues with the trackpad breaking etc. (though it’s easily fixable if you know how) and customer support from hell! Right now I have no problem recommending Rift over Vive if you’re low on cash. But if you have the money Vive is a good choice, just beware of the caveats. It also need some more competition. Hopefully we see the release of more SteamVR HMDs that use lighthouse tracking, like the one from LG.

  6. Thirith says:

    It’s funny how different people’s reactions are. I’ve been mostly sold on VR pretty much from the start, but my actual hallelujah moment was SUPERHOT VR. Rez Infinite? I enjoyed it, but it didn’t stay with me at all. Once I was out of the Rift and doing the next thing, there wasn’t much of a trace of the experience.

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      particlese says:

      It is interesting, yeah, and I’m with you on Superhot.

      I jumped straight into Res Infinite’s Area X (after reading here and elsewhere that it’s the place to be with a facebox, and after reading the tutorial), and I was definitely having a good, musical, half-chilled out, half-whatIsGoingOn time up until it crashed during a boss fight. Or maybe I died, and it shut the game down as some in-joke I didn’t get – I’m not really sure. I won’t hold that ousting against it for now, either way.

      But I jumped back into my second Superhot VR session (having freshly recovered from a slightly pulled hamstring after last time) and had an absolute blast again: Precision angled bullet-time squat, GO! And hoooold…hooooooooooold it… See what’s going on? Okay! Now, angle under those incoming bullets – not too quickly – slowly roll under the pool table, and punch the shotgunner in the kneecap…NOW!

      And on top of the incidental exercise, you end up feeling like the marginally sweaty star of an awesome action movie scene afterwards. I remain pretty thrilled by To The Top, too, but Superhot VR is a level beyond even that, for me.

      Videogames!

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        N.B.: I am slightly excited having just finished playing, but still.

        Note 2: Rolling under pool tables does require a little space, as does punching faces and grabbing guns out of dudes’ hands with one’s own outstretched hand, etc., so Superhot VR might not work out for all with the inclination to try it.

        Note 3: Mellower games are definitely welcome, so I’m glad things like Lucid Trips and now Res Infinite, also with its proper treatment of music in tow, exist.

  7. rubmon says:

    Folks are saying it’s not 3D, so, meh.

    • DoomBroom says:

      The original is a weird mix of 2d and 3d. Rez Area X however is full gorgeous 3D.

      • cafeoh says:

        Can confirm, I kept reading that everywhere and I finally tried it with the headset on yesterday evening. You still see the scene behind the menu when you pause, and basically the background is often time very far away (couldn’t distinguish from an animated skybox), but there seems to be some exceptions. The enemies and the player model are properly in 3D though.

        I finished area X in less than 30 minutes, played about 30 minutes of the traditional mode, and wasn’t really sold. I’m sure this is a great experience for some, but the only thing I was thinking all along is “this is great, it’s like a very beautiful firework with really nice music, but I’m sure someone can do way better, and making better use of the controllers”.

        If area X was the demo for a game 5 times the length, I’d have bought it, but as it is I requested a refund, 16£ is way too much for this. In my mind, this isn’t at all one of the best VR game. I’ve had a good time playing area X but it’s not even in my top 10.

  8. Spacewalk says:

    I can’t imagine what Area X is like in VR but even in 2D it’s pretty incredible. I think that can be classified as a real achievement.

  9. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Psst, typo in your tags…

  10. racccoon says:

    Yeah and your all going to blind by your own stupidity!
    lay off VR honestly its not good for your eye sight.
    VR is a human experiment and your the stupid human they are experimenting it with.

    • FredSaberhagen says:

      *you’re

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      particlese says:

      *,
      *go blind
      *Lay
      *,
      *–
      *it’s
      *eyesight
      *,
      *you’re [as mentioned above]
      *it

      Honestly – kids these days…

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      Harlander says:

      All technology is an experiment and all can do harm. Take the endless cases of carpal tunnel disorders from keyboard use.

      I’m not sure what point I was aiming for here…

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I was thinking along the lines of “too much of anything is too much”, which I guess is more or less the same sentiment, but I jumped aboard the editor train instead. One of these days I’ll learn better…

  11. welverin says:

    “Rez Infinite is the greatest VR game to date”

    So, it’s o.k.?

    • Stromko says:

      Personally I’ve enjoyed every other VR game (for example: Robo Recall, VR Dungeon Knight, The Lab) more than Rez. I just don’t get it. Just got done playing through about 10 minutes of Area X. It ignores pretty much every rule about making a comfortable VR experience but it didn’t bother me much once I turned off the default automatic head-turning (head spinning more like it).

      At least I know now not to buy things on the Oculus store again. VR games may not be someone’s cup of tea but at least Steam allows you to refund a game that you end up not playing.

      • Sakkura says:

        Oculus has added refunds for UK users. Hope they spread that to all users soon.

    • UncleLou says:

      No, it’s fantastic. Although I’d argue RE7 is an even better VR experience. The kind of game where you know there’s no way back to a normal screen.

      • monkeymcnugget says:

        Can’t wait for re7, I’ve heard so much good stuff about it on PS vr! Any word a release date anyone? Love my vive (2nd hand at£400 was about right though) but it’s certainly a once a week or two sort if device…

  12. JeepBarnett says:

    It’s an amazing spectacle! Absolutely love it! But I would argue that DEXED is the better VR game because was designed for VR. It’s similar, but uses both hands and has a neat color combo system in the vein of Ikaruga. The octopus boss looks great too. link to store.steampowered.com

  13. Rack says:

    You’ve got a magic portal to another world, you should probably use it. Saying it gathered dust till you played Rez reminds me of the sketches complaining of using the Stargate as a skip.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Exactly, there is exciting stuff coming out on steam constantly for VR, its in a stage of rapid experimental development by mostly small teams and the grammar is ever evolving about how games and creative utilities should and can work in VR.

      Anybody who has one and isn’t using it consistently is daft, especially if their job is to look at games ffs.

  14. c741535 says:

    I disagree @Alec. Rez Infinite is fine, but it’s no Lone Echo (Oculus exclusive) or SuperHot. Those games are (SuperHot) or would-be (Lone Echo) great in 2D but gain so much by being in VR with head-tracking and motion controllers. The locomotion in Lone Echo is a revelation, feeling of weightless-ness with ‘IronMan’ style wrist thrusters is grin-inducing. Rez works well in VR but doesn’t need it or gain a lot IMHO, face-aiming makes it easier but not a lot more engaging. I do understand your ‘gathering dust’ feelings though, there aren’t a lot of great titles coming out fast enough at this stage. Have you checked out Derail Valley (free demo on Steam)? I never thought I’d be the guy who loved a Train Simulator, but in VR it’s a hoot and the devs are engaged with the small community. Going with a free demo rather than early-access is a real credit to them. I would gladly pay something for it now.

  15. Da5e says:

    Area X is genuinely astonishing, but Rez itself in VR suffers from being far too easy – I can cane Area 5 without being hit once, whereas on Dreamcast it’s a proper struggle.

  16. jeremyalexander says:

    I think that Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR, despite the games flaws, will really ignite the VR sales. After all, when I envisioned what I wanted VR for since I first tried a primitive model shooting game in a demo back in 93 was games like Skyrim in VR. As long as I can move around instead of that stupid teleporting mechanic, I will probably shell out the money for VR this fall. Hopefully VIVE will announce a big price cut, or cheaper newer model.

  17. Love Albatross says:

    Yeah it’s pretty good. Not an oh wow moment for me though. The games that did that were Superhot VR and Robo Recall. Both make you feel like a bad ass and are enhanced by being in VR. Grabbing a robot, ripping its arm off, using its own arm to beat it then using the body as a shield is a blast.

    To a lesser extent: Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is a really neat game/experience that lets you safely play with realistic guns. Arizona Sunshine is a short but good example of a proper game done well in VR. And Ultrawings is a relaxed Pilotwings-esque flight sim experience that makes good use of the touch controls.

  18. Foosnark says:

    I loved Rez Infinite for the nostalgia and the gameplay is still pretty good.

    Area X was extremely pretty, but I didn’t really feel the gameplay. Throughout most of the stage, I was not sure that I could even be damaged. And then I was starting to get bored and it ended suddenly in the credits. I really wish it had more of the travel-oriented, architectural feel of the original game but with the lovely point cloud graphics.

    Then again, that was in 2D. I don’t have a VR headset. As a glasses-wearer who always has trouble with 3D movies, old-school VR headsets, the crap head-things you stick your phone into, and so on, I’m not willing to fork over the cash to discover just how blurry, uncomfortable, headache-inducing etc. this will be too.

    • Simplex says:

      “As a glasses-wearer who always has trouble with 3D movies, old-school VR headsets, the crap head-things you stick your phone into, and so on, I’m not willing to fork over the cash to discover just how blurry, uncomfortable, headache-inducing etc. this will be too”

      Then try before buying. Vive and PSVR are the two most glasses friendly HMDs out there. Seriously, try, you may be positively surprised.
      Not to mention, that if you order from amazon, you can return it without any problems.