5. Rez (Dreamcast/PS2)
I’m a frother by nature. I get so easily and hopelessly excited by new and shiny things; reflexively reaching for wallet whenever a game vaguely presentable or slightly clever-looking pops up.
And this frothing is rather unfortunately coupled with a time-delayed, overly critical nature that usually kicks in a couple of days later to rubbish 99% of everything I buy.
Given that I’m getting the gaming horn at least 52 times a year it’s an expensive affliction, the casualties of which are a long line of expensively opened DVD cases spread across the bookcase.
Not so, Rez. I can say that now with my hand on heart. But if I were to be really honest, two days in, this lovely shiny and definitely sparkly slice of synathaesic action was looking likely to be consigned to the place games go where they go when they’re never to be played again.
I’d quickly got the hang of the Panzer Dragoon-style select and kill game play and had made it through to Level 5. And it’d had been lots of fun for lots and lots of reasons.
The game play is bracketed by a slightly hokey Tron style plot (and this is a shooter so I don’t think poor plot could keep this beauty out of the top five) which has you controlling a morphing avatar hacking a mainframe, battling various programs trying to halt your progress.
You’re propelled through a number of beautifully rendered worlds accompanied by the best soundtrack ever heard in gaming. The “on rails” aspect is important as it provides the opportunity to link what’s happening on screen with the music. The creators of this wonderful game make the very most of that opportunity.
It’s easy to highlight the wonderful visuals as Rez’s main thing. But it’s that soundtrack that makes it truly great. Keyed from the game’s action, it ups the tempo as each of the 5 worlds 10 sub levels are conquered and as you blast away through the virtual enemies each explosion cracks out a beat-synched random chime. The more mayhem you make the more it feels like you’re making music too – and damn good music at that. And to top it all off, the joypad rumbler pulses along in perfect time to the thumping bass.
Lovely stuff but as said earlier 2 days and 5 levels in, once level 5 had fallen there didn’t seem much else to do. Before chucking it away, a quick look through the extras menu showed some bonus modes, including ‘Score Attack’ and ‘Beyond’. Played those and some more popped up, and then some more and some more again. A quick Google then revealed a plethora of different gameplay styles and modes unlocked by various levels of achievement throughout the game.
And that kept me going back again and again and again to what I feel is one of the classic shooters of all time. It still slackens my jaw, gets the adrenaline pumping and the Freeland-scored Level 5 raises goose pimples every time I play.
So why of the top 5 games in this wonderful feature is Rez the least known? Where did it all go wrong? The game never sold all that much on initial release and despite Dreamcast versions now changing hands for £30 plus on Ebay, for the majority of the worlds gamers, Rez is something they neither understand nor want. Even Sega seem oddly ashamed of Rez, eschewing its visionary creator Mizuguchi-san from the organisation within a year of this games release.
Abstraction just doesn’t seem to work with most people, but strip all that away and you’ve a compulsive and nerve rattling shooter that’s challenging and fun but with the added bonus of beautifully blended sound, vision and, through the deft addition of joypad rumble, /feel/ as well.
And in reverse order...
50 to 40 - Oooh the suspense.
39 to 29 - Wow, if only we had Paul Ross to present.
28 to 18 - Time for a cup of tea in the break?
17 to 6 - Nearly there, so you get just a bit more meat.
5 - Into the legends...
4 - Is this the Bobby Moore to no.1's Paul Gascoigne?
3 - 3-2-1 quipped Ted Rogers. He wasn't wrong.
2 - We argued and agonised for months over this list - we really did.
1 - But of the number one slot, there was never any doubt.
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