We receive a playable version of UGA's upcoming shooter.

United Game Artists, known for the Dreamcast's Space Channel 5, has been hard at work on Rez, a distinctive on-rails shooter. The game was originally conceived on the Dreamcast, on which it will enjoy an eventual release in Japan. In North America, however, the game will see only a PS2 release, the beta version of which we received only hours ago.

Rez is essentially an on-rails shooter in the spirit of Panzer Dragoon and Space Harrier. In many respects, its gameplay mechanics are much more simple than those of even some of the older games in that category. While its pacing keeps the experience very brisk, it's the game's visual and aural production that seem to boldly separate it from the pack.

Vector graphics, flat-shaded polygonal geometry, and Jaguar-era graphical techniques (manifested as gauzy, colored smoke) make Rez among the most interesting-looking games facing imminent commercial release. Its audio production, while not nearly as far-out in conception, frames the visuals in very slick ways. Basically, each "level" is a prolonged musical movement whose onscreen graphical elements affect the way the music sounds (or vice versa). At least it feels this way; the music's tempo and the depth of its tracks both seem to arbitrarily depend on your progress through the stage. Still, the fact that your shots have audio cues when they're set and when they connect makes it feel like you're actually contributing.

The mechanics are utilitarian enough; the left stick controls your onscreen representation, the X-button is what you'll use to lock and shoot, and the circle button fires your smart bombs. Most of your movement commands will actually move your targeting reticle, whose lock-and-shoot mechanics make up the bulk of the game's action. For the most part, there isn't much in the way of dodging--rather, you shoot stuff either before it shoots at you or else you blast its shots as they approach.

UGA really came unhinged when conceiving Rez. As the story goes, your character is caught in a computer system gone hostile, and you must fight your way to its core to save the system, the network, and/or the world. The studio has drawn on popular culture to bring the innards of a hostile computer system to life; vectors, empty wire frames, and flat-shaded polys make up most of the physical world, while enemies that look like flying insects and futuristic vehicles, among other forms, populate it. When things are destroyed, they'll erupt in some cool-looking gauzy fog, whose wake often takes the hazy form of the level's theme: the eye of Ra in the first stage or a canine silhouette in the third.

In any event, watch the movies we've provided; moving images do a very good job of conveying what Rez is all about. We'll have a full preview come next week, so keep your eyes on this space.

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