When I was asked if I wanted to see a new area in Rez Infinite--the updated version of the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast classic launching with PlayStation VR--I didn't hesitate to say yes. The original Rez is a masterpiece, a playable work of art that still garners high praise from those who remember it. I enjoyed the original Rez, flying through the air and just enjoying the feel of my body's physical response to rhythm and movement. But nothing prepared me for Area X, a special area for Rez Infinite in which the whole game goes off the rails--literally.
It's easy to describe what Area X is, but it's difficult to explain what it does to you. Area X is playable in both the non-VR and PSVR versions of Infinite, but after playing the mode in VR, I can't imagine experiencing it any other way. In Area X, Rez removes the rails that confine your flying character to one area ahead of you. By moving your head and looking in the direction you want to go, Area X lets you free fly anywhere you want in any part of a level. You can swim through the air like a shimmering cyberspace fish, weaving in and out of enemies and using the controller to shoot them out of the sky. Or you can ignore them for a while and fly off into the stars, leaving the rhythm of battle behind you.
Area X feels both familiar and alien, a comforting dip back into Rez and an exhilarating thrill ride into a world you've never known before.
For Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Rez Infinite's Area X is the game he has always wanted to make--and the one he first saw inside his head back in 2001.
"In working on that, Rez, itself, in my head was already in VR," Mizguchi told me. "To me, it was like, if and when that time comes, Rez in going to be in VR, is what I always had in mind from the very beginning. Then now that that time has come, it wouldn't be just Rez in VR. There's a brand new challenge that I put upon myself, and that is Area X."
With the move from 2D and 3D and now into VR and more powerful consoles, Mizuguchi felt like the time had finally come to build the 360-degree version of Rez that he always dreamed of.
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"I think one element that really works and helps the player is this synesthesia feeling that I've been pursuing for the longest time," he added. "It has everything to do with the visuals and the sounds and how you get vibration through the controller, too. All that has to really sync in order for it to work, and through that, what we call the 'good feeling' while you're playing, is kind of an upward spiral effect."
I felt emotional during my time with Rez--in a good way. I kept letting my hand fall from the left analogue stick--the one that aims the shooting reticle and guides your field of vision--and using my head to turn and target. You can play Area X with two buttons, X to shoot and R1 to fly forward, and the longer I stayed in the space the more I fell into using only these two. Like my shimmery silver man flying through the stars before me, I wanted to fly too. Happily, I played standing up, and I found myself moving with the music and spinning and moving with my character.
Mizuguchi is already thinking about what comes after Rez Infinite. With VR growing in popularity, and technology only improving as we move forward, he feels that he now has the tools to create the emotionally-charged, transcendent game experiences that he believes are possible. Mizuguchi knows the power of games, and is committed to bringing more experiences like Rez and Rez Infinite to his audience.
"In terms of where do we go from here, in 25 or so years of making games, with confidence, I can say that right now is the most exciting time for me and the most fun I've been having making games," he said. "Now that I'm here, I now have so many ideas that I think is going to consume the next 10 years for me."
In order to not give away the biggest surprises in Area X, a world of ever-spiraling color and light, silvery sound and heart-thumping beats, I can only say that the experience of playing was a powerful one. It takes a lot of delicate work and creator passion to create a game that moves you in ways that go beyond your playtime, and Rez Infinite is shaping up to be one of them.