Rez 20th anniversary: Sega’s classic still feels like the future of games

In 2001, Sega’s musical rail-shooter Rez seemed like a science experiment. By playing with the concept that gameplay might develop music and sound results might form a soundtrack, it showed up with a sense that we don’t actually understand what computer game are yet, so let’s attempt this. It tossed you inside a computer system with a wireframe appearance, an AI-driven story, and all the optimism and worry of innovation that came with that. It seemed like a video game grabbing the future.

In 2021 … it still feels that method.

I’ve long idea of Rez as the poster kid for the future of computer game. You’d believe that in time that impression would fade, and something else would take its location. Games have actually developed enormously ever since. And definitely, you can specify the future in a million various methods. However as somebody who matured on ‘80s motion pictures focused around wild visions of where innovation might go, and for somebody who likes the technical accomplishment of video game mechanics much more than is healthy, twenty years later on, Rez is still that video game.

In part, I credit external factors — things like the video game’s re-releases in HD and then VR. In recent years, marketing the game with a full-body vibration suit and Sony’s PSVR headset has helped pull attention from the aging textures and pacing issues. You can also point to the game’s visual style, which holds up better than most early 3D visuals thanks to its use of simple shapes. And I constantly reference the bonus stage in 2016’s Rez Infinite, Area X, as the thing I’ve enjoyed most in VR.

More than any of that, though, Rez — even today — feels like an exploration of what a video game can be. It doesn’t just introduce a new genre or setting; it plays with how music and gameplay can work together to offer a sensory experience — an idea that still has only been explored in limited ways in other games.

On Monday, Rez Infinite publisher Enhance posted a YouTube video celebrating Rez’s 20th anniversary (embedded above; disclosure: I used to work with a couple of these people) and announced some related merchandise. They’re calling it Rez20, which kind of looks like a coupon code, but what stands out the most is that 20 years later on, we still haven’t seen a video game that feels quite so much like it’s directly reaching for that sense of the future — and that Rez is still one of the best examples of something that video games haven’t yet totally accomplished.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.