Rez (video game)

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Rez
RezBoxArt.jpg
Developer(s) United Game Artists
Publisher(s)
Director(s) Jun Kobayashi
Producer(s) Tetsuya Mizuguchi
Designer(s) Hiroyuki Abe
Katsuhiko Yamada
Artist(s) Katsumi Yokota
Platform(s) Rez: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2
Rez HD: Xbox 360
Rez Infinite: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Release
Genre(s) Rail shooter, music game
Mode(s) Single-player

Rez is a musical rail shooter developed by United Game Artists and published by Sega for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. It was released in Japan on November 2001, followed by releases to the United States and Europe in January 2002. The game has since seen two remasters: Rez HD, released to the Xbox Live Arcade in 2008, and Rez Infinite, developed for PlayStation VR and released to the PlayStation Network in October 2016 and Microsoft Windows in August 2017. Inspired by the work of Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, the game was developed under the working title K-Project, and was conceptualized and produced by Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Rez is notable for replacing the typical sound effects found in most rail shooters with electronic music. The player creates sounds and melodies as they target and destroy foes in the game, leading to a form of synesthesia.

The game's development team contained several former members of the disbanded Team Andromeda,[3] the Sega development team behind the Panzer Dragoon series. Rez Infinite, the latest version of the game created for virtual reality, was released to widespread acclaim, and is widely considered to be one of the best VR games to date.

Back in 2007, a beta-build version of Rez was released for the Sega Dreamcast exclusively in Japan, titled Vibes as a promotional item for the then-upcoming Rez HD for the Xbox 360.[citation needed]

Gameplay[edit]

Rez in-game screenshot on the Sega Dreamcast

Rez is a rail shooter in which the player takes control of an onscreen avatar traveling along a predetermined path through the computer network. The player does not control the overall path, only the avatar's position on the screen. The player targets foes by holding a "lock-on" button while moving an aiming reticule over up to 8 enemies. Once the "lock-on" button is released, the avatar fires shots that home in on each target. Failure to hit an enemy or projectile in time may cause a collision, which reduces the player's current evolution level by one and changes the avatar's form. The game is over if the avatar is hit while at its lowest possible level. At higher evolution levels, the avatar appears as a humanoid figure, while it appears as a pulsating sphere at the lowest level.

Occasionally enemies drop one of two power-up items when destroyed. The power-ups either enhance the player's "evolution bar" by one or three points, or they enable the player to trigger an "Overdrive", which releases a continuous shower of shots at all enemies on the screen for a short period of time. In some game modes, score bonus items also appear periodically.

The game consists of five main areas. The first four are divided into ten sub-sections and conclude with a boss battle. The final area contains a larger number of sections and a boss rush, in which the player must fight variations of the bosses from the first four areas. The player then goes on to the network's core to restart Eden in a final boss battle.

The boss for each area features a variable difficulty scale, depending on the player's performance leading up to that point. According to Sega, this system was employed to make the game more accessible to casual players, while also making it more challenging for experienced players, thus potentially increasing its replay value.[4] In addition, completing all five levels unlocks alternate gameplay modes, color schemes and secret areas.

Unlike many games, Rez contains almost no sound effects or spoken dialogue. Instead, the game is set to electronic music, which plays in the background and gradually evolves as the player moves among sections. The music is enhanced by musical effects (such as trills and drums) generated by the player's actions, enemies and surroundings. Player actions are usually locked to the rhythm of the music, such that shots and hits against enemies occur exactly on each beat (as opposed to occurring in real time). Graphical elements such as the polygons that make up the player's avatar, as well as background elements, also "beat" in time with the music. In reference to these coordinated effects, Sega focused its marketing of Rez primarily on the game's qualities of "synesthesia", the association of different senses and stimuli with one another.

Synopsis[edit]

The game is set in futuristic computer "supernetwork" called Project-K[5] where much of the data flow is controlled by an AI named Eden. Eden has become overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge gathered on the network, causing her to doubt her existence and enter a shutdown sequence, which would create catastrophic problems everywhere should she be able to complete this. The player plays a virus named Swayzak, invading the mainframe of the Project-K system to reboot Eden while destroying any defense programs or firewalls that happen to inhibit progress, and analyzing other sub-areas of the network to gain access to Eden's location and reveal the true being at her core.[5]

Development[edit]

The development cycle for Rez began at Sega's newly created United Game Artists studio (a conversion of Sega's AM9 consumer division to a subsidiary company) between 1998 and 1999. Developed under the codenames K-Project,[6] Project Eden, and Vibes,[7] the name Rez was eventually adopted as a shortened formed from the word "resolve". Producer/creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi felt the name appropriate as it also had made a comparison to the movie Tron and the actions of characters in that being "de-rezzed".[8][nb 1]

Concept

Rez was the idea of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, a culmination of ideas he had during his career to that point. Mizuguchi was first drawn to video games from the game Xevious, finding that the game's sound effects were like music to him.[8] Later, while in university, he was introduced to the game Xenon 2 Megablast, and found the game giving him "a sense of a new medium, the idea that games as an art-form can exist".[9] Following his graduation, he started working at Sega on the arcade cabinet versions of Megalopolis (a non-game simulation set in a futuristic Tokyo)[10]:13 and Sega Rally (a racing game utilizing Sega Model 2's 3D GPU), both of which included a cockpit-style design to immerse the player in the game. Mizuguchi began forming the concept of a game around "a full body experience" from this work.[9]

In 1997, Mizuguchi was on travel in Europe and had been taken to the Street Parade in Zurich, during which there was a large electronic dance music concert attended by around 300,000 people. Mizuguchi was taken in by the sights and sounds around him from this, and recognized how this experience was similar to the inspiration that Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter, had used to "[paint] a canvas of the sounds that he saw".[9] He saw this tie to his previous ideas and envisioned a game where one would shoot down enemies in time to the beat of music that would put the player into a trance, forming the basis of Rez. Moving from his previous office in Haneda to another in the considerably more vibrant community of Shibuya, Mizuguchi and his team began to research how to structure this game, visiting clubs and attending Taiko drumming festivals, as well as meeting with VJs including those of the Mommy's Endorphin Machine collective.[10]:18–19 He was particularly drawn to watching videos of various street bands, and he recounted the video of one Kenyan band that was "influential" towards Rez's design, himself having watched it over 100,000 times; in the video the music started with silence, then a single beat, and more instruments then began layering into the song as the music drew in a small dancing crowd.[8][9] In 1998, Mizuguchi attended Burning Man and had the opportunity to experience a similar phenomenon in person as he walked during the evening from his campsite at the periphery of the event toward the epicenter where the light and music had attracted a large crowd of which he became a part.[10]:7 Figuring that the capacity for music and sights to draw in a crowd would be the essential element to his envisioned game, Mizuguchi began exploring how to programmatically recreate this effect.[8]

Gameplay

The musical gameplay was developed following a call and response approach, similar to that of what a disc jockey would do to get reaction from the crowd.[8] In parallel with the development of the game's narrative and aesthetic, the team developed its mechanic of quantizing the notes, so that regardless of the player's imprecision that they would play out on the beat, which they "felt like magic" to players of any skill level.[9] This quantization mechanic soon became the central focus of the game and it would go on for other games Mizuguchi developed including Child of Eden and Lumines.[9][10]:26

The team's decision to adopt the rail shooter mechanic largely came about from the common game development experiences of the various members of the team. Mizuguchi's Sega Rally arcade games developed with Sega's AM5 division fall within the racing genre, and seven[11] team members including lead artist Katsumi Yokota, programming director Mitsuru Takahashi, and game designer Katsuhiko Yamada had all previously worked to develop the Panzer Dragoon rail-shooter series as members of Team Andromeda.[10]:18, 26

Visuals

Visual design for Rez underwent a number of changes during development of the game. Early on, Mizuguchi had entertained and soon rejected the idea of using visuals inspired by the artworks of Kandinsky,[10]:29–30 however other early versions explored themes of hip hop culture (inspired by the virtual band, Gorillaz) and the evolutionary history of life. Early designs for the player avatar also underwent numerous changes from a spaceship, to a running woman, to a racecar. The visuals produced by the team during the early phases would frequently be reined back in order to retain a central primitivism and purity,[10]:19 and little definitive progress was made toward an overarching visual style until the arrival of Katsumi Yokota (who had previously provided visuals for Panzer Dragoon video games and more recently had been working on the anime, Tekkonkinkreet). Yokota's interpretation of Mizuguchi's central aesthetic of a move from darkness, silence, and individuality to light, sound, and community, expanded on the team's evolutionary concepts with an emphasis on primitive planktonic and other oceanic forms. Although the concept struck a chord with Mizuguchi, early playtests showed that players couldn't clearly identify enemies, and that enemy death sequences interfered with player line-of-sight.[10]:30 These problems were solved when team member Jake Kazdal introduced Yokota to the music visualization plug-ins for Winamp that were beginning to be used in clubs by Shinjuku VJs, and wireframe models inspired by depictions of virtual reality were adopted.[10]:33

Narrative

The game's story, though ostensibly about hacking a computer system, was envisioned by Mizuguchi as a metaphor for life's journey.[9] Primarily sensory rather than plot-driven, the development of the game narrative began with the concept of a connection between life and music. Rez team musician Nobuhiko Tanuma (then using the pseudonym Ebizo or EBZ) had developed a theory of "Techno Dance Music Architecture" (TDMA) and had worked to integrate the idea of a progression of increasing complexity. Joining the team after some of the most basic concepts had been formed, team artist Katsumi Yokota worked to incorporate visual elements that would illustrate this idea of a progression of music and life and provide a meaningful narrative. The culmination of this process was the poem displayed as text in the game's "Area 5" where it is revealed line by line. The poem ends with the question, "Who am I...". Mizuguchi has suggested that the question is intended to provoke the realization that the player is "not a hacker but a sperm", that Rez is "the story of conception" set against an AI background, and that the awakening of the character of Eden is a reference to the theoretical technological singularity.[10]:45–49

Music[edit]

From the outset, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's concept of the game was one that emphasized and utilized music as a means to draw the player into the game. Drawing inspiration from the soundtracks of games like Xenon 2 Megablast (1989) and Xevious (1982) (especially Haruomi Hosono's 1984 Super Xevious remix single), Mizugushi and Katsumi Yokota began investigating different musical genres that would evoke emotional and psychological responses appropriate to produce the primal and synaesthetic experience Rez was intended to provide. After hours of investigation it was concluded that due to its digital simplicity which allowed a designer to isolate a single note and to alter the timing of the overall rhythm, the techno genre offered the greatest promise for producing the desired effects.[10]:37–40 While the Rez team musician EBZ continued to move the project forward with placeholder tracks by Fatboy Slim and Underworld,[nb 1] music coordinator Masakazu Hiroishi set up a series of European meetings between Mizuguchi and techno artists including Coldcut, Adam Freeland, Keiichi Sugiyama, and Aphex Twin.[10]:40 In the months that followed, the project went through an intensive period of matching music to visuals requiring multiple iterations of back-and-forth alterations in which both music (sometimes from the first note) and art (including entire bosses) were significantly modified.[10]:41

Although designed to emphasize music, Mizuguchi has stated that he did not intend the game to be considered a music game. The idea that musical skill would be a prerequisite for full appreciation of the game was something that both Mizuguchi and Kobayashi were anxious to avoid. Instead, the team adopted a quantization mechanic for the gameplay that allowed even players without natural rhythm to interact musically with the game through a process of "locking on" to enemies. This mechanic formed a core theme along which the gameplay developed.[10]:26–27

Rez / Gamer's Guide to…
Soundtrack album by Various
Released January 23, 2002
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 62:01
Label Music Mine Inc.

A soundtrack entitled Rez / Gamer's Guide to…[13] was released in 2002 with the following track list:

  1. Keiichi Sugiyama - Buggie Running Beeps 01 (5:20)
  2. Mist - Protocol Rain (7:08)
  3. Ken Ishii - Creation the State of Art (Full Option) (6:33)
  4. Joujouka - Rock Is Sponge (7:31)
  5. Adam Freeland - Fear* (Rez Edit) (5:06)
  6. Coldcut & Tim Bran - Boss Attacks (Remix) (7:15)
  7. EBZ - F6 G5 (7:48)
  8. Oval - Octaeder 0.1. (3:22)
  9. Ken Ishii - Creative State (6:20)
  10. Oval - P-Project (5:38)
Rez Infinite
Soundtrack album by Various
Released January 2017
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 71:16
Label Iam8bit

The 2002 soundtrack was remastered and retitled Rez Infinite[14] as a limited release in 2017. It included a 64-page retrospective book and a bonus 7-inch single containing tracks from Rez Infinite's "Area X":

  1. Hydelic - Singularity X (4:21)
  2. Hydelic - Butterfly Effect (4:18)

Release[edit]

Rez was officially unveiled to the gaming press on June 26, 2001 at the Shibuya-AX Sony PlayStation 2 party. Concerned with upheavals at Sega related to the recently announced shift from console development to third-party software development, and feeling a lack of support for the Rez project, Mizuguchi was anxious to make an impression with his presentation of the game. To achieve this he bleached and dyed his hair pure white and made his presentation—a solo demonstration of himself playing the game live—without saying a word after taking the stage. Mizuguchi's intention was for the game to primarily speak for itself and the reaction he received from both Sega and Sony executives was exactly what he had hoped for. In wrapping up the party, Sony Computer Entertainment chairman and former Sony Music president Shigeo Maruyama took the stage and gave specific praise for Rez, suggesting that it would "not only make, but change history for music in games".[10]:51–52

Working together, marketing teams from both Sega and Sony developed innovative strategies to market the game including co-promoting it with electronic music festivals.[10]:52 The Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 versions of the game were released simultaneously on 22 November 2001[10]:56

Trance Vibrator[edit]

Trance Vibrator in protective pouch.

With the goal of enhancing the player's experience of synaesthesia, Mizuguchi has made a number of experiments into the realm of haptic feedback. Beginning soon after the release of Rez, Mizuguchi approached Sega's arcade division to propose an arcade version of the game which would include a cockpit chair parts of which would vibrate in time with the music.[10]:60 This idea never materialized, and Mizuguchi considered adapting the DualShock controller's haptic feedback for use in Rez, however he found it to be too weak for the game, and this lead him (through UGA) to approach ASCII to design a peripheral whose haptic function would be similar to that of the DualShock, but stronger.[8] A "Special Package" version of the PlayStation 2 release of the game was sold in Japan only and included a USB-based haptic feedback device called a Trance Vibrator—a smooth computer mouse-sized peripheral that pulses in time with the music. The intended use of the device is to hold it, put it in a pocket, or sit on it while playing (a pouch was provided to protect the device), and thus to provide players with a closer approximation of synaesthesia by extending the game's music to the player's feeling of touch.[8]

It has been noted in the gaming media, that Trance Vibrator can be used as a dildo or sex toy.[15] In 2007, ScrewAttack ranked the Trance Vibrator the #1 best gaming peripheral in its "Best Gaming Peripherals" for this reason (though the reason given in the video was far more sexual for comedic purposes).[16] The devices are available from various aftermarket retailers for (as of 2006) approximately $60 USD. The trance vibrator is also compatible with Space Channel 5: Part 2 and the Japanese version of Disaster Report.

Reverse-engineering efforts to allow the Trance Vibrator to attach to and be controlled by a PC have been successfully executed in Japan, resulting in a device driver for Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000. Sam Hocevar also wrote a driver which is part of the Linux kernel.[17]

The Xbox 360 version, Rez HD, and the PS4 version, Rez Infinite, use up to three additional controllers for the trance vibration functionality in the game.

Rez HD[edit]

Rez HD was announced for release on Xbox Live Arcade by Microsoft during their pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference held in September 2007. Mizuguchi noted during the show that he "always dreamed of a high-def wide screen and very good sound", and described the game as "100 percent the same game" as the original Dreamcast version.[18] Mizuguchi noted that he had to get the license back from Sega to remake the game even though he made the original (because Rez was created as a work for hire), and that there are no plans for a 360-compatible Trance Vibrator peripheral, although the same functionality is provided through the use of extra Xbox 360 controllers.[19] The title was ported to Xbox Live Arcade by Japanese game developer HexaDrive.[20]

The game was released on January 30, 2008 to positive responses from reviewers. Rez HD is also included on the Qubed compilation for Xbox 360 along with Lumines Live! and Every Extend Extra Extreme.

Regarding releases on other systems, Mizuguchi has noted that there is "no reason" not to provide Rez HD on platforms other than the Xbox 360.[21]

Rez Infinite[edit]

Mizuguchi presents a Rez postmortem at the 2016 Game Developers Conference

Rez Infinite is a port of Rez for PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR and Microsoft Windows. It includes support for 1080p resolutions and 3D audio sound.[22] In addition, Rez Infinite features a new level called "Area X"[23] in which the player is offered 360 degrees of visual freedom and is no longer confined to a rail but can travel in any direction.[10]:58 Area X was developed using the Unreal Engine, with visual design supplied by Takashi Ishihara at the request of Mizuguchi and designer Osamu Kodera. Enemy AI within Area X was also improved and Mizuguchi composed a new poem on the theme of birth to act as a coda to Yokota's poem in the game's Area 5.[10]:59

Although the game is intended for VR play, a PSVR is not mandatory and Rez Infinite can be played without the device.[23] Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the producer for the original Rez, lead the development of the title under his new studio, Enhance Games, effectively a one-man studio with outsourcing of some programming and art development as to avoid issues that Mizuguchi had faced at Q Entertainment. Mizuguchi had left Q Entertainment some years prior after becoming dissastified with the company, and spent the intervening time teaching and working on small mobile and music games. He opted to return to gaming after seeing the potential for virtual reality, creating Enhance Games to redevelop Rez for VR gaming. Development of Rez Infinite was aided by Monstars and localized by 8-4.[24]

Expanding on previous Rez-related haptic feedback peripherals, Mizuguchi showcased an updated version during his presentation of the game at PlayStation Experience 2015—the Synaesthesia Suit. With 26 actuators capable of providing complex haptic sensations to a player's arms, legs, and torso, the Synaesthesia Suit worn by Mizuguchi is a bespoke one-of-a-kind item, however he has suggested that "the experience of playing Rez Infinite in the suit truly brings players inside the game and its music".[10]:60

Rez Infinite was released on Microsoft Windows on August 9, 2017; the version includes optional support for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets and their respective handheld touch controllers.[25]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 78/100 (PS2)[26]
89/100 (X360)[27]
89/100 (PSVR)[28]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A+ (X360)[29]
Edge 9/10 (DC, PS2, PSVR)[30][31]
Famitsu 31/40 (DC)[33]
32/40 (PS2)[34]
GameSpot 7.9/10 (PS2) [35]
8.5/10 (X360)[36]
9/10 (PSVR)[37]
IGN 8.6/10 (X360)[38]
8.2/10 (PSVR)[39]

Rez[edit]

Rez received an award from The Agency for Cultural Affairs Media Art Festival in Japan.[40]

Reviews for the game began to emerge shortly after its release. Writing for Games in 2002, reviewer Thomas L. McDonald described Rez as "a game that carves out its own niche: the art-house abstract musical rail-shooter", and emphasized the game's differences from traditional rhythm games while noting that "the result is awesome, but trying to describe it in words is like trying to sculpt Jell-O. Simply put, it's like nothing you've ever seen before."[41] The game would go on to receive "Runner Up" in the category of "Electronic - Puzzle and Classic" in Games's annual "The Games 100"[42]

By 2003, the PlayStation 2 version had sold over 100,000 copies.[43]

In 2009, Edge ranked the game #49 on its list of "The 100 Best Games To Play Today", calling it "Astonishing to watch [and] uniquely absorbing to play".[44] In 2012, Rez was listed on Time's All-TIME 100 greatest video games list.[45]

Rez HD[edit]

Rez HD was rated the 13th best Xbox Live Arcade of all time by IGN in a September 2010 listing.[46]

Rez Infinite[edit]

Awards for Rez Infinite
Year Award Category Result Ref
2016
The Game Awards 2016 Best Music/Sound Design Nominated [47]
Best VR Game Won
Game Developers Choice Awards 2016 Best VR/AR Game Nominated [48]

Rez Infinite received widespread acclaim from critics. Review aggregate Metacritic assigned the game a score of 89 out of 100, based on 44 reviews,[28] making Rez Infinite the highest rated PSVR game on the site.[49] The game received unanimous praise for its immersion, sense of place, visual and sound design, and its new level Area X. Despite the age of its previous iterations, many reviewers considered it to be the finest PSVR title to date, and an essential game for anyone owning the device. Martin Robinson of Eurogamer called the game a "modern masterpiece",[50] and Alexa Ray Corriea of GameSpot considered it to be "a new classic".[37] Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar thought that the game "achieves its full potential with PSVR",[51] while Edge summarized "Rez Infinite is 15 years old, and the best VR game of 2016."[31]

Reviewers praised the choice to remake the game in VR, and agreed that the game was best played in PSVR. Corriea praised the remastering of the visuals noting that "[hazy backgrounds] have been replaced with updated, crystal clear pieces of the cyberworld."[37] Vince Ingenito of IGN thought that the use of VR "elevates [the game] dramatically",[39] and Dominic Leighton of The Sixth Axis commented that the game "looks, and feels, like an experience tailored solely to the format".[52] Ingenito lauded the game's control systems, noting that the aiming via head tracking in VR was "amazingly intuitive". Edge thought that the game was played best with head tracking whilst standing up, but cautioned "if you're a head-nodding dancer, perhaps invest in a neck brace."[31] Robinson thought that in VR, the game gives "a sense of presence and ceaseless motion unlike anything else out there."[50]

The gameplay was well-received, though opinions differed on its length. Ingenito thought the game was "surprisingly deep despite its relatively simple gameplay".[39] Chris Carter of Destructoid thought the game was unique and "challenging as well on higher difficulties",[53] but Leighton considered the game to be "relatively easy".[52] The game's bosses were praised; Corriea considered them to be "most complex and challenging sections" of the game,[37] and Carter thought they were "worth replaying multiple times." Infinite's new level, Area X, was widely considered to be one of the best parts of the game. Robinson considered the level to be "something else entirely",[50] while Edge called the level "astonishing".[31] Sullivan noted that the game's run time "will be a stumbling block for some", but still considered the game to be a "must-buy".[51] Similarly Carter and Corriea thought the game was essential, but were left pining for more.

Legacy[edit]

Rez was chosen as one of the Dreamcast games to be shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's 2012 exhibition, The Art of Video Games.[54]

See also[edit]

  • Otocky – an early 1987 Famicom Disc System game examined during development and commonly regarded as a precursor to Rez
  • iS – internal section – a futuristic shooter released in 1999 for PlayStation
  • Vib-Ribbon – a 1999 music-generated game for PlayStation
  • Lumines – a 2004 game created by Mizuguchi to explore the concept of synaesthesia
  • Every Extend Extra – a 2006 game created by Mizuguchi to explore the concept of synaesthesia
  • Audiosurf – a 2008 music-generated game for PC
  • Child of Eden – a 2011 game created by Mizuguchi as a prequel to Rez
  • Jungle Rumble – a 2014 music game for PlayStation whose art director worked on Rez

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The eventual release title of the game Rez is commonly attributed to inspiration from the Underworld single, "Rez",[12] as well as to the concept of becoming "de-rezzed" from the 1982 film, Tron.[8]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Enhance Games on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
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  5. ^ a b Rez (PlayStation 2 / USA) Manual. 2002. 
  6. ^ McDonald, Thomas L. (August 2001). "News from the World of Electronic Gaming: Playstation". Games. Vol. 25 no. 172. GAMES Publications. p. 74. ISSN 0199-9788. 
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  28. ^ a b "Rez Infinite for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 16 November 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
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External links[edit]

Media related to Rez (video game) at Wikimedia Commons