For a burst of pure, concentrated fun with PS VR, look no further than Rez Infinite. Among the virtual reality headset’s sizable launch lineup, this remake of a PS2 cult classic feels perhaps the most like a traditional video game. There are high scores to chase, levels to advance through, and precise mechanics that are easy to pick up but boast hidden depth. It’s an experience that doesn’t have to exist in virtual reality. As a result, it’s clear to see how VR takes that experience to the next level.
Playing Rez Infinite on a flat TV is merely engaging. Playing Rez Infinite in VR is exhilarating, addictive, and incredibly immersive. The simplicity of gameplay and the intuitive controls factor into this. As a humanoid avatar in a wireframe world, your job is to target enemy “viruses”–ships, machines, and digital aircraft–and blast them away. By acting quickly and decisively, targeting groups of enemies before they can strike or fire projectiles, you build your score and level up, earning an extra unit of max health while increasing the number of shots you can fire at once.
The stellar VR controls aid this simplicity. Your generous targeting reticle tracks with your head, making it simple to hold X, sweep your vision across a line of enemies, and release to fire. Not only is the head tracking perfectly accurate–I never had even a moment of poor syncing–but head-aiming matches a player’s natural instinct. After all, the first thing I do when an enemy flies on-screen is look at it. In doing so, I’ve already set myself up for success. The challenge, then, comes not from learning the game–there’s almost no learning curve to speak of–but from mastering your aim to be more efficient. How can you minimize head movement, targeting as many viruses as possible in the briefest time? When dozens fly on-screen at once, which viruses are the priority?
Because of Rez Infinite’s accessibility, after only 20 minutes, I felt like I’d been playing Rez for years. I never felt distracted or frustrated by the learning process, which meant the visuals, speed, and particle effects could work their magic unimpeded. The teething pains of my early hours with any arcade title simply weren’t there, and I was free to lose myself immediately in Rez’s eye-popping digital world.
And what a gorgeous world it is. Caught somewhere between the vast techno-landscapes of Tron and ASCII art, Rez Infinite oozes with style and looks brilliant in motion. Its emphasis on wireframe backgrounds and structures mitigate any resolution concerns with PS VR. Edges and colors are crisp and vivid, and without photorealism, there are few shortcomings to nitpick. As you progress through Areas 1 through 5 (the original levels from 2001’s Rez), the sights and sounds get more advanced, and the dives into deeper layers become more exhilarating and extravagant. These dives–brief transitions to the next section of an Area–are rewarding in and of themselves. After clearing the enemies in one layer and shooting the portal to the next, your avatar gains a burst of speed and flips through an environment that flies by in a whiz of particles. These fleeting, exciting breaks from shooting create an addictive feedback loop. Areas feel fast and frantic, lessening the doldrum of having to repeat an Area if you fail.
That said, one of Rez’s biggest draws is its accessibility. If you’re a VR newcomer or the fast-paced shooting is unmanageable, you can also advance through the stages in Travelling Mode, where you’re invincible and can simply appreciate the sights and incredibly infectious soundtrack. This is an upgrade from the original game, where only Play Mode with its Game Overs could unlock successive stages. Score Attack, meanwhile, puts your score front-and-center and logs your best. Big combos, baiting projectiles from viruses for extra points, and taking care not to let a single target escape all push your score higher, but the absence of local or online leaderboards is surprising and disappointing. This dampens replayability a bit by removing one reason to return.
Area X more than makes up for this. This experimental series of levels gives you full control of your avatar, using the triggers to accelerate through digital space in any direction. The visuals are striking, too. Compared to the wireframe tunnels of Rez proper, Area X feels like exploring uncharted space. The structures are more fleeting, like wispy lights, and you can fly through many of them (or through enemy explosions) to feel surrounded by beautiful particles. These moments in Area X were entrancing, like being surrounded by fireflies in a pitch-black void. Area X isn’t quite as wide-open and explorable as it initially seems (it doesn’t take long to reach the invisible wall in any direction), but I enjoyed it as much as the game proper, and it suits a more casual, exploratory mood.
In that regard, whether you’re looking for intense, satisfying arcade action or to simply be enveloped in a striking virtual reality, Rez Infinite delivers. The infectious soundtrack and sound effects sync perfectly with tight, polished action, and the visual density makes for a convincing virtual reality. By marrying traditional game mechanics and challenges with the kind of speed, immersion, and control simplicity that only VR can bestow, Rez Infinite has earned the honor of PS VR’s best launch game and an essential spot on any owner’s digital shelf.