Coming from Japanese developer Tango Gameworks and American publisher Bethesda, don’t miss a beat with Hi-Fi Rush. Hi-Fi Rush threw us all for a loop when it was shadow-dropped on 25th Jan. Available for Xbox Series X|S and PC, today we’ll be looking at the PC version.
Hi-Fi Rush is included with Gamepass and will require 20GB of space. For those who wish to purchase it, it will cost £29.99/$29.99 on the Microsoft Store.
All of your trebles are dead and gone!
Hi-Fi Rush was a massive departure for developer Tango Gameworks who are usually known for their more spooky titles, such as The Evil Within and Ghostwire Tokyo. All things considered, the question has to be asked why they didn’t do it sooner. Seriously, this game is brilliant!
At this point, the combat rhythm game isn’t anything new. With games like BPM: Bullets Per Minute and Metal: Hellsinger, the combat rhythm genre continues to grow. Yet Hi-Fi Rush still feels fresh. It seamlessly blends in sidescroller and platformer parts with the aforementioned combat rhythm parts, which results in a game with a truly unique feel.
At the start of the game, we’re introduced to our protagonist Chai. The developers describe Chai as an anti-hero inspired by Scott Pilgrim. Specifically, Edgar Wrights Scott Pilgrim, while the gameplay was inspired by the bar fight in Shaun of the Dead. Chai has just arrived on Vandelay Island to receive augmented upgrades as part of Vandelays Project Armstrong, except it doesn’t all go exactly to plan. After a little mishap, Chai’s MP3 player finds itself integrated into his chest, powering everything he does, resulting in Chai being labelled as a “defect”. Powered by music, blissful ignorance and delusions of grandeur, our loveable wannabe rockstar quickly comes to terms with his new powers.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard “rhythm game”, I groaned. I am terrible at rhythm games. But after the intro and a fight with a couple of Vandelays bots, there is a tutorial. The tutorial does a great job of introducing you to the game’s main gameplay. I quickly realised that it wasn’t as complex as games like Beat Saber, you just have to match the tempo. With the visualiser on screen, which can be turned on with the tab key, or select if you’re using a controller, this was a lot simpler than I had originally thought it would be. Though it should be noted that you’re not punished for miss timed inputs. Chai will hit on the beat regardless, but timing your inputs with the BPM will result in higher damage output.
Once you complete the tutorial, you’re let loose on Vandelay Island. Not in the literal sense, as Hi-Fi Rush is a linear game after all, but still. Soon after this, you will come across a little robot cat which you’ll help out. Following a little taste of the game’s platformer offerings, you’re reunited with the adorable little catbot, who you learn is called 808 and was created by a mysterious character named Peppermint, and form a bond with it. Much to Peppermint’s chagrin. From here on out, 808 will accompany Chai, acting as a visualiser for the beat, and later, a beacon for your allies.
I’ll be Bach
The game throws a good variety of enemies at you, so you can’t keep using the same tactic every time. Some will require aerial attacks, some will require you to parry and others will require you to call in your allies for a little assist. Predominantly to break through a shield. Whether friend or foe, the developers did a really good job of giving each mechanical NPC type individual personalities. From the suspiciously Schwarzenegger-sounding enemies to the friendly little hoovers that ask “Did I do something wrong?” when you destroy them for their juicy upgrade material.
I don’t want to give too much away, I believe this game is an experience that you should, well, experience. But I’ll say this, it’s an experience that won’t bore you. The characters are well-written and engaging, and the way the game seamlessly switches between platformer, hack ‘n slash, and side scroller, while keeping everything on the beat, will keep you on your toes. The boss fights all feel unique and all need to be approached differently. In between these though, you’ll spend your time in one of your bases. Here you can interact with team Chai, buy upgrades, check how you’re doing on the collectables front and most importantly…
A single run of the campaign should take you around 10-12 hours to complete. If you’re a bit of a completionist, you can expect it to take a little longer, as there are collectables strewn throughout each level. You’ll notice early on that there are certain things you need to come back to later, as your gamer brain will look at certain doors and think “I should be able to get through there somehow”. And indeed you should. The first one you’ll notice is a door that you’ll later learn is covered in Z Shielding. This can be broken down by a character you’ll meet maybe a third of the way through named Macaron. But there are other obstacles that you’ll need to revisit later too.
Graphics & Audio
I don’t think it can be overstated how truly beautiful Hi-Fi Rush is. It’s a love letter to some of the old Xbox/PS2-era games like XIII or Jet Set Radio Future, but polished with modern graphical technologies. You feel like you’re playing through the pages of a comic book. The level design is well done, every level feels distinctive. The bright vibrant colours of each area are gorgeous and make you want to explore so you don’t miss any minute detail. The gameplay is smooth and I never noticed any frame drops on my RX 6700 XT at 1440p.
It should go without saying that in a game that focuses so heavily on music, the audio is fantastic. Whether it’s one of the 8 licensed tracks, a well-timed combo, or steam escaping a pipe, everything is well-crafted, creating a smorgasbord of sound that enhances the harmony of the game. Featuring tracks from the likes of The Prodigy, The Black Keys and Nine Inch nails, streamers may be worried about streaming the game. But worry not, Hi-Fi Rush has a streamer mode that replaces the licensed tracks with original tracks, so you don’t have to endure the wrath of crazy Uncle Bezos! A lot of thought obviously was put into this.
When I really think about it, my only gripe with the game was that after each level the BPM visualiser that you can turn on turns itself back off again. So if you want it on, you’ll have to turn it back on at the start of every level. No Hi-Fi Rush, I didn’t suddenly get better rhythm. And honestly, that was it. There are a whole host of accessibility settings to ensure as many people as possible get to play. This includes settings for the visually impaired, or more simplistic inputs for people with reduced motor functions. It’s simple-to-play gameplay and accessibility options mean it’s a game for everyone. Mastering the gameplay is more difficult but really satisfying.
Leaning into the music theme, Hi-Fi Rush was a concept album for Tango Gameworks. And what a concept it was. Between the stunning art style, the superb soundtrack and a cast of characters that will make you laugh and keep you engaged is a beating heart that makes Hi-Fi Rush impossible not to fall in love with. The multifaceted gameplay will keep your interest. If Hi-Fi Rush truly is a concept album, it is one that has just gone Platinum.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.