Hi-Fi Rush review – A lovely blend

Hi-Fi Rush has been out for a while, which makes the closure of its developer – Tango Gameworks – all the more sad. Let’s take a look at what this game has to offer in this review.

It feels easy to state that there’s a lot to say about Hi-Fi Rush after the sudden closure of its development studio – Tango Gameworks. Still, the game is one of the few Xbox-exclusives in recent years that really seemed to do something in the eye of the public, probably due to its distinct visual style. Having just finished it, there are some thoughts to be had.

Hi-Fi Rush can be played with both a surface-level glance and with the analysis-glasses pushed very high up, so much so that they turn white. Both in terms of gameplay and story, though there’s a lot more clear depth in the former. It’s one of those games I could easily see myself being obsessed with when I was younger, and it manages to capture an almost child-like sense of wonder basically all the way through.

Gameplay: It packs some smack

The thing that’s going to be the absolute make-or-break element for anyone playing Hi-Fi Rush is going to be the gameplay. The way I’d describe it is as a fusion of Devil May Cry and… well any sort of rythm-based game. You’ve got the stylish hack ’n slash combat with both simple and bat-shit complex combo’s, while the game is constantly pushing you to go a little crazier with it.

Before you know it, Hi-Fi Rush has you zipping around its combat-areas with your grappling hook while jumping and dashing between your combo’s, special skills and of course: rythm-based attacks. Everything in this game moves to a beat, and the real trick is to figure out that timing and, well, go with the flow.

I’m certainly not known for my timing and great sense of rythm, and initially I feared the learning-curve would be too steep. I’ve been turned away from rythm-games like Persona Dancing in the past, but Hi-Fi Rush manages to expand the gameplay beyond timing just enough to make it feel approachable.

The rythm-based gameplay isn’t just present in combat either. It expands to the platforming and level-design as well, which manages to include a number of fun mini-games and challenges that require some more precise timing, without the pressure of a rapidly depleting health bar. Sometimes it can be a little frustrating, considering my timing can be as punctual as an elderly snail, but in the everything was doable after a few tries.

Fortunately there are a few accessibility-options you can toggle and customize to make playing the game more comfortable. Still, Hi-Fi Rush is a blend of elements that might be the perfect cup of tea for one, while being a disgusting cocktail to others.

Rock your world

It’s a shame that the gameplay might be such a roadblock to some, because the game features an instantly loveable cast of characters. Main character and wannabe rockstar Chai is a bit arrogant and unaware in a very over-the-top way, but that very much aligns with Hi-Fi Rush’ tone as well. The youngster undergoes an experiment that replaces his arm with a metal prosthetic, and also accidentally embeds Chai’s MP3-player in his chest, which allows him to straight up see and feel the rythm of the world around him.

The operation is led by the megacorporation VanDelay, which it turns out is running similar experiments on just about anyone that’s desperate enough to approach them. The experiments are supposed to make the subjects easy to subject, but Chai manages to skip that part of the process. Thus, he’s using his unpredictable stupidity to shut the evil forces behind VanDelay down, with the help of a constantly expanding group of characters that all bring a new personality and skillset to the table.

That being said, Hi-Fi Rush’ story itself is pretty barebones. Many of plot-twists are pretty obvious beforehand if you pay attention to both design and dialogue, which definitely lessens the impact of a certain reveal later on in the game. Along with that, the characters, while loveable, are pretty locked in their archetype and don’t really move out of the realms of what you expect from that. The huge but timid powerhouse, a harsh business-lady but with a secret heart of gold, they’re all here.

It’s not really that big of a deal, Hi-Fi Rush is more concerned with putting down a fast-paced thrill ride with heartwarming moments than a deep storyline with intricate characters, and the hook of the story does enough to keep you invested. Alongside that, the anti-corporate stance that’s being taken is being presented in a humorous and slightly over the top, but real way. The game has something to say about how companies exploit their workers and even the people just buying their products just to increase profit, and while it also isn’t particularly subtle about it: nothing in Hi-Fi Rush is.

Presentation!

Even from first glance it’s pretty clear that Hi-Fi Rush’ visual style is unique. The game mixes a clear comic book-y artstyle with a few manga-esque elements for dramatic effect during the cutscenes. Cutscenes are lively and the colours are vibrant, which makes the game very pleasing to the eyes.

Add to that the fact that so many elements of the world move to that same beat that’s so important for gameplay: it makes for such a joy to walk around in the world, and the very levels themselves are full of indicators of the beat that way as well. At certain points the amount of things going on on screen might be a tad overwhelming, but dashing away for a moment and taking a deep breath allowed me to reorient myself just fine.

Oh, and Hi-Fi Rush is full of great music as well! Who would’ve guessed that this game, all about a rockstar fighting his way through an army of robots to the beat that’s literally part of his body would feature a soundtrack that slaps this hard. Well, I figured it would, but I was still pleasantly surprised. Licensed and original tracks alike, they all fit the tone of the world and characters perfectly.

It’s easy to recommend Hi-Fi Rush to anyone who’s willing to give it a chance, but there are a few warning-signs attached. So much of what gives the game its unique identity might not work for everyone, but if it does, and the whole sum of its parts is visible, Hi-Fi Rush offers an experience unlike any other.

8.5/10

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Posted by Dunke

An easily obsessed nerd with a particular fixation on Star Wars, comic-adjacent projects and fantasy. But honestly? Interested in anything. Always up to watch The Empire Strikes Back, or play some Undertale.