Developer: Tango Gameworks
Platforms: Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Cloud Gaming
Initial release date: January 25, 2023
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Composer: Reo Uratani
Genres: Rhythm game, Hack and slash
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
"Review Copy Provided By Bethesda"
At times, I find myself wanting to describe games in a sophisticated manner, composing grandiose phrases such as "it elevates the genre" while indulging in wine and cheese, and contemplating the game's impact on the evolution of the art form. On the other hand, there are times when I simply want to express my genuine enjoyment of a game, using simple and straightforward words.
Hi-Fi Rush belongs to the latter category. Tango Gameworks, the developer, surprised the gaming world with the unexpected release of this rhythm-action game, veering away from the dark and eerie atmosphere of their previous games, The Evil Within and Ghostwire: Tokyo, and introducing a lively and vibrant world filled with colorful neon lights and lovable anime characters. The game revolves around protagonist Chai, who has undergone a life-changing medical procedure, resulting in the implantation of a robot arm and an iPod in his chest, setting the beat for every move and action in the game. The musical beats influence every aspect of Hi-Fi Rush's world, from the movement of platforms and flashing lights, to the timing of enemy attacks, creating an electrifying and pulse-pounding experience.
The game's relentless focus on rhythm creates a high-octane energy that grabs hold of you and refuses to let go for hours on end. Hi-Fi Rush's rhythmic gameplay is simply mesmerizing - executing a series of successful strikes in tune with the beat and culminating in a powerful attack results in an immediate surge of confidence and satisfaction, a rush that is both irresistible and achievable.
As you progress through Hi-Fi Rush's pulse-pounding linear levels, this electrifying sensation permeates every aspect of the game. Between battling robots in various arenas, you'll encounter plenty of platforming challenges that keep you moving forward at a brisk pace.
Tango Gameworks has made a smart decision by not punishing players for not following the beat perfectly. Not every strike and jump needs to be in sync with the rocking musical beats, and players are free to progress at their own pace without worrying about getting a high combat rating. This approach accommodates players who are less rhythmically inclined, while still providing a challenge for those who are dedicated to mastering the rhythm gameplay.
Hi-Fi Rush features an eclectic mix of original music created by Tango Gameworks and licensed tracks, adding to the excitement of boss fights and other unique scenarios. The majority of the music is focused on guitar and percussion instrumentals, creating a lively backdrop for platforming and combat. For the big boss battles, the game incorporates iconic tracks by artists such as The Prodigy, The Black Keys, and Nine Inch Nails, elevating these encounters to an unforgettable level and allowing players to battle enemies in time with these classic hits.
The combat system in Hi-Fi Rush is packed with depth and resembles that of a Devil May Cry-style game. With features like last-minute parrying, a zipwire for moving from enemy to enemy, an airborne toss that launches enemies for combat chains, and much more, it is all combined in an intuitive system using only a few buttons. This design allows for experimentation without overwhelming players. The fast-paced action is only disrupted by specific enemies that require perfect timing for parrying their attacks. The parrying mechanic, which involves memorizing the enemy's attack pattern and timing your button presses with it, is easy to use but being forced to stop and repeat a series of successful parries can break the fluidity of the combat. It feels like a skipped beat on a turntable, killing the excitement.
Hi-Fi Rush has a quirky and lighthearted tone, with Chai as its most eccentric character. Initially presenting himself as a wannabe rockstar, Chai's personality is charming without becoming irritating. However, some of the other characters in the game, such as Macaron, who is physically strong but fearful of violence, are not fully developed, as the game prioritizes humor over character development.
The game also features a substantial number of jokes about game development and crunch culture, including a segment in which a tyrannical boss exploits his workers for his own gain. While these jokes are meant to be tongue-in-cheek, they come across as repetitive and at times, uncomfortable.
Hi-Fi Rush is a treasure trove of references to popular media. From its already well-known reference to "The Evil Within," the game is loaded with many more Easter eggs for fans to discover. The fight against Zanzo, for instance, is a nod to "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" series. Zanzo's speeches, catchphrases, gestures, dance moves, and finger snaps are all inspired by characters from the show. There's a scene with Chai sitting down and his swinging iPod that pays homage to the classic RPG, Xenogears where Fei Fong Wong and other characters would sit in a chair with swinging cross and narrate, the only missing from this scene is music such as "One Who Bears Fangs At God". Fans of The Evil Within can also spot robot versions of Sebastian and Joseph, known as SEB-AAA and JSF-001, in the second level and later in the game. With so many references, it's impossible to mention them all. If you're looking for a great game that is also possibly the game of the year, then Hi-Fi Rush is the game for you!