Hi-Fi Rush has just been released as a surprise drop, without much marketing fanfare. Developed by Tango Gameworks, the studio behind The Evil Within, The Evil Within 2, and Ghost wire Tokyo, it has arrived seemingly out of nowhere. Having completed the campaign and spent around 13 hours on it, here are my thoughts on whether it is worth your while.
I’ll refrain from spoiling any plot details, but the storyline of the game centers around Chai, an aspiring rockstar who undergoes cybernetic surgery at Vandelay Corporation. However, during the procedure, his music player gets stuck in his chest, giving him the ability to sense the rhythm of the world. It soon becomes apparent that Vandelay is up to no good, and Chai finds himself on a mission to uncover their sinister plans. Along the way, he joins forces with a diverse cast of characters to take on the corporation.
The characters engage in amusing banter that can be humorous, although some may not appreciate the humor. The plot twists and turns, and while it’s not the most innovative concept, the visuals are impressive, the music and voice acting are well-executed, and I found it engaging until the end.
VISUALS and AUDIO
The game boasts an outstanding cartoonish art style that is visually pleasing. It’s a nice touch that the entire world pulses to the beat of the music. As you play, numerous tracks thump along, most of which are original compositions, although a few licensed tracks are included in some scenarios. Overall, the game looks and sounds fantastic, and the developers have done an exceptional job in this aspect.
Hi-Fi Rush is an action-packed third-person brawler fused with a rhythm game. Every action in the game is timed to the beat, including combat. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge, and eventually, you’ll unlock a grapple and a parry. By combining these moves, you can create powerful combos. You start with a few combos, but you can purchase more by using gears found throughout the game.
All the attacks are synchronized to the beat, and hitting them in time adds bonus damage. Dodging in rhythm allows you to dodge multiple times, and parrying to the beat is essential to avoid taking damage. While there is room for error, perfect timing is rewarded.
During combat, a Reverb Bar fills up, which enables you to unleash special abilities. You can purchase several unique abilities, but only two can be equipped at a time. As you progress, you’ll unlock slots to insert combat mods that improve a variety of factors, such as obtaining more health from pickups, reducing the cooldown time for your companion summons, quicker build-up of the combo meter, and more. Initially, you have one slot available, but it can be increased to a maximum of five.
Your trusty robotic feline companion, 808, floats beside you and pulsates to the beat of the music in a manner that can be customized through the settings. Its primary function is to assist you in keeping the rhythm, but if you require further aid, an on-screen overlay is also available to aid in beat detection. In addition, the game has a training mode that can be accessed from your hideout, enabling you to practice combos and select specific adversaries to practice against, a helpful feature.
As the game advances, a variety of adversaries are introduced at an appropriate pace, necessitating distinct strategies to overcome them. Some adversaries require the assistance of specific allies to be defeated effectively. Additionally, the more challenging opponents have distinct characteristics, such as super attacks that involve a parry minigame and a stun gauge that must be depleted before they can be harmed.
As you progress through the game, the encounters become more intricate, with mixed and matched enemies necessitating the prioritization of certain opponents and the summoning of allies to combat others, all while parrying standard attacks, performing super moves, grappling, and evading. Even if your timing is not excellent, the experience is thrilling, fast-paced, and exceptionally entertaining.
Numerous boss battles are included in the game, each with its distinct mechanics and interesting elements, but to avoid spoiling the game, they will not be discussed in detail here.
As you progress through the Vandelay Corporation in the game, you will encounter 12 linear stages consisting of corridors, platforming sections, and encounter rooms. Despite their linear design, each level contains hidden areas that house various upgrades and bonus gears, providing an incentive to explore.
Collecting gears is crucial as they can be used to purchase new combos for both you and your companions, as well as new special abilities. Life Gauge Meter pieces and Reverb Core Pieces can also be found scattered throughout each stage, with four of each required to upgrade the size of your health bar and reverb bar, respectively. Additionally, Armstrong circuits are necessary to purchase the aforementioned mods alongside gears.
During your first playthrough, some areas will be inaccessible due to obstacles that require specific companions to access. These areas offer more gears and upgrades, as do the hidden “Spectra” doors on each stage that are story-related. The Spectra doors are challenge rooms that require you to perform specific combat actions against a specific selection of enemies.
After completing the game, you retain all your current gears, upgrades, and unlocked combos. If you wish to fully upgrade everything or delve deeper into the mystery of Spectra, you will need to play through the game again.
Although the game can be mastered with some practice to achieve S-rank ratings, it is not overly challenging once you understand it. Nonetheless, it remains engaging throughout, and if you seek more difficulty, you can adjust the options to increase it.
I often find myself discussing technical issues that plague games upon their release. However, Hi-Fi Rush stands out as an exception to this trend. Throughout my playthrough, I didn’t experience any notable bugs or crashes. There was only one instance where the frame rate dropped from 144 to 60 after alt-tabbing, but it was a minor and isolated occurrence.
In terms of performance, Hi-Fi Rush ran flawlessly on my system. It offers a wide range of graphical options, including DLSS and FSR, as well as accessibility features. Both the controller and mouse/keyboard controls worked perfectly fine, making it an excellent PC port.
If I had to nitpick, there are a few minor issues I encountered. Firstly, cutscenes and in-game dialogue are locked at 60fps, which can be noticeable when playing at higher frame rates. Additionally, some cutscenes cannot be skipped, which can become tedious during subsequent playthroughs.
Despite these minor issues, Hi-Fi Rush remains a well-polished game, free of the technical problems that commonly afflict new releases.
PROS and CONS
- Great aesthetic
- Very enjoyable gameplay
- Performance is great
- No microtransactions
- Cannot skip past in-game cutscene dialogue
- Cutscenes/in-game cutscenes locked at 60fp
Hi-Fi Rush is a refreshing surprise that has taken the gaming world by storm. It’s a phenomenal action brawler that provides a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience, regardless of whether you’re a fan of rhythm games or not. Priced fairly and devoid of microtransactions, it’s a game that stands on its own merit, rather than trying to fit into the mold of what’s currently popular.
Tango Gameworks took a risk by creating a game that they believed would be fun for players, rather than conforming to a cookie-cutter formula. This is a game that harks back to the old-school days of gaming when titles were developed to provide a fun and engaging experience, rather than focusing solely on profit margins. Other publishers and AAA developers would be wise to follow suit and take notes.
When a game is enjoyable, people will play it – it’s that simple. Hi-Fi Rush is a game that deserves your attention, and whether you purchase it for €30 or access it through Gamepass, it’s a title that’s well worth your time.