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Hi-Fi Rush (Xbox Series X) Review

March 16, 2023 | Posted by Stewart Lange
Hi-Fi Rush Image Credit: Tango Gameworks
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Hi-Fi Rush (Xbox Series X) Review  

Coming out of nowhere, being dropped onto Game Pass and PC the very day it was revealed by Tango Gameworks, Hi Fi Rush can probably be classed as the biggest gaming surprise of the year, if not the last 10. Not only is it polished and complete without any hype or leak, but it’s a dark horse contender for game of the year, despite only being released in January.

Set in a dystopian future seemingly ruled by a company called Vandelay (striking similarities to a company that rhymes with Tamazon are coincidental I’m sure), “future rock star’ Chai decides to undergo a voluntary surgery to get himself a new arm, which he’s certain will be the one big step from the gutter to the stars. On the way, his retro (I hate how these are already retro) iPodzunepebble device gets embedded into his chest which suddenly brings the world to life in beat with the music that he loves. It’s this beat that becomes the literal heartbeat of the game, as almost every action in combat or puzzle jumping around levels is done in time to this beat. Throughout his adventure, Chai meets a ragtag group of cyberpunk losers to help him on his travels, who lend their assistance to Chai across the world and in the heat of combat to assist and eventually help overthrow the evil organisation who are trying as hard in return to take down Chai as a scientific defect.

The plot here is almost a side character though, because the major focus is the moresish gameplay. Hi Fi Rush plays like a rhythmic Devil May Cry, with combos and blocks requiring you to keep on the beat of the music to get higher damage, combo and eventually grades for the levels. Using your friends is integral, as you have someone to help take out shielded enemies, another for heavy armour and even fire based enemies. These enemies are gradually more complex meaning the action rarely becomes boring and you’re always unlocking new combos and facing new enemies. The boss battles are all unique and memorable, with a couple reminding me of Scott Pilgrim battles, especially the battle against Mimosa. And yes, almost all of the characters are food or drink based.

The levels themselves are never too long and my only real gripe with the game is that some of the jumping puzzles become a pain in the neck due to timing, or some of the quick time events take you a little by surprise and almost always need a second attempt although I may be alone in that experience. Only a couple of times did I feel like I was walking along boring corridors between exciting encounters, which says a lot about the bright, bold art style and the fact you don’t feel like you’re hitting recycled environments. Between the soundtrack and world it remains new and fresh throughout it’s ten or so hour run time.

The soundtrack itself excels and it almost a main character of the game in of itself. The main boss battles features tracks by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, the Flaming Lips and the Black Keys while the ambient music between encounters is made for game but is such an ear worm. The sound effects grow as you progress and get better, with Chai’s guitar weapon-arm starting off with clunky noises as you hit the right buttons but off the beat, turning into full on riffs as you get the groove of the attacks and it builds into a soundtrack of your own creation, despite your lack of control over the sounds it makes. The only thing jarring you from this is the constant shouting of “Peppermint!” or “Macaron” as you call for your buddies to join the fray. They are handy in battle but the constant shouting as they are summoned makes you want to lay off the reliance on them so you can further enjoy the music.

While this is a shorter review than I like to do, Hi Fi Rush is really just a game that needs to be experienced and I say that with glowing recommendation. It’s bright and frenetic and I completed it with no noticeable glitches, which is unusual for any game, alone one that launched with nobody outwith its own development knowing anything about it’s existence. The story and characters are genuinely likable and funny and the combat is constantly evolving and preparing you for the next boss or big bad that you have to take on. My only real criticism is that I’m not entirely sure if my combat remaining on the beat really had a huge impact on me getting through the story, with all the B and C combat scores I got I’m sure you can ignore this core mechanic and just button bash your way through it. While you’ll still experience the game, this way of playing seems against the whole purpose of the game.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
For a game that had no build or hype, Hi Fi Rush came from absolutely nowhere to put Tango on the map for a game that wasn't a horror, while creating a phenomenal single player experience that will undoubtedly be in the conversation when it comes to game of the year voting for anyone who plays it. It's something very special and very nearly perfect.

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Hi-FI Rush, Stewart Lange