Hi-Fi RUSH Review
Hi-Fi RUSH was a pleasant surprise shadow drop during the recently concluded Xbox Developer Direct Showcase. Since its release, the game has been making waves across the industry, given how such a title was kept secret for such a long time and released to such rave reviews.
Hi-Fi RUSH tells the story of the 25-year-old slacker and self-professed rocker Chai, who, after a botched procedure from Project Armstrong, is now hunted by the Vandelay company as he is due to be scrapped. Joining forces with a motley crew of charming individuals (and a feisty feline), they fight against the corrupt corporation to the beat of Chai’s robotic reverb heart.
Rhythm hybrid games have been quite a thing recently, with hidden gems like Metal: Hellsinger pushing the limits of what can be done to a boomer shooter. Hi-Fi RUSH brings this concept to action beat-em-up games with interesting results.
So strap on that air guitar and let’s shred these corporate robots back to where they came from in this review of Hi-Fi RUSH!
The Beat Goes On
Hi-Fi RUSH, at first, didn’t exactly get me at hello, as I thought it was a tad bit too gimmicky for my tastes. The quirky character names, the relentless quipping/banter, and the conventional anime plot didn’t exactly capture me the way many players were enamored by this IP when it first dropped. One thing I could not deny, however, was its excellent production value and the quality of the gameplay, which was polished to a very fine sheen.
The visuals are crisp and vibrant, and the animations are top-notch. The voice acting and conventional story didn’t fully reel me in at first, but I can see how everything else was handled with utmost care.
As a fast-paced action game paired with a hefty dose of platforming, it was quite a surprise to me that instead of making it a requirement, Hi-Fi RUSH opted to add the rhythm mechanic as a sort of bonus to many of your actions, relieving the pressure for those that are not so hot on beat-based systems. For the rhythmically challenged individuals out there, they provide a metronome to time your hits, and if that fails, there are visual prompts all around the environment that ease you in.
I also admire that, while it sells itself as a rhythm game, it really prioritizes itself as a story-driven action game first. Hi-Fi RUSH is surprisingly accessible that even being beat-averse won’t stop you from enjoying the game, and this makes it really stand out from other rhythm games that could be frustrating if you’re unable to bridge the gap between the lack of rhythm, multitasking, or even if you have latency issues.
While Hi-Fi RUSH eases you into the game, the first half tends to drag on, with each level taking between 45 minutes to an hour to beat. There are also certain parts of levels that aren’t accessible at first because you don’t have certain skills or allies available yet, so there is backtracking to a certain extent, for better or for worse.
Turn The Beat Around
As mentioned earlier, it took a while for me to warm up to Hi-Fi RUSH, taking around the halfway mark to hook me completely. The later levels felt faster, the predictable story changed it up, and the characters grew on me. I was finally getting into the rhythm.
You start off with basic attack moves and platforming, but then progress to being able to combo, aerial rave, dodge, and counter by the time you reach the fifth level. When it all comes together, the game really stands out and realizes its full potential, engaging players with its addictive loop and mechanics. It also really helps that both the licensed and original music actually work in tandem to provide a crowd-pleasing experience.
The final few levels are when Hi-Fi RUSH escalates from being a simple rhythm game to something special. The story picks up to a crescendo, and you really find yourself fully engaged across all activities. Boss battles are highly entertaining, providing multi-form battles that require you to put together all that you’ve learned. Paired with the ability to start calling your allies to help you out with taking out enemy shields, armor, and even neutralizing moves, it becomes a battle royale rock opera of epic proportions.
I had an epiphany after a while with Hi-Fi RUSH. It actually elevates the Quicktime Event from just merely adding action sequences during a cinematic to an active mechanic that doesn’t break the momentum of the game. As these rhythm QTEs still move to the beat of the track you’re on, it provides a seamless transition from one scene to the next, and it’s really what made the second half of the game fantastic.
You can finish the main story in 10-12 hours, which I feel is more than enough to get the most out of Hi-Fi RUSH. If you feel that you need a bit more to scratch that rock itch, the game isn’t finished once the credits finish rolling, as you’ll be able to revisit areas that were previously inaccessible to due the lack of resources. Plus, you can challenge the Rhythm Tower and complete your Hall of Fame to get the most out of your experience.
Or you can start from scratch and go through another playthrough just for the hell of it. It really is that good.
What We Liked:
- Accessible rhythm mechanics adds more value once you get into the beat.
- Well-designed action game that combines fast-paced combat and platforming to provide a seamless experience from gameplay to cinematics.
- Entertaining story to the tune of a fantastic soundtrack with characters that grow on you.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Beginning levels are a little too long and spaced out.
- While the rhythm mechanic is accessible, it may take a while for rhythmically challenged players to get into it.
Verdict: Buy It!
Hi-Fi RUSH is a rockin’ good time that invites every player to the party, whether or not you’re into rhythm games or action games. It is a crowd-pleaser that finds a way to pull your heartstrings either with its soundtrack, story, or seamless gameplay. It is definitely a must-play for 2023 and can easily be one of the best games of the year, no two ways about it.
Rhythm hybrid games will still be a hard sell for me, but if it is approached the same way, then Hi-Fi RUSH just set a standard for this novelty. It goes to show that a single gimmick alone doesn’t make a good game, but a combination of excellent mechanics and an entertaining story would rise above the cheap ploy.
Bethesda and Tango Gameworks have a winner with Hi-Fi RUSH and I can’t wait to see what other experimental genres this studio will come up with, though I do not mind them returning to their horror roots and serving up something dark and brooding once again in the future.
*Hi-Fi RUSH was reviewed on an Xbox Series X with a review code provided by the publisher.