Hi-Fi Rush review: "A huge surprise"
There’s a sequence fairly late into Hi-Fi Rush that uses a licensed track to an amazing effect. It’s hard to think that a developer could conjure such an idea, let alone make it work in reality. It’s a testament to how incredibly fun the experience is, and it’s all the more surprising it comes from the developer behind The Evil Within series.
Xbox surprised the world when it shadow-dropped Hi-Fi Rush at the end of last month, with players around the world jumping in and embracing the game. Word of mouth has spread like wildfire, resulting in one of the most successful Xbox Game Pass launches to date.
With all that being said, that sort of hype can lead to disappointment, leaving you wondering if you missed out on something that everyone else saw. Can Hi-Fi Rush really be that good? The answer is yes, and it’s one of the best Xbox first-party releases since the Xbox 360 era.
I’ve got a good feeling
Immediately, the assault of vibrant colours, cel-shaded graphics, and comic book-style aesthetics bombard you from the opening moments. In any other game, this could be abrasive but developer Tango Gameworks has embedded so much personality that it’s hard not to be swept up in it all.
You play as Chai, who after signing up for robotic enhancements, is labelled defective. What transpires is a story that sees you fighting the system that cast you away, overthrowing the six overlord bosses who decide everything. What they say goes.
On this adventure, you’re not alone. Throughout your time in Hi-Fi Rush, new characters, and even a cute robotic cat, join you along for the ride. Each has its own unique personality and works to not only help Chai in his quest but also help him grow as a person from his immature roots.
The story is fairly nuts and bolts, offering very little in the way of surprises. However, it’s the personality that shines through, alongside the genuinely funny humour. You won’t walk away having gone through a transcendent experience from its narrative, but it’s enough to keep you moving from set piece to set piece.
Don’t blame it on the boogie
The real star of the show in Hi-Fi Rush is its rhythm-based combat. Each encounter has you beating down an array of robotic enemies, and while it’s completely fine to button mash away, using combos in time with the exhilarating rock tracks will boost your damage.
Hi-Fi Rush does a fantastic job of being easy to learn, yet incredibly difficult to master. Sometimes this can be to the game’s detriment, with the sheer amount of stuff happening on screen and the amount of noise pumping out to the player being immensely overwhelming.
There are accessibility options to help assist in situations such as these but it can be quite easy to be inundated by the combat, especially in later fights. However, once it clicks into place, there are very few games that can replicate the feeling.
As you progress, you’ll be able to purchase new attacks and upgrades for Chai, along with uncovering new gameplay mechanics naturally. For example, the friends you find along the way can be called in to help in fights by laying down gunfire on an enemy to destroy their shields or even to overcome environmental puzzles such as dispelling fire blocking your path.
Jump for my love
Even the moments outside of combat are extremely fun, harkening back to classic platformers of the PS2 era. You’ll spend your time smashing boxes, collecting scrap, and platforming your way past a variety of obstacles.
What makes this all the enjoyable is how each level works in sync with the music. Platforms will appear on time with the beat and grapple lines will have you sliding alongside the guitar riff. It all comes together in an orchestral fashion that continues to surprise throughout the 10-12 hour long story.
After the credits have rolled, there’s still much more to do. You can replay levels to discover new side paths with abilities you’ve unlocked, tackle challenge rooms, or even test your strength in the never-ending Rhythm Tower.
For a game that shadow-dropped without any warning, it’s staggering how much content is on show. It’s also all incredibly polished, with little to no bugs, glitches, or performance issues. In a day and age where games constantly come in hot and are plagued with problems, it’s worth commending Tango Gameworks for the work they’ve done on Hi-Fi Rush.
You’re simply the best
All-in-all, Hi-Fi Rush is a huge surprise. Coming out of nowhere, it’s already made a name for itself and created a new mascot for Xbox in the form of Chai. Everything comes together wonderfully, with the combat, platforming, music, and visuals complementing each other perfectly.
At times it can be slightly overwhelming, but if you put the time and energy into learning its systems, Hi-Fi Rush becomes an incredibly rewarding experience. With Starfield, Redfall, and Forza Motorsport all set to come out this year, they’re going to have to be pretty extraordinary to dethrone Hi-Fi Rush as the best Xbox first-party release of 2023.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.