This review build did not have the fixes and optimization promised in the Day One patch available
I was worried about High On Life. The latest from Squanch Games, and their first title to hit Xbox day one, was set to launch into Game Pass in 3 days. This review’s embargo was in two, yet still there were no review codes available. At 11:13 PM on Friday, December 9th the email finally arrived. I took a Steam PC code and our Editor-in-Chief Sik took an Xbox one. My download finished and I loaded it up, within ten minutes all of my worries were gone. I was met with a gorgeous, hilarious, first-person shooter that is a joy to play. I’ll break down the majority of the game and go over PC performance while Sik will break down his time on an Xbox Series X, so let’s get into it.
The Beauty of Blim
After a hilarious opening sequence in which Earth is invaded by Alien drug runners who want to inhale human life essence, you and your sister will come into possession of Kenny. He is a Gatlian, a sentient talking gun who will warp your house away to the city of Blim. To try and stop the cartel and save Earth you’ll become a bounty hunter, killing your way through the cosmos, freeing more Gatlians, and making new friends along the way. Blim is a stunningly realized hub world, full of places to explore such as the Pawn Shop, a totally legit and not at all illegal Food Stand, and various other points of interest that you gain access to slowly. One word of warning, this is an adult game. Not just in words used but in topics discussed. Outside of see you next Tuesday I’m pretty sure I heard every swear word in existence in this one, along with a lot of hilarious sex and body humor.
After a bit of guidance from Kenny, your sentient pistol, you’ll meet up with a washed-up old bounty hunter who is living on a park bench. In exchange for your house if you die, and he fully expects you to immediately, he’ll let you wear his old gear while he hangs out on your couch (which is also his toilet). Most of the game’s missions will have you visiting worlds in search of bounty targets, with some variety mixed up in the middle and later parts that helped a lot with the pacing. Those bounty targets are progressively higher members of the gang that has taken over Earth as their newest base of species-based drugs operation, the G3. Most of the bounty targets have either a new Gatlian or some other form of suit upgrade, with one of the early missions getting you Knifey. He is a maniacal talking knife/whip that is desperate to slice through the guts of everyone you meet.
Each weapon you earn has a unique personality. Kenny is voiced by Justin Roiland, with his familiar delivery. J.B. Smoove kills it as Gus, a shotgun-style Gatlian. The voice cast is seriously impressive and they do a great job across the board. It definitely feels like a lot of improvisation was used here, much like Squanch’s other games and the cartoons that Mr. Roiland and company have worked on in the past. There is a lot of Rick and Morty-style humor here, and that either hits for you or it doesn’t. You can lower the amount both your guns and the enemies talk during gameplay, but I loved it and kept the meters all the way up. The story is mostly ridiculous, constantly funny, and occasionally tugs at the heartstrings. Your sister Lizzie is a big part of things, and her growth throughout felt genuine and well-earned. The player never speaks, but you do get to choose responses for your Gatlians who take over the duty of conversing.
Performance on PC was excellent. I have a 5800x and RX 6700XT. Running at 1440p and mostly max settings I averaged over 150 frames per second in my roughly 10 hours of playtime. I did have two crashes where the “something went wrong!” Unreal Engine 4 error window popped up, but I was pushing things a lot as I captured footage through OBS at max quality for the video review.
Fisting Butts and Going Nuts
High On Life looks fantastic. From what I remember there has been a level of sheen and quality added to the texture work since its debut trailer at the Xbox showcase earlier in the year. The terrain and ground can look basic, and the geometry is nothing special but the characters, effects, skyboxes and overall art style are flipping gorgeous. I played the Steam version of the game and load times were short on my SSD, rarely longer than 5-10 seconds. All the great looks and humor in the world can’t save a game if it isn’t any fun to play. Thankfully, High On Life controls well, has a lot of variety in combat, and has a satisfying traversal system.
Every Gatlian has a main attack along with a left trigger/right mouse modifier & a special move that operates on a cooldown. Kenny is a pistol that can shoot from the hip or aim down sights. His special move is a Globshot where he shoots out a glob of goo from his “special hole”. This bounces enemies up in the air and lets you juggle them with further attacks for extra damage. Gus is a spread shotgun blast from the hip, and the left trigger/right mouse for him has him suck enemies in. All four main guns have this function and it allows for a great amount of variety in combat encounters. Knifey is key as your melee ability as well as being a major part of traversal. Certain enemies will be either invulnerable to or take low damage until you stab them with a press of the right stick/F on your keyboard. He is also a whip that can be used to help you Tarzan your way through most environments.
One of the biggest parts of the games is finding Spaces Pesos and buying upgrades and mods for your suit and weaponry. Pesos are earned whenever you kill enemies, in small amounts. Completing bounties nets you large sums and there are living chests that Knifey can stab open that give between two and four hundred a murder. Finding and being able to access all of these chests is tied to unlocking suit and weapon abilities and is one of the key incentives to exploration and returning to previous environments. There is a counter at the top right of the screen for each area that lets you know how many chests you have, and the combat radar in the bottom left doubles up as a chest locator.
There are multiple traversal systems, and without spoiling them all let’s just say that you’ll be moving around like a coked-up DOOMguy in no time. This is a high-paced FPS game; at times, it could feel a bit overwhelming. With just over two full days to play, write, narrate, and edit the video for this review I was unable to explore and upgrade as I would have otherwise. The later combat encounters in the game can get really tough, and if you haven’t upgraded your suit and weapons you will struggle even on normal difficulty. Thankfully the movement feels fantastic and the few times I did aimlessly wander around I felt well rewarded for the time spent. The Pawn Shop where you buy a lot of your upgrades and mods is owned by a character voiced by Rich Fulcher, a star of classics like The Mighty Boosh, Snuff Box, and other insane British comedies. He was the token out-of-place American, and he was hilarious every time I heard him. There are some crazy, ridiculous things in this game that I can’t wait to see people experience.
I’ve given a breakdown of most of the game’s systems, trying to keep things as spoiler free as possible as always. Let’s bring Jon “Sikamikanico” Clarke, our Editor-in-Chief, in for his take on the title:
When High on Life was first revealed during the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase earlier this year, it was a genuine surprise in an industry normally full of things that leak often. But what’s this?! A comedy FPS from the minds behind Rick & Morty with talking guns and wacky characters? Sign me up!
As a big fan of Rick & Morty, (you have to have a high IQ to understand it, obviously) I was really looking forward to playing it – and like Jesse, I was a little worried that the code for review came in late. It’s not normally a good sign, and all the time I’d set aside during the week to do the review entirely myself was alas, lost. Thankfully, with Jesse powering through on PC, I got to spend around 8 hours with the Xbox Series version, and my friends, it’s one of the most surprising and consistently funny games I’ve played in ages.
Not only is it funny and surprisingly pretty at times, it also feels incredibly good to play. The combat loop between your guns and their various abilities feels mostly great (things get a little chaotic at times, but it’s part of the charm) and performance is pretty solid on the whole on Xbox Series X at what feels like a smooth 60fps. I’m no pixel counter, but thanks to a bold and bright art style, the game looked great on my 4K 86” TV.
I did see some frame drops on occasion in some of the more open-world areas. I experienced some very minor bugs – a boss fight, the boss was stuck behind a door, forcing me to restart the sequence, and one time my faithful gun Kenny just disappeared out of my hand, but otherwise, no big issues. There are, however, absolutely bucketloads of little touches I really appreciate – the whole improvised comedy of it all, the breaking of the 4th wall with nods to pop culture specifically around video games – It has one of the best beginnings to a game ever, I think and “Detective Mode” is the best version of that feature in any game, ever too.
Other more technical things, like the way NPC characters will call you out if you start speaking to them and then walk away, and if you return will tell you off before continuing from where they were abandoned without skipping a beat. If you, like me, enjoy the comedy that you get in shows like Rick and Morty, you’ll likely adore High On Life – if you’re offended by frequent sexual references, sounding rods, alien cum, and hearing shit or fuck every other word, you’ll likely find the humour crass and offensive. And that’s okay.
But what you have under an incredibly imaginative and well-made FPS, is a lot of heart, great humor, and a surprisingly engaging story. I haven’t laughed or chuckled as much as this since Portal 2. You should absolutely play this – it’s a great end to the year for Xbox users.
High On Life is absolutely fantastic, and you should play it.
Codes provided by Squanch Games for Review
High On Life
*Xbox Series X & Steam PC
- F’ing Hilarious
- Plays Fantastically
- Perfect Length
- Great Writing
- Some Control Quirks