Hi-Fi RUSH is the latest game from the Evil Within team at Tango Gameworks. It is absolutely gorgeous, hilarious, plays incredibly well, and is one of the best surprises I can remember. Announced and released in the same day, I’ve spent 11 hours straight playing what is a damned masterpiece of an action platformer.
Rhythm Is A Dancer
Chai is an annoying moron. With a damaged arm he signs up for a project promising him a new lease on life. Little does he know that the evil corporation he’s signing his life away to has other plans. After the robotification project goes awry Chai is left with a super-powered robo arm, and a music player lodged in his chest. The world moves to a beat in Hi-Fi RUSH, and everything Chai does to the rhythm is enhanced. The first thing he’ll come across is a pipe, which quickly gains the appearance of a guitar thanks to all the scrap that is magnetized to it. Axe in hand you’ll meet up with various misfits and outcasts who all have a tie to the evil mega-corporation, and over the course of 12 missions you will fall in love with this stupid, gorgeous world.
Hi-Fi RUSH is an action rhythm game interspersed with platforming segments and light puzzles. It moves at a relentless pace during missions, cutting between stunning cutscenes that animate at a lower framerate but retain the same cel-shaded visual style of the gameplay. I cannot overstate how good-looking this game is. The animation work is excellent, the textures are pristine, and the image quality is crystal clear. Colors pop, and the world sings to you as everything moves to the beat of the music. The music my god, for a person born in the early 80s it sounds like my formative years. The humor and style aim at the zoomer, but we millennials are in for a treat with bands like Nine Inch Nails leading the way as you murder robots with glee.
In between each mission, you’ll have access to a hub world where you can upgrade your skills, learn new ones, customize your outfit, and hang out with your crew. I try to not spoil things but there is a delightful robot kitty kat named 808 that has one of the best sections during a game I’ve ever played. It was so stupid, heartwarming, and awesome that I can’t wait for people to see it. Every character shines in a story that never stops being stupid but has deeply emotional moments in the 2nd half that had me on the edge of my seat. You get a huge payoff in the story, and a modern miracle as I loved the boss fights. Boss fights almost always suck in games, but I loved every single one here and I didn’t find them overly difficult in the normal setting.
Groovin to the Music
Rhythm is key to mastering Hi-Fi RUSH but you don’t have to always be on the beat. You will always attack, but doing so on the beat adds damage and other positive possibilities. You’ll get a dash, parry, and have a double jump right from the start. All of these and more are tied to the beat so that when you use them on it they work better and can activate more powerful versions. X is your main attack with Y being a heavy one. The right bumper is your dash while the left bumper becomes a magnetic hook. The right trigger will activate your chosen ally to help you in combat or puzzle solving, while the left trigger cycles through them. B is your parry, which becomes hugely important later on. The moment-to-moment combat is constantly broken up by small rhythm-based minigames and it keeps things feeling fresh the entire time.
This game is like a rhythm Devil May Cry mixed with some of the best 3d anime-style visuals I’ve ever seen. The upgrades available add so many combos, super moves, and extra abilities to your friends that I never once felt like the combat was becoming stale. On the platforming front, it can feel off at first. Once I realized how much jumping and dashing to the beat added distance-wise though things clicked. It’s not perfect, but it’s damned good once you get the hang of it and much like the combat there are constant minigames built into the platforming that worked brilliantly at keeping the pace up.
After beating the main campaign things are not done. Like any good action platformer new difficulties, challenges, and a level select are all there to keep you engaged for a dozen more hours. It’s an incredible amount of content for what is a $30 package at launch, and of course, it’s available through Game Pass day one on console, cloud, and PC.
Jet Set RUSH-io
As stated previously Hi-Fi RUSH is a gorgeous game. It’s unique in a way I’m finding difficult to describe. It really does feel like a modern 3d anime come to life, except it looks far better than any 3d anime I’ve seen both during gameplay and cutscenes. The title runs at 4k/60fps on Series X, where I reviewed it, and 1440p/60fps on Series S. I noticed zero framerate drops while playing though the change in framerate was jarring a few times while transitioning from gameplay to cutscenes. My only issue with the game is that the combat can become difficult to read as the screen fills up with utter chaos. Knowing when to dodge/parry/attack was routinely obfuscated by enemies and effects.
Sound-wise my first impression wasn’t positive on Chai. He was high-voiced and whiney, but by the end, I thought both his character and the actor’s portrayal were excellent. The writing in the game is phenomenal and accomplishes the nearly impossible task for a video game by being genuinely funny the entire time. The story and setting, again without giving much away, started out in an “ok” spot. After a few hours, I was completely engrossed and quickly fell in love with each of the main characters. Even the villains are all standouts thanks to their excellent voicework and smartly crafted encounters.
All of this goodness is wrapped in a mostly 2000s soundtrack that kicks serious ass. Not every song in the game is licensed, and the Bethesda studio tracks hold up well against some serious heavyweights of the music industry. Sound effects are clean and the positional audio works well for letting you know where enemies are in the heat of a fight. Accessibility wise there are a wide number of options to help those with vision impairments along with settings to make the combat and staying in rhythm less taxing. You can play the entire game on one or two buttons if you like and the game will auto-combo and use teammates on its own. There are difficulty-based achievements, which I know some don’t like, and my full campaign clear ended with me only getting 310 out of 1000 achievement points.
I had zero crashes or bugs of any type while playing. It might be the first time in years that I can say that. Not one freeze, not even a hitch. No crashing or odd enemy behavior. I never clipped through a wall or had the sound cut out. It was as bug-free an eleven hours of gaming as I can remember.
Wrapping Things Up
Hi-Fi RUSH came out of nowhere and floored me. It is one of my favorite-looking games, maybe ever. The combat is sublime, the story is great, and the music just works. Tango Gameworks has shifted from making ok to good horror games and created one of my favorite action platformers of all time.
Review code provided by Bethesda Softworks
Xbox Series X
- Combat is Fantastic
- Excellent Audio in All Facets
- High Replayability
- Genuinely Funny
- Combat Can Become Hectic and Hard to Read Visually