Hi-Fi Rush Review: Hi-Time Fun
Note: This review is not sponsored. I occasionally write reviews on this site for games that I pick up and enjoy for the sake of spreading good recommendations.
It's clear to see why Hi-Fi Rush is ranked just behind Elden Ring and God of War on multiple critic sites (MetaCritic, Open Critic) and how it quickly outpaced Forspoken's reviews and revenue in just a week of launching (despite costing less than half of Forspoken's budget). From what I can tell, the developers at Tango Gameworks (responsible for Ghostwire Tokyo and the Evil Within series) had fun making this game. Their team was given the time and space away from public eyes and deadlines to stretch their creative muscles, and the results speak for themselves.
First question: What is Hi-Fi Rush?
Hi-Fi Rush is a fast-paced rhythm/action game. It centers on a mid-20s guy named Chai, a wannabe rockstar, who after acquiring new "defect" upgrades, must rock and roll his way to freedom. You can check out the game trailer here for more details.
Beyond just an old-school feel and look to the game, it also went old-school with its release. Finally, players can get a game that is complete upon purchase. No microtransactions, no DLC that feels like essential gameplay, and no game-breaking bugs or problems to fight. This game is a smooth ride, and it capitalizes on being fun. It's also far more in-depth than I expected, with opportunities for players to customize their playstyle via swappable combo moves and companions that bring assistive firepower to the fights. In terms of how the gameplay feels, I've seen several reviews comparing Hi-Fi Rush to Devil May Cry, or as one Steam review aptly put it, Devil May Dance.
I found the game was fairly forgiving for those who aren't as musically inclined, with plenty of world visuals to help players keep time with the beat even if their ear isn't quite tuned to it. The game also doesn't punish you for hitting offbeat, but you'll overall be less effective, and players will yield much higher rewards for being accurate on the count. (Regardless of if a player hits on the beat or not, Chai's attacks will always hit on the beat, so it's a helpful visual reminder to help you keep pace.) It's not so easy that it's just a cakewalk game, but it doesn't frustrate or needle a player beyond enjoyability. It's a nice balance that can feel lost in more recent games where pain is gain. I am no musical maestro, and I found myself being able to get into the beat just fine despite this being one of my first rhythm games. I also think the sound design and soundtrack for the game have been stellar thus far, and it's been a blast to play with headphones to enhance those qualities.
The level layouts are straightforward and feel more reminiscent of the mid-2000s or early 2010s games where levels are more repetitive and designed for jump-and-go. I felt that the layouts made sense for what the game is, but if you're someone looking for a more challenging map layout or hidden trinkets, you'll likely be underwhelmed in this department.
Visuals and Story
I instantly picked up Jet Set Radio vibes from the world. The highly-saturated, cartoonish designs for both the world and characters fit the writing of the game perfectly. While it took me some time to get adjusted to the humor, I found myself eventually enjoying it and leaning into the one-liners and zingers. It's silly, zany, and maybe a little bit cringe at times-- but it all works within the context of the game and story. The game's more positive tone and hopeful message really helped the script out, and given how fun the gameplay was, I've ignored worse writing for lesser games. I've seen some mixed opinions about the writing feeling too "Marvel-ified" or like Buzzfeed circa 2015, but those are the harsher insults lobbed at an otherwise cheeky, good-time title.
TLDR: I recommend checking out Hi-Fi Rush, even if you're new to/unsure about rhythm games. If you have Game Pass, I don't see a reason why you shouldn't pick up Hi-Fi Rush. It's free and fun! If you'd prefer to help the devs out, I'm sure the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam will convince you to fork over $30 (USD). This game is lengthier than expected, and I think $30 is a more than fair price for what you get.
I'd love to see more game companies do these kinds of game releases, and I think the Bethesda and Xbox teams did a great thing unveiling this game in the manner they did. (In fact, I'd argue the game would not be nearly as successful if they'd done the usual marketing ploy.) It's a fantastic game to start your 2023 strong, and I'm hoping this is a litmus test for the rest of gaming this year after a slow 2020-22.
Will you pick up Hi-Fi Rush? Let me know what your thoughts on the game are in the comments! (I'm not quite done with it yet-- but so far, I've enjoyed the ride, as you can tell.)