Reviewed On: PC – Game Pass
Also Available On: Xbox Series X/S, Steam, Epic, and Xbox Game Pass Console
Price: $29.99 – Digital Only
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Release Date: January 25th, 2023
Back in the day, I use to have an Xbox 360 and I didn’t have a PS3. There were a bunch of exclusives I was interested in on both, but I chose the 360 for a couple of reasons. Then I took a break from gaming due to difficulties in my personal life and came back to gaming in 2018, where I ended up getting a PS4 Pro since there weren’t many Xbox exclusives that I wanted at the time. I haven’t touched the Xbox ecosystem, even though I kept eyeing certain games, but this game was one that I knew I needed to play.
I still do not have an Xbox console, but since my Apple MacBook crapped the bed on me in 2022, I decided to finally get a gaming laptop so I could play a lot of PC games if I wanted to. My laptop has a 1920x1080p screen, 144Hz refresh rate, 16GB of RAM, 12th gen i7-12650H graphics card, and a 3050TI GPU. So, from this, I can play a bunch of games on PC without too much difficulty overall. I have a bunch of games on Steam, and now I am subscribed to Xbox Game Pass for PC. Will I eventually get an Xbox console again? Well, anything is possible so I won’t say never. However, I now have access to a lot of games on PC, and Hi-Fi Rush pushed me to get XGP-PC and I honestly I don’t regret it.
The story in Hi-Fi Rush is one that absolutely shocked me with how much more in-depth it is than it seemed at first. You play as a wannabe rockstar named Chai. Chai goes to get a prosthetic machine arm since his appears to be broken and since he wants to be a rockstar, he needs to have both; nobody wants only one arm most of the time. However, when his transplant occurs, his music player gets stuck within his chest and now has a beat playing around him which is now part of who he is. This isn’t what they originally intended and now he is considered a “defect”. Since he is now classified as a “defect” at Vandelay Technologies, the big multi-megaton company the story is based on, he’s forced to fight to survive.
Throughout the story, you meet a lot of different characters that you interact with. Within the first part of the game, you meet a couple of characters named 808 and Peppermint. 808 is a robotic cat and Peppermint is the first of a few human characters you meet that helps you. You also meet CNMN, a robot, and Macaron, another human character that you meet later on. Throughout the adventure, you learn that the massive project, SPECTA, is a mind-controlling system that will brainwash people. You learn twists and turns about the higher-ups at the company and come to blows with each of them to end the project once and for all. You learn connections that you didn’t know existed, some of which change the way you might think about the characters. The story is one that nails every piece of sharp cord it throws at you and makes you feel connected to them in many different ways.
In terms of how this title plays, it is actually unlike anything else Tango Gameworks has ever created. I don’t normally play Bethesda games since a lot of them are First Person Shooters – which is a genre I don’t play. However, I do play action-adventure games, rhythm games, and third-person games and that is exactly what this game is. This game is an action-based rhythm adventure where you have to attack, dodge, and parry in conjunction with the beat of the specific song being played. It is easy to do in a lot of ways but perfecting combos, getting high-ranking scores in the battle sections (Chorus), and making sure you hit the enemies with the correct attack is where the game can get tricky. The gameplay takes some of your favorite elements from action games such as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry and combines them with rhythm games. This produces a stunningly deep battle system that makes it a joy to pull off high-level combos and is just all-around terrific.
There is more than just the main objective of destroying the enemies and bosses in the game as there is a lot that goes into succeeding in this title. First of all, you need to keep up with the beat, but also you need to learn and perfect the combos that you have. You can purchase new combos and special moves at the shop that will increase over time for how much you could purchase. You can also get upgrades to your health and your reverb meter (special attacks meter), along with purchasing new mod chips and upgrading current ones that will affect different elements for tagging in friends, pickups in stages, and more. There are also collectibles to find within the levels such as finding graffiti art, health pieces, and even more. Besides main story content, there is also a bunch of post-game content. This includes more story, can’t say why though as it is a spoiler. It also has a battle tower, completing a mural wall in the hideout, and more. The game for me was a solid 13 hour adventure; however, you can easily get 25+ hours of gameplay if you wanted to do most of the content that it offers. I may continue to pop in over time to see if I can do more in it, because honestly, the title is that good (and you can pet 808 the cat)!
I have talked about the story and gameplay, and described the computer setup, so how does this game run? Well, with the settings set to high on my PC and with the framerate being set to an uncapped 144Hz, it ran as smooth as butter. Occasionally, it would slow a little bit but then would bounce back not too long after. I didn’t have any issues with the game freezing or crashing and the action was always rock solid during battles with inputs registering without any delays. Sometimes, the parry button would have a slight delay, but I’m not sure if that problem was on me or if there’s a bug in the game. I am glad it ran so smoothly minus a couple of small hiccups with the parry button. It was the first game that I truly played on my PC and there were no massive issues with the framerate overall. The performance was also locked at 1080p overall, with a very rare occurrence of dips.
In a game that deals with rhythm-based gameplay, there needs to be an amazing emphasis on the audio design and the music within the adventure. I can confirm that the audio design and music are amazing! There are moments where the vibe is a bit calmer, but it is mostly fast-paced and high tempo. The bosses each have their own musical score separate from the main level, and they are each phenomenal in their own ways, let alone in their battle or the music that plays. There are licensed songs from other creators and also original pieces that the team at Bethesda created, which I am glad wasn’t just one or the other. For those that want to stream or create content for the game but are afraid of getting a copyright strike, there is a streamer mode with a different selection of songs that exclude the licensed tracks and I think that is an awesome touch for a game like this one.
The art style in this game is an absolute joy to see not only in motion but also when the characters are stationary. Everything flows very beautifully with the way in which the cell-shaded characters and models look with a very bright pop of all of them thanks to the strong outlines on all of their models. The different chapters in the game all have a great art style, from the hot and dark sections to the look at the different sections of the company campus. While some of the chapters might be similar to each other, all of the showpieces are stunning, including all of the terrific boss scenes where there are some easter eggs that might be easy to spot. The comic book like mission debriefing before beginning most of the chapters is also stunning art but I am glad that the overall story was in an animated style and not just shown through images of a comic book.
Recently, gaming has become a battle of megaton franchises with giant AAA adventures. Some notable ones are Zelda, The Last of Us, Forza, Resident Evil, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty; just to name a few of many. Smaller games from these companies don’t always have the same chance to succeed compared to the big AAA releases. Not that there is anything wrong with AAA releases, as I do love AAA games myself, but a balance between everything is needed. Sony used to develop a mixture of smaller AA games on top of their massive AAA adventures, such as MediEvil and Concrete Genie, but they don’t really do that anymore. They still publish or get exclusive releases like Stellar Blade, but it is sad to me that they are sitting on a lot of IPs that could do great as AA releases in todays world, such as Jak and Daxter or Sly Cooper.
Nintendo does have AA titles mixed with AAA ones, such as Game Builder Garage or Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain. Xbox has started to do more with smaller AA adventures too, and I am here for it. I am glad that the big publishers aren’t getting rid of the AA market as it is important in the industry. Not just the AAA adventures or the giant multiplayer games, single-player AA games are critical as well so there isn’t a slow time when waiting in between the giant AAA titles which takes time to develop. Indie games are great and I play a lot of them as well, but they cannot be the only thing to bridge the gap between massive AAA titles. There are lots of opportunities for dormant IPs to become active again with smaller AA adventures. When big publishers allow their teams to create and craft smaller adventures with unique elements and let their creativity come out, I think that is an awesome thing.
Bethesda games haven’t really interested me in the past, as I said previously. However, if the teams can create titles like Hi-Fi Rush that can delight and surprise both new individuals and current fans, it’s an awesome thing. I never thought my first game back into the Xbox ecosystem would be a Bethesda title, but I was clearly wrong. Hi-Fi Rush is a game that is not only great in terms of its gameplay, audio design, art style, visuals, and story. It’s great because it shows that bigger publishers can create a game that is bigger than “indie” yet be smaller than their AAA adventures, where it still gives players a thrilling experience. I highly recommend checking this game out on Game Pass if you can, or even outright buying the adventure for $29.99, as it is seriously that good. To Bethesda and Xbox: If you can keep releasing surprises such as this one, you are more than welcome to keep taking my money. Rock on Chai (and the rest of the team), you absolutely nailed your performance and I hope to see you again in the future!