“Hi-Fi Rush” game is all killer, no filler


“Hi-Fi Rush” is a rhythm action game that has a vibrant style and a colorful cast of characters. (Photo Courtesy of Xbox)

Ian Lloyd, Staff Writer

Tango Gameworks, the studio that developed “The Evil Within,” dropped a brand new game out of nowhere Jan. 25 after an Xbox livestream. “Hi-Fi Rush” is a rhythm action game that immediately garnered attention from a majority of gaming audiences for its concept, stylized art direction and instant release.

“Hi-Fi Rush” centers around Chai, an arrogant 25-year-old who aspires to be a rockstar. Chai finds himself in sync with the rhythm of the world after accidentally merging his body with his MP3 player during cybernetic enhancement surgery. He has to fight back against the sinister Vandelay Technologies after they try to dispose of him for being a defect. Chai also makes a few unlikely friends along the way.

Before I indulge in my subjective thoughts on this game, I want to share a few objective facts about “Hi-Fi Rush.” The game revolves around the beat of the background music of each level, meaning every action, movement and attack stay in rhythm with each other. “Hi-Fi Rush” is set in a futuristic vibrant world full of robots and humans with cybernetic enhancements. The very first boss fight is scored by “1,000,000” by Nine Inch Nails. If that isn’t enough to rock your socks off, allow me to serenade you with even more reasons to play this as soon as possible.

"Hi-Fi Rush" takes place in a colorful cyberpunk world. (Photo by Ian Lloyd)
“Hi-Fi Rush” takes place in a colorful cyberpunk world. (Photo by Ian Lloyd)

Hybrid rhythm games have become a whole new subgenre in themselves. Successful indie games that experimented with the format like “Crypt of the NecroDancer” and “Sayonara Wild Hearts” demonstrated the potential for incorporating music into different gameplay styles. In more recent years, more ambitious rhythmic indie titles have been released such as the energetic “No Straight Roads” and the hardcore “Metal: Hellsinger.” 

I love all of these games for their aesthetics and innovative game design, but I’ve never actually beaten any of them. I’ve gotten the experiences I wanted from them and felt content in admiring them more than actually enjoying their play experience. The truth is, I’m pretty bad at keeping up with the rhythm of these games. One day in physics class during my sophomore year of college, my professor tested everyone’s reaction times and mine was the slowest by a mile. I’m not the target audience for this type of challenge.

However, I knew from the moment I began playing “Hi-Fi Rush” that I wanted to see it through to its conclusion. It rewards the player for staying on beat, but it never feels like a drag if you mess up. It is always engaging, and the moments in which you do find the rhythm, it makes you feel like you are on cloud nine.

In “Hi-Fi Rush,” staying on beat with the soundtrack of the level leads to better combos and higher scores. (Photo by Ian Lloyd)

The gameplay is incredibly smooth. After getting a feel for the combat, you will not want to put the game down. As you progress through the game, you can unlock combos and special attacks that only build on creating an enticing gameplay loop. New enemies appear right when the action might grow stale, always keeping you as engaged as possible.

This game is oozing with style and flair. Every set piece, robot battle and cutscene is finely tuned to make everything you do look as cool as possible. The art direction brings gorgeous cartoon visuals to life that would have any fan of “Jet Set Radio” frothing from the mouth.

The animation is so expressive and dynamic that it essentially feels like you are playing through a Saturday morning cartoon. The characters move and express themselves in various creative ways, and the world around you is always bobbing up and down to the beat of the music. 

The stages in “Hi-Fi Rush” use the beautiful environments of its cyberpunk world to tell a compelling story. (Photo by Ian Lloyd)

The writing might get on some people’s nerves for being too quirky and self-referential, but I found it matched the tone of the overall game exceptionally well. Not to mention every stage has its own mini-narrative that plays out with the heroes’, the level’s specific boss and the friendly robots that litter the stage. There are a lot of legitimately funny moments of environmental storytelling and optional flavor text that made me want to explore all the hidden areas.

“Hi-Fi Rush” came out of nowhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays at the top of my game-of-the-year list for 2023. It leaves one heck of an impression from the very first minute, and every level only builds on that enjoyment until its phenomenal ending. I could not possibly count the number of times this game made me drop my jaw and start shrieking with glee. It has a ton of surprises, delights and content to keep you playing long after the credits roll.