It can be hard to imagine a new AAA game coming out that isn’t full of microtransactions, DLC filling in the holes of an incomplete game, a $70 price tag, obnoxious marketing and various other horrible things consumers have come to expect.
Then there’s Hi-Fi Rush.
Editor’s Note: Cooper Marshall purchased his own copy of the game.
A surprise release from developer Tango Gameworks and publisher Microsoft and Bethesda, Hi-Fi Rush was first announced in a Microsoft Developer Direct on January 25 and released the same day. On top of that, it has a low price-point of $30 and is on Microsoft’s video game subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. Even moreso, the game is good. Really good.
Image from Bethesda.
Hi-Fi Rush follows a young guy named Chai who has signed up for a new body enhancement experiment performed by Vandelay Technologies. After somehow getting his portable music player accidentally thrown into the experiment, it fuses with his chest and now the whole world runs to the beat of his early 2010s rock playlist.
After running into the rebellious Peppermint, Chai learns that maybe the Vandelay mega corp is not as friendly as they seem. He then decides to help overthrow Vandelay by wielding a guitar made of trash and smashing every corpo robot and business executive into bits.
It is a fun premise backed by a rocking soundtrack and rhythm-based combat. Everything is synced to the beat of the soundtrack, from Chai’s attacks, to his running, all of the enemies and even the environment.
The game plays like a hack-and-slash action game. Combat seems simple at first, but gets more complicated as you unlock more abilities and combos.
Different combinations of light attacks and heavy attacks perform different combos, with some causing Chai to dash across the screen, lifting his opponents up in the air, and then bringing it all down with a guitar solo explosion.
As you progress, Chai unlocks abilities like calling in partner attacks to continue combos, a grapple hook, parries, super attacks and more, and you have to do them all to the beat.
While the game doesn’t force you to play on the beat, doing so awards you with more damage and a higher score. There are also lots of accessibility options as well that can help even the most musically inept.
Thank goodness the beats are good. The music is very similar to what I used to listen to as a teenager. “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys plays during the intro while “Whirring” by the Joy Formidable plays during a climatic chase.
Even the original songs are top-notch.
If 2010s rock is your jam, this game is for you.
The music lines up perfectly with the gameplay and the cutscenes. Both of which are beautifully animated.
Cutscenes switch from 2D to 3D animation and comic blurbs and 2D highlights sprout from your attacks. The animation is on par with some recent animated movies I’ve seen, such as the new Puss in Boots and Into the Spiderverse.
Everything looks straight out of a saturday morning cartoon from my 2000s childhood. Every character is incredibly expressive, the attacks are fluid and I could go on and on.
Speaking of characters, that might be the one drawback to this game.
They’re really corny and the story is tropey.
Every character, while endearing to me, fell into some animated movie tropes. Chai is the stupid but confident boy who learns to care about people, Peppermint is the punk girl who gets constantly annoyed with Chai, but learns he’s not such a bad guy, the villains are evil corporate guys who hate everything.
The story is fun, if predictable. Jokes fall mostly flat, with a few highlights.
However, all of that did not really matter to me because this game has something even more important to me: heart. Everything about the game just put a big smile on my face the whole time.
Image from Bethesda.
Hi-Fi Rush came around because a small development team headed by John Johanas was given creative freedom to make a new game different from Tango’s previous titles, which were darker titles such as The Evil Within and Ghostwire: Tokyo.
The developers were influenced by rhythm games like Guitar Hero and animated movies like Into the Spiderverse. And they even did a surprise release of the game.
This game really started to make me think about how us consumers view the video game market, and not just because the game is about taking down an evil megacorp. It brought me back to the days when the games I played were not as expensive and just down-right fun.
Nowadays, games are very expensive and use unhealthy practices such as microtransactions, subscription models, digital only, scammers jacking up prices of limited and old releases, over-the-top marketing and so many more. Publishers believe that consumers will just accept these new models and prices, and unfortunately they are right.
This is why Hi-Fi Rush is such a breath of fresh air and why I think people really liked it. It is a fun and polished game for a good price and dropped out of nowhere.
Do I think more AAA games will follow Hi-Fi Rush’s example? Of course not.
Do I think they should? Absolutely.
It’s astonishing what has been happening in the video game industry. I understand that development prices are going up and inflation and all that. But I doubt these revenues are going to places where it really matters, developers and talent behind the game… Now where is Chai to smash these monopolies when we really need him?
Even if the corporate apocalypse is here, at the very least I can fully recommend Hi-Fi Rush to anyone who enjoys guitar-shredding, blowing up robots and kicking evil corporate executive butt.