Grab your nearest guitar and plug in for a rush of rhythm in our Hi-Fi RUSH review!
Music is in everything – it’s the beating heart of all of our lives, whether you notice or not. It’s there the moment you start up your car, it’s assaulting your eardrums during late nights parties and gigs, or if you’re talented and creative enough, maybe you’re the one responsible for making it. For as long we’ve been able to carry a beat, music has been carrying our melodies and stories. And in videogames? You bet there’s a tonne of music. In fact, it’s my favourite part of most games.
So what about a game where absolutely everything revolved around music? An experience where rhythm was the central pillar around which the rest of the game was built? Well, the creative masterminds at Tango Gameworks, the team behind Ghostwire Tokyo, have used every bone in their musical body to create Hi-Fi RUSH, surprisingly announced and launched on the same day for Xbox Series S|X and PC. Oozing with vibrant ’90s charm and unabridged rockstar energy, this vibrant and rhythmic beat ’em up will not only have you tapping your foot along to the beat, but head-banging and drumming along on your controller during every single fight.
So crank the volume, hit the lights, and press play on our Hi-Fi RUSH review! 🤘
Hi-Fi RUSH Review – Story
Have you ever dreamed of becoming a rockstar? To hear crowds chanting your name and hanging on your every beat? Being able to harness the charisma of filling stadiums using only your voice and a shredding guitar? That’s all Chai has ever hoped for – the protagonist of Hi-Fi RUSH and a young man with big dreams. And there’s one place he’ll be able to fulfil that dream: Vandelay Technologies.
Vandelay Technologies – eutopia or dystopia?
Amidst a sprawling and technologically-advanced metropolis, Vandelay Technologies offers its citizens the chance to become part of their latest robotic study, Project Armstrong. By fusing human candidates with the power of machines and replacing their body parts with cybernetic enhancements, Vandelay and its CEO, Kale Vandelay, aim to make society a better place. Or do they…
Zooming in with the head honchos of Vandelay.
With nothing to lose and only (possible) rockstar power to gain, Chai volunteers his own body to Project Armstrong. But as the machine shuts closed and the operation begins, Chai’s music player accidentally falls into the device, landing on his chest. Stepping out of the machine, it just so happens Chai has become a literal walking iPod! But rather than playing music, he senses music in everything around him, causing literally everything in life to move perfectly to the beat.
Nothing beats musical superpowers.
Labelled as a defect, Vandelay dispatch their security to destroy Chai, who has been forbidden from escaping their facility. Taking advantage of his newfound musical powers, Chai makes a daring escape, and by chance encounters a talking cat named 808, befriends an ally on a quest for revenge, and forms an entire team whose only goal is to take down Vandelay and put an end to their secret project, SPECTRA.
Chai and the gang certainly are an off-beat, dysfunctional crew.
This musical adventure is quite literally a wild ride featuring a team of downtrodden losers, all desperate to avoid becoming squished under Vandelay’s corporate boot. It’s hilarious, heart-warming, high-intensity, and wholesome. Don’t go in expecting any intricate details or Souls-level lore. No, this is simply just a fun and fast-paced narrative that perfectly keeps in time with its rhythmic gameplay.
Hi-Fi RUSH Review – Gameplay
It’s a platformer, a side-scroller, and also a beat ’em up. But at its core, Hi-Fi RUSH is a rhythm game. This becomes a wonderful amalgam of genres, all of which centre around the mechanic of rhythm. Literally every aspect of the game bounces playfully to the beat, encouraging the player to feel the rhythm and play along.
Set across 12 individual “tracks”, these levels are divided into unique areas focused on each of Vandelay’s villains, each with distinct challenges, enemies, and compelling areas to explore. Every level offers a variety of platforming segments that smoothly transition between side-scrolling and 3D, frantic rhythm-fuelled fights, all topped off with high-intensity boss fights that’ll get your adrenaline flowing. But how exactly does music tie into all of this?
Who would want to play rhythm games, right?
Everything Chai sees, hears, or does is performed to the beat, all thanks to his new mechanical arm and the music player embedded in his chest. As you delve into each environment, you’ll be treated to an endless amount of audio and visual cues, encouraging you to sync your actions to the rhythm. Whether you’re jumping between platforms, dashing between obstacles, or smacking enemies with your Flying-V, everything is satisfyingly performed to the beat.
Being able to time your button presses correctly is essential, as feeling the music will guide you through most of the game. Platforms will appear and disappear to the beat, obstacles must be shot or smashed in-time, and enemies will launch repeated barrages of attacks that can be blocked or parried like a rhythm game. And as every area of the game features a new track, either original or licenced, you’ll find yourself having to regularly adjust the timing of your actions.
How do the lava plumes know only to appear in time with a 4/4 beat?
As you progress through the game, Chai will recruit allies to help traverse the environments, smash down walls, or open up previously inaccessible locations. And you guessed it, all of this has to be done in time with the music. Admittedly, all of the game’s levels are simple with typical linear progression and hidden collectibles, which would otherwise be bland if not spiced up with musical elements.
But the real highlight of Hi-Fi is in its brilliant, beat-’em-up-to-the-beat combat. Demolishing enemies in time with blasting rock and pounding bass has never been so satisfying. Light attacks require one beat, while heavy attacks require two, and chaining these together with metronomic precision will build up your special attack gauge. Timed dashes, parries, and ranged attacks keep Hi-Fi RUSH’s combat flowing through each track, all topped off with impressive and decimating special attacks.
Attacks are charged and released in time with the beat for maximum impact.
And to top off each track, you’ll be treated to some jaw-dropping boss fights. Once you’re accustomed to the flow of the music in each area, the game has you face off against each of Vandelay’s five bosses. These intense, over-the-top encounters are as entertaining as they are visually stunning. Every boss is a huge set piece that bounds to the beat of the music, often featuring popular licenced tracks that you won’t be able to resist bopping along to.
Without music, Hi-Fi RUSH may have ended up as a flat, uninspired beat ’em up platformer. But it’s through music that Hi-Fi RUSH truly comes alive. This is gameplay that will overjoy fans of rhythm games, with adjustable difficulty that makes it still approachable and accessible for fans who want to dip their toes into the genre.
Hi-Fi RUSH Review – Audio
There’s no doubt that the entirety of Hi-Fi RUSH relies heavily upon its audio. You’ll be treated to an impressive list of over 40 original and licenced tracks from both Tango’s in-house composers through to ’90s/’00s essential like The Black Keys, Nine Inch Nails, and The Prodigy. I won’t spoil the licenced tracks, but here’s a couple brilliant original songs composed exclusively for Hi-Fi RUSH:
Jazzy Persona 5 vibes makes “Through the Halls of History” my favourite track in the game.
Channeling The Black Keys’ style, “The Beacon” was composed specifically for streaming the game.
From its clever environmental cues, pumping rock soundtrack, and even its solid casting of English and Japanese voice actors, everything here is gold standard audio goodness. Interestingly, the game also features a “Streamer Mode”, which swaps out its licenced tracks for original songs that are safe to stream without any risk of being flagged. Like “The Beacon” above, these songs are brilliant and sound as if they’ve been lifted from a legitimate ’90s rock album! It’s obvious how much passion and effort has gone into the music of Hi-Fi RUSH. And if you’re wanting to get the most out of it, be sure to wear a pair of quality headphones for the best possible experience.
Hi-Fi RUSH Review – Visuals
A game that sounds as good as this surely needs the visuals to match. And in case you’ve not noticed already, Hi-Fi RUSH features an art-style as loud and as vibrant as its soundtrack. With heavily-stylised cartoon visuals, thick line art, and saturated colours that pop through every environment, Hi-Fi RUSH ensures that Chai is able to bring a colourful performance in full force. Just take a look!
There’s one aspect of Hi-Fi RUSH’s visuals that deserves massive praise: its cutscenes. We haven’t included any in this review simply because they need to be experienced while playing the game. The fact that the game can smoothly transition from in-game visuals to pre-rendered 3D cutscenes, swap to 2D cartoon action sequences and into comic book-style, quickly revert back to 3D and then flow into combat all within less than a minute is incredible. Its dynamic action sequences like this that really are a visual delight.
And if you’re playing on PC, you’ll be happy to know that the game appears to be incredibly well-optimised. Our review was played on gaming laptop equipped with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070 and was able to consistently achieve >60fps with high graphical settings, even on 4K resolution (though I probably could have cooked an egg on my laptop while it was playing). With minimum GPU requirements going as low as a GTX 1050, there’s a fair chance most PCs won’t struggle to play Hi-Fi RUSH.
What else is in Hi-Fi RUSH?
Although there are only 12 levels and the game can be easily completed in just over 10 hours, there’s still plenty more to enjoy once you’ve dethroned the bosses at Vandelay Technologies. Every level is scattered with collectibles, challenges, and bonus levels that are only unlocked once completing the game. This has been catered specifically towards completionists who want the most bang for their buck.
Think you’re done with Hi-Fi RUSH? Don’t leave before the encore.
If you’re feeling particularly confident, the game also offers a more challenging Rhythm Master mode, where players will immediately fail if they drop the beat. There’s also the endless Rhythm Tower mode, a time attack where you’ll be awarded additional time based on your performance in battle, the Wall of Fame with a tonne of unlockable achievements, costumes to be purchased, and even a secret final boss.
From the moment the game opens with The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy“, to smashing bosses with a guitar while Beethoven’s 5th Symphony blares, Hi-Fi RUSH is musical headliner packed with melodic mayhem. Its platforming and combat are enhanced every step of the way through clever incorporation of its soundtrack, offering an approachable blend of classic beat ’em up gameplay mashed together with rhythmic elements. With a colourful performance from its charming characters, and an even more vibrant visual style, Hi-Fi RUSH is a videogame treat that doesn’t miss a beat.
So, why should you play Hi-Fi RUSH?
- You’re a fan of clever and approachable rhythm gameplay
- Love games with stunning and heavily stylised visuals
- Killer soundtrack with banging licenced tunes
- High-intensity boss fights and massive action sequences
- Plenty of post-game content to keep you playing
But why shouldn’t you play Hi-Fi RUSH?
- You’re lacking even a single rhythmic bone in your body
- Don’t own a PC or Xbox? Sadly there’s no other way to play
A review copy on PC was kindly provided by Bethesda Australia for the purpose of our Hi-Fi RUSH review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our reviews and join the conversation over on the Official Qualbert.com Discord server!