Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, Hi-Fi Rush is a wonderful 3D hack ’n’ slash action platform where the characters, every action and also the surrounding environment are deeply synced with beat and music.
Shinji Mikami’s software house Tango Gameworks, that gave birth to games like The Evil Within and Ghostwire: Tokyo, surprised us with a new IP extremely different from past works. A Rhythm based action game with a wonderful cartoonish style where the protagonist Chai fights against evil corporation plans. But the peculiar look of Hi-Fi Rush is that the main character and both enemies, environments and actions are bound to the beat.
Is a Star Born?
Chai, a 25 years old self proclaimed “future Rock Star” with a severe injury on his right arm, decided to enter Vandelay Campus as a volunteer in Project Armstrong, hoping to get his arm replaced with a cybernetic one and fulfill his dream.
Unfortunately Vandelay Corporation has an evil plan: its project is only a front for a mind controlling system created to enslave humanity.
During Chai’s operation something went wrong: he’s unaware that the cybernetic arm is only a garbage pick up tool and, even more important, his MP3 player accidentally merges with his body.
This event gives Chai the ability to feel the beat around him and move in sync with it. But unfortunately the corporation labeled him as a defect and start to chase for retire him.
When robot guards find him, his music player starts to play and Chai’s garbage tool starts to attract metal scraps, becoming a guitar shaped axe, ready to fight and to beat!
A Monolith of Technology
Vandelay Campus is an island where technology reached its apex and robots and aziendal drones do all the ordinary tasks.
They are not simply machines, and their behaviors are very close to humans: they can be zealous, smart, peaceful or lazy and thick headed. Anyway they are fun. There are 6 macro zones, representing the various department bosses who rule the island. All of them have a specific role in Vandelay Corporation like marketing officer, security officer, technology officer and obviously the leader.
Chai is a defect and all the robots are on him. Our hero will have to rush into all the zones, defeat the bosses and gain his freedom foiling the evil corporate masterplan.
Game Design and Mechanics
Hi-Fi Rush is an action Rhythm based game, Its level design, mechanics and progression are strongly inspired by milestones like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta or Astral Chain. Our protagonist can make and learn a good variety of combos and moves. Doing these moves synced to the beat will grant a damage bonus and fill a bar that, when at max, will grant a Special Attack. Chai can double jump, do a sprint/dodge and parry, and even these can be done in perfect timing.
Perfect timing grants you a score: bigger is the score, bigger is the valuation rank. Every fight has its valuation and at the end of the mission there will be the average final result between these.
Combat system gains more depth with another feature: you can call your fellow allies to help you in combat. You can unlock them during the story and they have peculiar abilities that can be used against specific types of enemies to break their defenses. You can even buy super tag team moves with your fellows.
An exception is 808, a robotic cat that always fights by your side giving you the opportunity to do an extra finishing attack when you complete a combo with the right timing.
Level Design and Verticality
The levels have variety and are very stimulating. We have a hub where we can manage Chai’s abilities, buy new empowerments, collectibles, buy new combos and upgrades thanks to our allies.
Levels are quite linear but have several secrets and hidden zones with bonuses and rewards. The use of camera angle is necessary to discover hidden powerups. Chai’s skills are fundamental for the platforming and for moving forward: double jumps and dashes give satisfaction, thanks to the excellent areas vertical design. Sometimes the game changes from 3D to 2D platform phases or gives us a short rhythm related QTE. This helps to give variety to levels progression.
Allies are fundamental for exploration too: they can be called to interact with the ambient and help Chai to overcome environmental obstacles. They smash walls, shot at spots and extinguish flames.
As I said the game has a great number of secrets and inaccessible areas, even in the first levels, so unlocking allies and beating the game for the first time gives you good replayability and new endgame content.
There are good ideas and a lot of humor in level design, even if in my opinion the last few start to be repetitive in some ways, especially the last one that seems to be only a rush to the final boss battle.
There are many mid-boss fights, very interesting and focused on the rhythm. Enemies attack with the beat and the strongest ones have a final phase in which you have to repeat their rhythmic sequence to parry attacks and repost with a fatal blow.
The 6 true Boss fights are great, inspired and with phases bound to Boss behavior and their role in the Corporation.
The Bosses are very charismatic, full of humor and have many original phases. Each of them has its own Gimmick Phase that gives personality and makes the fight spicy. There are even true combat phases where we had to learn the Boss moveset to get rid of the fight.
I enjoyed them and found all the Boss fights well done except the last one. In my opinion the latter has less charisma and it’s too repetitive and stereotyped. Maybe the team was in a little rush but it’s a shame that the last Boss is less characterized than his subordinates.
Despite this small flaw they did a very beautiful job!
A Coloured Cartoonish World With Great Music
Let’s be clear, Hi-Fi Rush strikes the player with its stunning graphic style, world and character design. A great and smart use of cell shading and fantastic animations that take you in the middle of the action.
A good and simple characters construction and a story that does not take itself too seriously with a well done sense of humor: over the top but not annoying.
Always on the last level the story suddenly tries to introduce a little complex and mature feelings, but too late and too weak.
It’s not a serious problem, it doesn’t ruin the narrative and, afterall, this is not so important for this kind of game.
Music is obviously wonderful. Every level, boss, cutscene moment, has its soundtrack. Music fits wonderfully with the game and is all good from the beginning to the end.
In the game we can play and fight with the music of great bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy and The Black Keys.
There’s even a streamer friendly mode if you want to stream without taking a copyright strike.
My Two Cents
Hi-Fi Rush is a bolt from the blue and strikes the players hearts with its excellent cartoonish graphic, sound, music design and an original combination of a good action combat system and rhythm game mechanics.
Despite some flaws, we can feel the love and care for details that Tango Gameworks put into the development of this game. If you love action and rhythm game mechanics you have to play it, considering its low price and its great replayability.
Hi-Fi Rush Bethesda page
- Stunning graphics and animations
- Great soundtracks
- Good combat mechanics and level design
- Narrative and design weakness especially in the last parts
- Last boss disappointing compared to the others