If you’re anything like me, then you’ll probably be having a blast playing Xbox and Tango Gamework’s latest title Hi-Fi Rush, which stormed onto the stage and stole our hearts after its surprise shadow drop during the recent Xbox and Bethesda Developer Direct. But what makes it so fun, and how has it managed to reinvigorate a genre largely untouched since the days of the Dreamcast?

Hi-Fi Rush feels like a game pulled out of a time machine from the year 2000, and I say that not because it feels dated, but rather familiar. As the Gamecube, Xbox, Dreamcast and PS2 were chugging along, we ended up with games like Jet Set Radio/Future, Viewtiful Joe, and Devil May Cry; games that are instantly recognizable today due to their striking art style, high-speed action, and killer soundtracks. Hi-Fi Rush manages to tap into all three of these traits to deliver something truly remarkable while scratching a nostalgic itch I never knew I had. Shadow dropping such a unique title was a possibility I had never even considered as the marketing cycle has become such an important part of new releases, but Microsoft and Bethesda defied the norm, handing us the keys as soon as they showed us the door.

A feast for the eyes

Credit – Bethesda

The first thing you will notice when beginning Hi-Fi Rush is the striking art style bursting with color. At a time when many developers are pushing the limits of what is possible in visual fidelity, blurring the lines between reality and a game, it is refreshing to see a visual style so unique and full of charm that it stands out among the typical AAA releases, one again asserting that art direction is just as important as graphical prowess.

Not a single level feels alike as each is themed around one of the six bosses running Vandelay, giving them all a unique and creative vibe that fits with each of their personalities. The cell-shaded visuals really help with this as the bright colors combined with the black border makes for some very appealing character models and environments. But even outside of the gameplay, the animated storyboards and cutscenes are simply fantastic, with extremely smooth transitions between the two that help to hide the moment it stops being playable and starts being something akin to a Saturday morning cartoon. If it’s visuals you are after, Hi-Fi Rush does not disappoint.

Moving to the beat

Hi-Fi Rush, Xbox, Chai
Credit – Bethesda

While there is certainly a market for realism in the industry, there is also a market for FUN! And Hi-Fi Rush is very little of the former, but a lot of the latter. Rhythm games are nothing new, with titles like Crypt of the Necrodancer and Metal Hellsinger filling the rather niche space comfortably. But where Hi-Fi Rush succeeds is expanding that genre outwards to reach a broader audience. Typically, titles that rely on following a beat often come with high skill ceilings that punish you for not staying in rhythm, but Tango Gameworks understands that fun comes first by sacrificing this formula in exchange for Bayonetta styled combat that rewards you for keeping in time to the music, but ultimately forgives you when you miss a beat. By making the title accessible to players of different skill levels, there is a game here for the casual audience not looking for a huge challenge, but also a lot for the pros with its combat ranking system and meter.

Unleashing devastating combos couldn’t be more satisfying as you smack your way through an army of metal, with huge colorful waves splashing across the arenas like paint when your attacks land. And when combined with new mechanics being added like parrying, it can make for some hectic yet rewardingly skillful encounters. Tango Gameworks managed to strike the balance between control and challenge perfectly so that each fight not only feels fun to fight through, but also extremely satisfying to succeed when Hi-Fi Rush tests everything it has taught you.

Even outside of the combat, Hi-Fi Rush manages to remain engaging and enjoyable throughout as you platform across huge vistas while machinery and obstacles bounce along to the soundtrack. And combining all this with a feel-good story reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, I never stopped having a huge smile on my face as I made my way through.

Music matters

Hi-Fi Rush, Xbox, Gamepass, Chai
Credit – Bethesda

In a title so based around keeping in time to the beat, the musical choice is massively important. Thankfully, Bethesda pulled through with a variety of popular and catchy songs from well-known bands like Nine Inch Nails and The Black Keys. Not only are there some great licensed tracks, but also some very well-made original music produced by Tango accompanying you throughout combat and levels. Hi-Fi Rush also contains a streamer mode, protecting you from copyright strikes by replacing all licensed songs in boss fights with original music – which also happens to be very good! This original music is also arguably easier to keep to the beat, meaning you aren’t at an inherent disadvantage by turning on streamer mode, though you will obviously miss out on the experience of fighting a huge mech to the tune of 1,000,000 which is certainly not something that happens everyday.

Tango Gameworks put just as much attention into the music as they did with the design and visuals of the levels, synchronizing the two so that each musical theme feels in line with what you’re seeing and playing through. Stages based around a concert have a pop-star rhythm accompanying the flashy and dazzling visuals, while those set in an industrial environment sport a machine-like soundtrack. Nothing feels out of place and every track choice feels purposeful.

A fun future awaits

Hi-Fi Rush, Xbox, Chai, Gamepass
Credit – Bethesda

Hi-Fi Rush feels like a breath of fresh air not just in the industry as a whole, but also for Xbox. It takes my mind back to the franchises of the early 2000s that I wish were still around today, and Hi-Fi Rush feels like a love letter sent through time, reminding me of what we once had. I sincerely hope it is the rebirth of a genre that prioritizes fun beyond anything else, and reminds us that realism isn’t always what it’s made out to be. And for Microsoft, it’s undoubtedly one of their most important releases in a very long time. Xbox has struggled to prove they are more than just Halo, Forza and Gears for a while, partly because the only two AAA titles they have released this generation are Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, and many of their smaller titles like Pentiment and As Dusk Falls are fantastic, but are ultimately very small in scope and audience. But Hi-Fi Rush is large enough to market itself, shocked the gaming scene with its surprise shadow drop, is unlike anything Xbox has released since Sunset Overdrive, and is something everyone can enjoy.

For those who have been searching for a reason to own a Xbox Series X|S, Hi-Fi Rush on its own may not be enough of a reason to convince you to buy either… but it feels like the start of one. If Microsoft is able to release such a beautiful, catchy, smooth, and fun game on a random Wednesday afternoon, who knows what else they have up their sleeve?? And if they are able to drop such titles on a consistent basis that speak to those who do not own an Xbox, going green this generation might become a no-brainer.

Hi-Fi Rush is available now on PC, Xbox Series X|S, and Gamepass

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