Yesterday’s Xbox Developer Direct presentation was a little bit of a staid affair. Another Minecraft spinoff, one other Forza, one other Elder Scrolls Online growth, and one other preview for vampire shooter Redfall. But there was one standout. Hi-Fi Rush is a pop-rock breath of contemporary air, a rhythm-based beat-em-up with all the colour and angle of a post-Pokemon child’s anime. And you possibly can play it…proper now, on PC and Xbox. And it’s launching immediately on Xbox Game Pass. Huh.
Hi-Fi Rush comes from Tango Gameworks, a Japanese studio finest identified for The Evil Within and Ghotswire: Tokyo. The studio’s horror pedigree is deep, with Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami serving as studio founder and, sure, producer for this sport. But for those who’re anticipating something darkish or horrifying from Hi-Fi Rush, you’re in for one thing way more surprising than a zombie hiding in a locker. It’s is a frenetic beat-em-up in each sense of the phrase, the place you smash cel-shaded robots and bounce round a cartoon world to the rhythm of an influence rock soundtrack.
A beat-em-up in each sense
You play Chai, a protagonist who fell proper out of a 2000s-era Fox Kids present. This aspiring rockstar has had his arm changed with a cybernetic trash collector after volunteering for experimental surgical procedure at a type of large, cartoonishly evil corporations that appear to populate the Borderlands universe. When the surgical procedure additionally implants his off-brand iPad into his chest, Chai features the ability to see the heart beat of the world round him, wield a Flying V made out of trash a la Quick-Draw McGraw, and energy up his assaults by smashing on the beat.
Hi-Fi Rush alternates between primary platforming sections, populated with a bunch of shifting platforms and predictably breakable crates, and boxed-off fight arenas crammed with robots so that you can musically pummel. The latter is the place the gameplay shines, supplying you with a wide array of instruments to wreak rhythmic destruction. You can button-mash all you need, however Chai will solely truly strike his foes on the beat: both one beat for the sunshine assault or two for the heavy. You can transfer, soar, sprint, and grapple to your enemies with a bit of extra freedom, however the assault restriction implies that many of the gameplay is locked into the beat of the background music. You’ll acquire factors by hanging in time, however received’t lose something for those who miss it — you’ll simply do much less harm and acquire fewer model factors than you may need.
It’s a fight system that’s each trendy and forgiving, a minimum of on the default issue degree. It’s exhausting to mess issues up too badly even within the over-the-top boss fights. That’s very true when you unlock combo assaults along with your Scooby gang of help characters, who can break via shields or soften up impenetrable armor when quickly summoned. Super assaults and combos make the display screen burst into much more vibrant life — and justify the sport’s seizure warning.
Platforming sections sluggish to a crawl
If solely the fundamental enemies had as a lot selection as your arsenal of assaults. In the primary three or 4 hours of gameplay, I solely fought remixed robots in closed-off packing containers, with no environmental hazards or area variation. The bosses provide a little bit of a change of tempo (actually, since they get remixed variations of licensed songs from bands like Nine Inch Nails and The Black Keys), but in addition show a miserable lack of creativeness. The first massive boss is — cease me for those who’ve heard this one earlier than — an enormous robotic that smashes you with its fists, at which level it exhibits a weak level so that you can wail on.
The platforming sections in between fight are likewise uninspired. You’ll bounce and zip round a 3D world that appears beautiful, however performs like a licensed Pixar sport from the PlayStation 2. Every new capability unlock successfully boils right down to “press button to continue,” and the leaping physics (which propels you ahead at a strolling tempo and never a bit quicker) make precise traversal a chore.
What’s the distinction? Presentation!
That may sound like I’m not having enjoyable with Hi-Fi Rush. But I’m. Despite the simple fight and the iffy platforming, the sport is simply bursting with a lot persona and prrrrrrrresentation that I can’t assist however smile whereas enjoying it. The major colours of the characters and environments consistently punch your eyeballs in a refreshing change from the cyan-and-pink shade pallet indie gaming appears to have been caught on for the previous few years. It’s enabled and artfully enhanced by cel-shading that makes the entire sport appear to be a cartoon.
And the animation. Good grief. Absolutely the whole lot in Hi-Fi Rush bounces to the beat of the music, from the enemies to the backgrounds to Chai and his robotic cat-slash-Bluetooth speaker. It has that very same sort of visible heartbeat as Cuphead, however with design from a contemporary cartoon as a substitute of a hundred-year-old Fleischer quick. He stomps his trainers to the beat whereas operating across the environments, and faucets and snaps his fingers (with an Adam West Batman-style “SNAP” onomatopoeia showing) even whereas at relaxation.
The visuals and music mix for a pop-punk feeling of pleasure that’s inconceivable to disclaim, even when the gameplay itself isn’t progressive. If you don’t end up bobbing your head in time to the music after a degree or two, you may need to look out for Old Man Trouble. The quippy dialogue can be a bit flat — once more, like Borderlands with out the swearing — however the voice appearing is competent sufficient that it doesn’t get grating.
Thank goodness it’s on Game Pass
Hi-Fi Rush is $30 on Steam and the Epic Games Store. And based mostly on the primary three hours, I’d hesitate to suggest it at that worth, except you’re a giant fan of both child’s anime or rhythm video games. But writer Bethesda is now firmly in Microsoft’s household (a minimum of if the courts don’t force a breakup), so the sport has immediately landed on Xbox Game Pass. As a freebie for subscribers, or perhaps a cause to spend $10-15 on a one-month ticket to the library, it’s greater than justified.
I also needs to level out that the sport runs nice, way more so than you may anticipate from a title that launches on PC and Xbox on the identical time. It animates easy as butter on my RTX 3070 desktop, and helps my ultrawide monitor’s 21:9 decision with out grievance. After enjoying a number of iffy cross-platform releases — you, Elden Ring — it’s a pleasant change of tempo.
Hi-Fi Rush may not be breaking new floor in any space, however its presentation and persona are so interesting that I discover it exhausting to care. Give it a strive you probably have Game Pass, or bookmark it for the subsequent time you re-up your subscription.