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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Game On: Hi-Fi Rush’s frenetic fun solidifies the value of surprise game launches

Hi-Fi Rush was announced and released on Jan. 25 for Windows PC and Xbox Series X|S.  (Bethesda Softworks)
Hi-Fi Rush was announced and released on Jan. 25 for Windows PC and Xbox Series X|S. (Bethesda Softworks)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

With so many big-budget video games getting teasers, trailers and a string of delays before finally hitting shelves, it’s a welcome surprise when one comes out on schedule. Hi-Fi Rush shocked everyone when it was simultaneously announced and released on Jan. 25. Thankfully, the game is a pleasant surprise in more ways than one.

A “rhythm-based action game,” Hi-Fi Rush takes the addictive combo-oriented fighting and platforming of the old God of War games and gives it a vibrant, cartoony coat of paint with graphics akin to cel-shaded titles like Jet Set Radio or The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker. Utilizing a catchy, punchy soundtrack including tunes from The Black Keys and Nine Inch Nails, hitting enemies in time with the beat deals bonus damage.

The protagonist Chai is a self-proclaimed “future rockstar” with no real clout or musical prowess. The story kicks off when he gets help with his bum arm in the form of a robotic prosthetic, given to him free of charge by a powerful corporation whose policy is to “recall” – murder – anyone whose prosthetic turns out to be defective. The power supply for Chai’s robotic limb accidentally fuses with his MP3 player, so soon enough he’s public enemy number one to the corporation’s vast hordes of deadly robots.

Hi-Fi Rush leans into old tropes just as much as it paves new ground. Main characters Chai, Peppermint and 808 fulfill the tried-and-true roles of undeservedly cocky hero, hacker assistant and animal companion, respectively – nothing new there. On the flip side, combining a tale about toppling a dystopian, self-governed corporation with a vibrant, eye-poppingly gorgeous setting is a fresh take. Hi-Fi Rush is an audio-visual treat.

I’ve known plenty of games to emphasize the presentation so much that they seemingly forget the gameplay itself. Not the case here – I’m not a big fan of the 3D beat’em up genre, but Hi-Fi Rush feels great to play. Memorizing combos is nice, but not overly important – you can button mash your way through the game if you’d prefer.

Combined with some mildly challenging platforming segments, Hi-Fi Rush is a pretty straightforward venture, but added elements of exploration and the high skill ceiling of chaining combos together makes the game more replayable than its contemporaries. Considering how pricey video games can be at launch, high replay value is a must in my book.

The game’s story is filled to the brim with anti-corporate sentiment. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but it also doesn’t pretend to be – nothing about Hi-Fi Rush’s presentation feels conceited or self-congratulatory. Hi-Fi Rush makes no effort to be avant-garde – it’s just goofy fun tied together in a neat little package.

Aside from the main storyline, the game is full of little diversions like challenges, upgrades and a comprehensive practice mode. Such features seem small, but do a lot to bolster the games’ longevity and overall quality. That quality is no surprise considering the development team responsible – Tango Gameworks, best-known for The Evil Within. Between the happy-go-lucky Hi-Fi Rush and genuinely-terrifying The Evil Within, they’ve proven themselves to be a versatile game studio.

Bethesda Softworks made the right call releasing this game without any pre-release promotions. Surprise launches are rare in the gaming industry, but in 2019 Apex Legends proved how well they can work, allowing a game to make a splash even amidst a crowded market. Hot off the heels of the underwhelming AAA title Forspoken, I think gamers were ready for an easily-digestible game like Hi-Fi Rush.

The game is earning solid reviews – as of writing, it holds an 89/100 on Metacritic with zero mixed or negative reviews. Hi-Fi Rush isn’t a title that’ll blow your mind, but it does well at what it aims to while introducing a handful of innovative concepts, most notably the rhythm-based combo system. It’s just a stylish, fun adventure – nothing more, nothing less.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at

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