When you think of Tango Gameworks, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I think the unanimous answer here would be “spooky, survival horror games,” right? I mean, the studio head is none other than Shinji Mikami himself, who is known for reinventing the survival horror genre through his contributions and vision behind the classic “Resident Evil 4” (the original, not the upcoming remake). His legacy is survival horror, so, as mentioned at the beginning, Tango Gameworks = spooky games. One thing that we must keep in mind, however, is that despite someone being the studio head, there are other key players who work within the studio who may share the vision but have a separate vision that differs. A vision that loves what it does but at the same time wants to expand its horizons and do something out of the box every once in a while. One such key player in Tango Gameworks is a man who goes by the name John Johanas, who is responsible for the brilliant DLC for the first “The Evil Within” and was the game director for “The Evil Within 2,” a review for which is up on our site for you to check out.
While the team was hard at work on “Ghostwire: Tokyo,” and all the efforts and marketing were in line to push the game out the door, Tango was secretly working on another project behind closed doors. A project that is the exact opposite of the kind of games we expect from them and a project that, until it was announced, didn’t get leaked (it did, but the leak got everything wrong other than the name). During the recent Xbox Developer Direct show, Shinji Mikami and John Johanas took to the stage and announced the project they were secretly working on. “Hi-Fi Rush.” What is “Hi-Fi Rush ”? A rhythm action game with a visual style that can only be defined as anime meets comic books and somehow is a blend of 2D art style, which is 3D in nature. The long and short of it is that the game looks stunning and takes heavy inspiration from the games of old to deliver a modern experience while reminding us of the good old days. The craziest part is that the game was announced and shadow-dropped onto Game Pass and the Xbox Store right as the show ended. This is a big deal because we don’t see games doing that these days—another page they tore from retro games, it seems. Let’s take a quick look at “Hi-Fi Rush” and see what makes it worth playing.
‘Hi-Fi Rush’ Premise
I’ll keep this part short, as it is endearing, to say the least. “Hi-Fi Rush” gives you the charge of Chai, a wannabe rockstar who was experimented on by a corporation, leaving him with a metal arm and a music player inside his chest (literally). As Chai leaves the facility, he realizes that he can sense and feel the beat in everything, and I mean everything, which gives his rockstar persona an even bigger edge as he ventures on a mission to fight back against the megacorp and cement his legacy as a rockstar. Along the way, he fights a ton of robots and comes across allies who aid him throughout his journey. One such ally is a cyborg cat called 808, who becomes his most trusted companion and, need I say, is just adorable. The story does not take itself seriously at all, and there is tons of humor here, which may or may not land with you. I loved it. The story of the game is surprisingly full of charm and worth seeing through to the end if you ask me, and while some may find it cringy, I swear the execution here is on point when you look at the tone and vibe they were going for. It’s short (not super short, but decent in length) and sweet and offers good stuff across the board.
‘Hi-Fi Rush’ Gameplay
Onto the gameplay, and it’s really hard to explain, but I’ll do my best while keeping it short. This game is a rhythm game, which I know will immediately turn a lot of people away from it but hear me out. It’s not just a rhythm game; it’s an action game at that. Think more along the lines of if “Devil May Cry” were a rhythm game, or how “BPM” and “Metal: Hellsinger” (two completely different games I know) is the rhythm version of “DOOM” pretty much. Everything in this game syncs to the beat, from the movement to the combat, which is just plain awesome. I ain’t a fan of rhythm games either, but this game makes me groove and is extremely enjoyable and forgiving. A clever move that the developers made was not to punish you if you don’t follow the beat or are unable to. What they did is that the game will reward you if you are successful in keeping up the rhythm and not chastise you for being unable to follow, which is a very good way of introducing someone to a genre, don’t you think?
The combat is fun and flashy, with tons of attacks at your disposal, which, it goes without saying at this point, do additional damage and add more flair if you sync them up with the beat. You learn new abilities as you go, with even flashier moves and ultimate attacks. The combat system also comes with its own style meter, just like “DMC,” which goes all the way up to S rank for each encounter and incentivizes you to do better. There is a skill ceiling here and a learning curve as well, but the game does such a fantastic job of pushing you towards understanding it and doing better with the help of visual aides and making you understand how rhythm games work that I can’t help but smile at the efforts the devs put into it.
As you make more allies along your journey, they will join you in combat and help you out as well; all the while, the difficulty of the game stays balanced throughout, with no sudden spikes or curve balls being thrown your way. The enemy variety is also quite nice, with standard units, minibosses, and incredibly flashy boss fights. So long as you can dodge, counter, parry, and attack (if you do that to the beat, then even better), you’ll have a blast blowing through its linear levels and will be hungry for more once the credits start rolling.
One more thing to mention is how the game keeps pace with its retro style in the gameplay department as well, with health pickups, currency that’s just lying around, how most upgrades are gradually unlocked as you progress, how you have to find multiple items by exploring the environments to increase your health bar, and so on. Fantastic gameplay loop, which is executed with nothing short of expertise.
There are loads more to the gameplay systems of this game, and I am not just saying that to say it; there truly is a lot to uncover and discover, but just like the story, I leave that for you to follow through on.
The Technical Stuff
I have always loved the games Tango Gameworks produces, but I must say, they are janky at times, a Bethesda signature may be, so the fact that “Hi-Fi Rush” looks awesome and performs so well consistently is just fantastic news. The game runs at 4K resolution and at a rock-solid 60 fps on Xbox One X, all the while also supporting Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio. The art style is a treat for your eyes, and the game is just so vibrant and pops not only with colors but also charm. It’s a rhythm game, so you can bet that the music and sound design are just plain fantastic, and the voice acting is top-of-the-line as well. As I said in the beginning, this game is charming as all hell, and that charm is carried over to every aspect of the game, including the technical side of things. To say it in layman’s terms, it’s an absolutely solid package across the board.
There’s something to be said about games like these, and they’ve been sorely missed, so it’s fantastic to see these kinds of AA games that take risks and don’t try to reinvent themselves but deliver something masterfully, come back. This review could have been a lot longer, and I might even criticize some of the aspects by putting them under a microscope, but can we just simply be happy for a sudden release that no one expected and enjoy its success? It didn’t build any hype; it’s available to download on Game Pass and is a must-play. Period.
I said this before in my article that gave you guys a recap of the Developer Direct show: this is what I like about Game Pass and the opportunities it gives developers and the risks that Microsoft can take with a service like this. Obsidian gave us “Grounded” and “Pentiment,” and now Tango has given us “Hi-Fi Rush.” Games that these studios won’t dare dream and make if it all were for maintaining financial gains. They try something new, unique, and out of the box and put it on Game Pass for people to just dive into, and just like that, the possibility of something non-mainstream being successful is born. I would love to see other studios under Xbox work on crazy projects like these as well, and I know for certain that a few of them definitely have something cooking for us. With so many studios and endless possibilities, all combined with Microsoft’s support and the rapid growth and success of these hits, there’s absolutely no reason not to try.
Either way, “Hi-Fi Rush” is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that I purposefully chose not to speak much about. This game came out of nowhere and had no reason to be this good, and yet, the hard work, passion, love, and masterful craftsmanship the developers put into it speak volumes. Just go ahead and play this game if you are on Xbox, especially if you are on Game Pass, and whether you are a fan of rhythm games or not. I promise the cynic inside you will suppress and just simply enjoy and groove with the beat. Major kudos to John Hannah, his team, and Xbox. More of this, please!
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