Hi-Fi Rush Impressions: Rock Around the Time Clock

Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks' surprise release, is a riot of rhythm and color.

Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks’ surprise release at the recent Xbox Developer Direct, is a riot of rhythm and color. Underneath the sheen, in-game voice lines and text logs paint a fuller picture: Vandelay Robotics, the less-than-OSHA-compliant robotics manufacturer at the center of this mess, is in some deep, middle-management shit. Microsoft being embroiled in merger woes and mass-layoff unrest at the time of release is purely coincidental, I’m sure.

Hi Fi Rush Impressions Image
Image via Bethesda Softworks

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Hi-Fi Rush’s loose action feels more math-rock than grindcore. Gameplay—at least in the first handful of levels—is a mixture of light platforming and exploration, punctuated with swarms of enemies and boss fights. Combat and movement are rhythm-based, but a full spectrum of difficulty options helps you play even if you’re timing-agnostic. Experimenting with buttons never feels punishing, even in failure. Generous checkpointing and mission-based structure adapt to your pace, whether score-chasing or simply vibe-shifting.

Hi fi rush chai score chasing
Image via Bethesda Softworks

The aesthetics and gameplay are thrilling, but constant corporate sniping is what keeps me moving forward. It feels uncomfortably familiar. A larger-than-life tech exec welcomes a massive wave of beta testers to bolster his ego and bottom line, safety be damned. Workers are stressed, scared, fearing they’re next in the mass layoffs. As you can expect, this sudden displacement leads to lots of unintended consequences. An automated voice recording captures 25 minutes of robots continuously sobbing. Vandelay’s automated email system logs another worker’s planned obsolescence and demise. Even the overly-familiar robotic fridge is searching for a sense of purpose that Vandelay can’t give. As the kids say, big mood.

Image via Bethesda Softworks
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Taylor Hicklen
Taylor Hicklen

Taylor is Press SPACE to Jump's community lead. He likes midrange JRPGs, fighting games, and Dicey Dungeons. Bonus points if there are good fonts.

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