Hi-Fi Rush is superb. Announced during Microsoft’s Developer_Direct showcase last week and released immediately after, the game is a wildly creative effort by developer Tango Gameworks. There are elements of action, platforming, rhythm, and side-scrolling gameplay, all held together by an incredible sense of style and bold visual choices.
It’s a wild and brave game that succeeds on just about every level – and it’s a stunning visual treat too. It’s also Microsoft’s first major title in over a year, ending a prolonged drought for exclusive Xbox software. Today we’re going to take a look at Hi-Fi Rush’s bold flair and fast-paced brawling action, and try to get a feel for what makes this game tick.
Let’s explain how the game works, before getting into the technical nuance. It’s truly a thrill ride from the start, an addictive character action game where you dodge, attack, parry, jump, grab and unleash a host of special abilities, all beautifully animated and super responsive action. At its core, it’s not that different from something like Devil May Cry, but the key is that most actions in the game work best when timed to match the background rhythm. For example, attacks get a bonus when performed in rhythm, which is conveyed through idle animations, game environment and UI as well as music. Likewise, enemy movements correspond to musical moments, helping you anticipate their actions. The system never feels overwhelming and quickly becomes natural.
Here’s the full Hi-Fi Rush video review – and given how important the game’s animation is to its charm, it’s worth watching if you can.
Hi-Fi Rush also looks special. It essentially mimics the look of flat 2D animation in 3D game content, featuring cel-shaded characters with bold, uneven outlines and dramatic, color-rich designs reminiscent of TV cartoons. Animation is key too, with character movements updated to 15 frames per second to give the movement a staccato, hand-drawn quality. For production reasons, key animations in 2D TV are often animated “in pairs”, or between 12 fps and 15 fps, so this turns out to be a great match. In gameplay however, the animation is at full throttle to aid playability.
There’s a sort of animated expressiveness to the way the characters move that I love; everything seems based on a set of dramatic key poses, just like traditional 2D, which keeps the game in line with animation conventions. The only real giveaway during the cutscenes is that the characters maintain correct perspective detail and proportions, which wouldn’t be typical of hand-animated 2D. The camera animation is also updated at full throttle, which tends to look good, for example during scene pans, but can feel a little distracting in the few moments with spinning camera movement.
None of this would work well with a traditional material pipeline and lighting model, so Hi-Fi Rush universally uses cel-shading. Black-outlined characters are usually lit with just two lighting strips, while environments have a bit more variability. Generally, however, texture detail is kept to a bare minimum. This makes Hi-Fi Rush distinct from most other cel-shaded games, as titles like Breath of the Wild, Persona 5, and even Jet Set Radio still use more realistic rendering for environments and background details. .
Environments have a unique flair, ranging from more basic industrial themed areas to amazing settings towards the start and end of the game.
The environments in general feature some of the most inspired art choices in the game. Real-time lighting details are masked in halftone comic book-style patterns, which are prominently seen in the bloom and reflections of the game. screen space. Ambient occlusion is rendered as hatched patterns. Real-time shadows have a rounded “gloopy” look and feature animated transitions between different cascading levels of shadows. The contour shader is also active throughout the environmental geometry, producing nice thick black silhouettes. Backgrounds are often depicted with bold 2D art instead of geometry. And there are so many ambient animations that vibrate through the zones at all times, again all in sync with the beat.
Hi-Fi Rush has fairly simple model detail and complexity in these environments to keep them cohesive and easily navigable, but it fits in well with the style of the game. My only complaint here is that most levels have some sort of industrial in character and blend together a bit – particularly in the middle half of the game, despite some more evocative levels at the start and end.
If any of Hi-Fi Rush’s visual elements weren’t working, the game’s entire aesthetic would be fundamentally compromised. It’s not like a typical 3D game where you can rely on complex lighting and a richly detailed world to overcome artistic inconsistencies. Tango Gameworks made a lot of bold choices in the base construction of this title – and their bravery was rewarded with an absolutely stunning game.
Series S looks a bit softer, but Hi-Fi Rush is still one of the sharpest current-gen games on the platform.
All the neat visual design in the world wouldn’t make the game look hand-drawn if Hi-Fi Rush looked like a jagged mess, and here the game impresses as well. Image quality is basically flawless on the Series X, with a super sharp and super clean 4K presentation, while the Series S looks smoother but still excellent at static 1440p. That’s pretty much the best-case scenario for a console release, and it’s reflected in stronger-than-usual image quality on both machines. There are some subtle tweaks on the Series S too, with less shadow quality at distance and lower foliage density, but other visual settings seem closely related.
Both consoles target 60fps and achieve it consistently, with no frame rate drops on the Series X and only an occasional 16.7ms drop on the Series S that most gamers are unlikely to notice. . Combined with the game’s subtle but high-quality motion blur, it’s very smooth and responsive on both machines.
The game also runs brilliantly on PC, avoiding the epidemic of shader compilation stutter that has plagued many recent versions of Unreal Engine 4 through the use of a boot-time precompilation step that seems to work well. We only spotted one potential stutter in the first 30 minutes when running on a Core i9 12900K and RTX 4090 system, and it wasn’t particularly bad at 50ms.
PC also has the potential to dramatically improve image quality over consoles, with options for Unreal’s Super Temporal Resolution, XeSS, DLSS and FSR 1. All Temporal Upsampling options are capable of building more image detail than default TAA at native resolution, but XeSS and DLSS also have less deocclusion issues than TAA. Other PC staples such as ultrawide support and running at unlocked frame rates are supported, although there are no field of view adjustments at this time. The game seems to run well, and hitting a steady 60 or 120 fps should be possible on many machines given the wealth of scaling options and generally reasonable system requirements.
With TSR, XeSS, DLSS and FSR 1 there are many image reconstruction algorithms offered, all of which do a decent job – with DLSS and XeSS perhaps in the foreground.
I could spend all day discussing Hi-Fi Rush – it’s so good. The game oozes style and was clearly created with impeccable craftsmanship and attention to detail. Its moderate runtime, about 11 hours for me, is packed full of high-quality cutscenes, bespoke gameplay segments, comic book-level transition sequences, and appropriately animated 2D cutscenes that pay homage to Hi’s inspirations. -Fi Rush. I can’t think of any other recent title that nails 2D animation as well. It particularly impresses because it’s a fully 3D title in both gameplay and graphics, so it can’t rely on a fixed-perspective camera setup to obscure its 3D elements.
Everything else that I don’t have time to go into detail on today – the writing, character design, particle effects, music and UI – is of the highest quality. . This is a polished new game with new gameplay concepts and interesting art that nails everything outside – you couldn’t really ask for more. It almost feels like a missing member of “Capcom 5”, an experimental and elegant game that breaks convention to achieve something special. It definitely has a certain sixth-gen console sensibility, reminiscent of a time when unusual concepts were greenlit more often, especially by Japanese studios.
Dropping the game out of the blue on Xbox and PC was definitely a risky move, but that only adds to the aforementioned qualities. And there are no major bugs or performance issues that I noticed on any platform, which is its own achievement. Most gamers will probably tackle this one on Game Pass, but I think it deserves a full disc release at some point – especially given the licensed music it uses, which could limit its digital life.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s an early contender for game of the year and without a doubt one of the most engaging games we’ll see in 2023. Hi-Fi Rush is an absolute blast – and everyone should give it a shot.
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