Last week during the Xbox Developer_Direct showcase, Bethesda and Tango Gameworks announced and released the rhythm action game Hi Fi Rush. Since launch, I’ve been playing Hi Fi Rush on my Steam Deck and PC for review. I also checked it out on my Xbox Series X to see how the experience was on more powerful hardware. Hi Fi Rush is phenomenal, and my favorite action game since Devil May Cry 5. In my Hi Fi Rush PC and Steam Deck review I will be covering the game itself, the PC port, how it feels on Steam Deck, and more.
I wasn’t awake during the reveal for Hi Fi Rush, so I missed any initial reactions from friends and people online. When I woke up to an email about it, the key art looked great, but I was surprised to see Tango Gameworks mentioned as the developer. Little did I know that this would end up being one of my favorite games in years. I love action games and rhythm games, but the way Hi Fi Rush blends both is special. It has so many memorable scenes scattered across the levels including boss fights and set-pieces, but the real star is the gameplay and how music plays a part in just about every aspect of Hi Fi Rush.
In Hi Fi Rush, you play as Chai, a wannabe rockstar who has a music player fuzed into his heart and a guitar made of scrap that he can use as a sword. The only aspect of this review that I was dreading, is writing about the story. There are too many amazing elements that I don’t want to spoil. Without spoiling anything, my favorite moments, barring the set-pieces and boss battles, were the way characters in your gang warmed up to Chai over time and how Chai became more confident in his abilities going forward. There is also a lot of humor here with a plethora of references to other media.
The core gameplay loop in Hi Fi Rush involves Chai going through mostly linear levels while fighting enemies, collecting various power-ups and gears (the in-game currency), and reaching a boss or a story set-piece. This is pretty standard on paper, but the way Hi Fi Rush shines is in how the environment, enemies, and you all move to the beat. The animations are gorgeous across the board, and I hope we get a Hi Fi Rush artbook released in the future. The rhythm element isn’t just for visuals or animations, but a key part of combat and traversal. When you input buttons for combos, doing them on the beat gives you a bonus, and there are quite a few QTEs that involve pressing the correct buttons on the beat.
As you progress through the various levels, Chai unlocks more of the game’s core mechanics like a grappling hook-style magnet that you use during combat and traversal. Chai also unlocks the ability to parry. Parrying in Hi Fi Rush is very different compared to other games. Specific enemies have special moves that can be parried to give you a chance to one hit kill them. These involve specific parry and dodge button presses on unique beats.
Barring combat, exploration in Hi Fi Rush is always rewarding. You find health, collectibles like graffiti, pieces to earn permanent upgrades, and more of the gears you can use to upgrade Chai and his abilities. As the story progresses, you unlock the ability to call for help from a member of your team. These help not only with combat, but also are required for progressing through levels to take down specific obstacles that require a specific member of your team to help.
This aspect is where one of my only complaints with Hi Fi Rush comes into the picture. Some of the enemies require you to keep using these special team member skills to take down shields or barriers. On paper, that is fine, but it being tied to skills that have cooldowns is annoying and completely kills the flow of combat when things get too hectic. Speaking of getting too hectic, there were a few stages where the combat was a bit too busy and it was hard to tell where attacks were coming from or what to parry. I hope these aspects can be improved or addressed in potential future updates. Barring that, as with most action games, the camera can be an issue sometimes. I had a much better time after increasing the camera sensitivity to maximum. One specific stage had a segment in which failure resulted in a game over. This felt weirdly out of place with the rest of the game.
Hi Fi Rush on Steam Deck
I was very curious to see how Hi Fi Rush would look and run on Steam Deck. When I started playing, I left all the settings at the defaults and put in about six or seven hours. I only ran into minor performance issues in very busy areas. It looked and ran brilliantly. I did want to push the Steam Deck and see how it would handle the game at higher resolutions. When connected using the official Steam Deck Docking Station over display port to my 1440p monitor, I stuck to playing at 720p for the best experience at 60fps. One of the moments during a late game boss fight saw the frame rate drop to the mid 40s for a bit. That’s the only area where the Steam Deck struggled in my testing. Hi Fi Rush is also Steam Deck Verified by Valve so you can safely buy it to play on the go.
One area where the Steam Deck made me prefer playing Hi Fi Rush there over other systems, is the paddles. I mapped the special skill (pressing the analog sticks together) to two paddles and also used the others for dodging and parrying. This made it a lot nicer. If you have an Elite Controller on Xbox or an 8BitDo with paddles, make sure you try this. It was a game changer.
For my review playthrough, I beat the game from start to finish on Steam Deck. I had no crashes or any bugs. I also wanted to test the game on my laptop to see how it handled high refresh rates and then see how it felt on Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series X version is gorgeous, but I hope the developers offer a 120fps mode in the future at a lower resolution. Hi Fi Rush handles higher frame rates on PC quite well, but is capped to 60fps by default. Make sure to check the settings while playing to see what works best on your setup. I also used my DualSense with Steam Input enabled while playing on my laptop.
Visually, Hi Fi Rush is incredible. The cut-scenes, transitions between gameplay segments, boss fights, artwork used, and animations are all top tier. The character designs are also superb with Korsica being a highlight alongside the final boss. Speaking of boss fights, each major boss fight in Hi Fi Rush is unique in its own way. After the first two, I thought I’d seen it all, but Hi Fi Rush kept going in its creativity without stopping. Many action games show their hand too early and then become boring towards the end. Hi Fi Rush starts out with the volume turned to 11 and never stops. It is a non-stop adrenaline rush and I had a smile on my face the entire time.
Music is the most important part of Hi Fi Rush. It uses a great blend of licensed music and original songs. I’ve been blown away by the quality of the original music. The soundtrack is still not available anywhere, but every song is worth listening to, and I’ve been leaving the game running with music playing while working since beating the game. When it comes to the licensed songs, the times they are used are perfect. The finale has some of the best use of licensed music in a game ever. I also appreciate that Hi Fi Rush introduced me to The Joy Formidable.
If you aren’t a fan of rhythm games, there are a few accessibility options that you can toggle on to make things easier, but I’m not sure this game is for you if you absolutely hate timing-based button presses and QTEs. I love rhythm games and action games so this was a perfect combination.
When I finished the first two levels, I was wondering why this game is only $30 given its quality and production values. I assumed it would be a short experience, but I spent about 13 hours in my first playthrough. You will likely be able to spend less time in your first run, but I spent time exploring and trying to collect everything. I missed out a lot even during the time I spent with it. After beating the game, it felt like a steal that Hi Fi Rush is priced so low, but seeing all the unlocks following the credits makes it seem like an even better deal. Truly incredible.
Hi Fi Rush is already one of my favorite games in a long time with its blend of fantastic characters, sublime music, gorgeous visuals, great voice acting, and superlative gameplay. It is essential if you enjoy action and rhythm games and is only held back by a few issues in its current state. Despite the issues, it gets my highest possible recommendation. I thought January this year was strong thanks to Fire Emblem Engage, Persona 3 Portable, and Monster Hunter Rise hitting new platforms, but Hi Fi Rush came in and stole the show.
Hopefully my Hi Fi Rush PC and Steam Deck review helped you decide if Tango Gameworks’ newest rhythm action game was worth buying to play on your Steam Deck or worth playing at all. I just need Bethesda to release the soundtrack on vinyl next.