Hi-Fi Rush Xbox review: Riding the musical highs of Microsoft's hit new IP

Hi-Fi RUSH is a brand-new surprise Xbox exclusive, and it's bloody brilliant.

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Verdict

From beginning to end, Hi-Fi RUSH is a rhythmic thrill ride replete with stunning art design, fantastically fun gameplay, and a surprisingly evocative narrative of friendship and determination.


  • +

    Incredible cel-shaded art design, animations, and transitions

  • +

    Impeccable rhythm game design and approachability

  • +

    Game feels varied and interesting throughout

  • +

    Campaign and characters are well-written and surprisingly funny


  • -

    Some difficulty spikes with new enemies in later levels

  • -

    Rhythm gameplay may not be for everyone

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In the last six months, Xbox has released three first-party exclusive titles. None of the games can be considered flagship "AAA" releases, an unfortunate reality for many players. However, all three games have highlighted the sheer, absurd levels of creativity and passion within Xbox's internal studios. I am grateful to have been chosen to review each of those games for Windows Central, including Grounded, Pentiment, and the latest, endlessly surprising Hi-Fi RUSH.

Hi-Fi RUSH hails from horror experts Tango Gameworks but totally obliterates expectations by delivering a vivid, hilarious, and fast-paced rhythm brawler unlike any other. It continues Xbox's streak of delivering genuinely unique gaming experiences created by smaller, passionate teams, and I am all for it. Hi-Fi RUSH is a must-play title of 2023, a highlight of the Xbox portfolio, and a promising new IP that could blossom into a mighty franchise with the proper care and attention.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Visuals and performance

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Hi-Fi RUSH is prone to artistic flourishes and spontaneous style changes, and it all flows together so nicely. (Image credit: Windows Central)

My early impressions of Hi-Fi RUSH were largely positive, with the game immediately winning me over with its visual prowess and overall approachability for a rhythm game. I don't intend to rehash everything that I said then (you can still go read it), but the rest of my experience with Hi-Fi RUSH only strengthened my positive feelings for this unique, musically inclined brawler. There's an overwhelming number of good things to say and only a handful of nitpicks.

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DeveloperTango Gameworks
PublisherBethesda Softworks
GenreAction-platformer, rhythm brawler
Install size16GB
Playtime14+ hours
Release dateJan. 25, 2023
Retail price$29.99
PlatformsXbox Series X|S, Windows PC (Microsoft Store, Steam)
Xbox / PC Game PassXbox Series X|S, Windows PC, Xbox Cloud Gaming
Reviewed onXbox Series X via Xbox Game Pass

To start with, Hi-Fi RUSH is breathtaking. Its cel-shaded art design immediately caught the attention of all who saw its announcement (and release) trailer during the Xbox Developer_Direct show. It's a throwback to an earlier period of video games but with modern extravaganza and detail. It's colorful, polished, crisp, and dripping with personality and charm. Hi-Fi RUSH looks so good I'm begging Xbox to greenlight an animated tie-in that adapts this exact look.

Aside from clear inspirations from anime, comic books, and past titles like Sunset Overdrive and Jet Set Radio, Hi-Fi RUSH possesses its own unique style. It's the effortless transitions between set pieces and between gameplay and cinematic sections, action-packed scenes carefully broken up by hilarious moments and expectation-defying surprises; it's the genuinely fantastic design of every character and the world in which they live. Hi-Fi RUSH is just so fun to look at, with nothing out of place and everything contributing to the aesthetic.

I'm begging Xbox to create an animated tie-in for Hi-Fi RUSH in this style.

Hi-Fi RUSH also performs admirably well. At least on Xbox Series X, I never encountered dropped frames or lag, and the game easily kept up even during the most intense combat sections. Precise and consistent timing is essential to any rhythm game, and Hi-Fi RUSH's smooth performance ensures the game never misses a beat. Hi-Fi RUSH is only available on current-gen consoles and Windows PCs; I'm not sure it couldn't have run on the aging Xbox One platform, but at least newer consoles ensure satisfactory performance.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Gameplay and content

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Hi-Fi RUSH's combat is divided into neat "Chorus" sections, making it easy for players to return in the search for higher scores. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Hi-Fi RUSH is an action platformer and a rhythm brawler, meaning players can expect lots of jumping and level traversal, plenty of high-speed action, and a bopping soundtrack that rewards you for keeping to the beat. From a gameplay perspective, there's much to love about Hi-Fi RUSH. It's a straightforward linear game, with players exploring a myriad of levels and environments while battling hordes of diverse enemies, sniffing out secrets, and mastering the art of moving to the music.

And that gameplay feels great. Combat is tight, with just the right amount of "easy to learn, hard to master" to make me feel competent while also realizing that rhythm brawler masters will have a lot of fun in Hi-Fi RUSH. Some difficulty spikes hit me like a wall with certain late-game enemies, but I still always had fun blasting my way through every level. I often found myself practically working out during many extended game sessions, as the combination of rhythm gameplay and awesome music energized me to the point that I couldn't sit still.

Hi-Fi RUSH's gameplay feels great, and there's a surprising amount of variety and content.

I was surprised by the amount of variety in Hi-Fi RUSH, too. As you play, you'll continually discover new abilities and upgrades that let you take on new enemies, traverse areas in new ways, and diversify your combat portfolio. Hi-Fi RUSH also tends to shake things up, such as making an entire platforming section 2D or a high-speed rail fraught with danger or using several different quick-time events (QTEs) to break the monotony and give players more reason to stick close to the rhythm.

There's always the risk that some players may dislike these changes, preferring Hi-Fi RUSH's core gameplay loop, but it kept me entertained. Suddenly playing a simple version of Guitar Hero, gaining a new perspective on the world, or needing to dodge poorly placed crates while careening down a rail all spiced up Hi-Fi RUSH and gave the game more character than it would've had as a simple, straightforward hack n' slash.

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Longer combat sections in Hi-Fi RUSH give you short breaks between waves, often with an adorable cinematic featuring Chai and 808. (Image credit: Windows Central)

This variety matters, too, because there's a heccin' lot of content in Hi-Fi RUSH. The game's campaign can be completed in a healthy 13-15 hours, possibly faster on an easier difficulty, which is a refreshing length for a modern title. You don't have to sink dozens of hours to keep up in Hi-Fi RUSH; the story is perfectly paced, and it doesn't drag on for too long. After you're done, though, there are still plenty of reasons to keep playing.

Every Chorus (combat section) in every level gives you a final rank calculated from your score, the percentage of the time you were on beat, and how quickly you cleared the section. Every level gets a final rank averaging out the grades from each combat section, with penalties if you die a lot. Perfectionists will be chomping at the bit to secure ever-higher scores and earn "S" ranks for each level, but Hi-Fi RUSH goes a lot further than that.

There are dozens of unique challenges that can be completed in Hi-Fi RUSH, which give you rewards that can be used on upgrades; after the game is completed, you can also spend your rewards on cosmetic costumes for each main character, 3D models of various characters, new music for the Hideout, and more. The Rhythm Tower provides another way to earn rewards, with increasingly difficult rooms filled with waves of enemies presenting unique challenges for hardcore players.

There are lots of incentives to keep playing Hi-Fi RUSH after the credits roll.

Every level is also filled with secrets, including The Evil Within Easter eggs, upgrades and collectibles, and much more. Finally, players can optionally follow an entire post-game storyline, tasking Chai with embarking on a new quest through the levels to seek out mysterious hidden rooms. None of these things are necessary to finish the game, but they're all incentives to continue playing Hi-Fi RUSH if you love what its stellar gameplay offers.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Story and world

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Everything in Hi-Fi RUSH centers around stopping the deployment of the diabolical SPECTRA AI. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Hi-Fi RUSH's single-player campaign isn't likely to win awards for its narrative innovation or execution, but it's still a very well-written, enjoyable story. You play as Chai, a wannabe rockstar with a defunct arm, who signs up to receive a robotic prosthetic from megacorporation Vandelay Technologies. An accident sees Chai's portable music player become embedded in his chest during the process, resulting in him mysteriously acquiring magical superpowers.

Every character in Hi-Fi RUSH feels memorable and well-designed.

Before long, it becomes apparent that Vandelay isn't the amazing, charitable company it wants everyone to believe it is (surprise, the all-powerful megacorporation is evil). Project Armstrong, positioned initially as a way to help millions of people, is actually a vessel for SPECTRA, a mind control AI that can be used to make everyone spend more money on Vandelay products. Chai is dragged into a quest to halt this nefarious scheme by Peppermint, a genius engineer aided by her quantum robot cat.

As Chai, you have to track down each of the six Vandelay bosses to secure their SPECTRA password keys while avoiding the armies of security robots that roam the vast, dystopian Vandelay campus. The story is delightfully written, perfectly paced, and filled with genuinely hilarious moments and jokes. However, the highlight of Hi-Fi RUSH's campaign is the roster of unforgettable characters that deliver it.

Chai's group quickly expands beyond just Peppermint and 808, and each character features a memorable design and a distinct personality. Vandelay's bosses also all feel unique and interesting; even the rank-and-file robots add a tremendous amount of personality to Hi-Fi RUSH. There's so much character in this game's characters, and I couldn't help but love all of them. No matter how large the game cast got, however, Peppermint and 808 never stopped being my favorite. I mean, just look at 808! Who wouldn't love this adorable mechanical feline?

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Peppermint is a fantastic, well-rounded character, and her interactions with Chai and 808 add a lot to the game. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The world of Hi-Fi RUSH is equally impressive. The entire game is set within the confines of Vandelay Campus, but it's unlike any other corporate headquarters you know. It's a sprawling mass of haphazard, frankly dangerous mazes, construction sites, facilities, and secrets. There's so much detail to be found everywhere you look, but what really makes this world special is how everything moves to the music. Yes, I mean everything.

Even if you don't have good rhythm on your own, the entire world of Hi-Fi RUSH constantly provides visual and audio cues to help you keep time. Flashing lights, moving platforms, spurting steam, and everything in between is always perfectly in rhythm, all the time. Chai and all the characters also move to the beat. Chai constantly sways and snaps, and even his steps land on the beat. There's such a meticulous, thorough feel to this world design, in which everything you can see or hear adds to the rhythm elements to help you follow the flow of the music.

There are plenty of diverse environments, secrets, and Easter eggs. Some of the charm is lost in later levels in favor of more complicated platforming sections, but the world of Hi-Fi RUSH never stops moving in sync with the ever-present soundtrack, which never failed to amaze me.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Audio and soundtrack

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Hi-Fi RUSH is beautiful even at a standstill, but the entire world is constantly in motion. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Speaking of music, Hi-Fi RUSH has a lot of it. It needs to, being a rhythm game, and I'm happy to say that Tango Gameworks delivered a pretty stellar soundtrack. No, it doesn't have the crunchy guitar riffs or rolling vocals of Metal: Hellsinger, but there is an extensive catalog of songs comprised of original Hi-Fi RUSH compositions and features from multiple major artists, like Nine Inch Nails, The Black Keys, The Prodigy, The Joy Formidable, and more.

These licensed tracks are reserved for the game's largest set pieces and boss fights, however. Most of the time, you'll be hearing Hi-Fi RUSH's original songs, which perfectly fit the vibe of the world and art style with an upbeat, high-energy mix of pop and punk. It's a genuinely fantastic soundtrack, and it's a lot of fun to listen to. It's also easy to follow the rhythm of every song, with the minor exception of some sections I felt were just a little too quiet, music-wise.

Hi-Fi RUSH also has great audio design. I already mentioned how even the world's ambient sounds follow the beat, but everything in Hi-Fi RUSH sounds excellent, from the voice acting to the combat. It's imperative for any rhythm game to absolutely nail the sound, and Hi-Fi RUSH, fortunately, delivers on this front.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Accessibility and approachability

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Chai's robotic arm opened up new possibilities for him, as Hi-Fi RUSH's game design and accessibility options may for many players. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Rhythm games are inherently less accessible and approachable than many other types of games, solely because of the reliance on keeping to the beat. Many players may struggle to reliably follow a rhythm regardless of their playing abilities or condition, making rhythm games unapproachable to them. I mentioned in my hands-on how I felt Hi-Fi RUSH was by far the most accessible rhythm game I've ever played, and that still mostly holds true after finishing it.

Hi-Fi RUSH does become progressively more complicated and difficult as you play, relying on your abilities and skills improving as you go. There are also more rhythm-dependent QTEs in the late-game, including mandatory parrying sections, rhythm mini-games, and more. All these things, including more complicated combat sections, can feel too challenging or even exhausting to some players, especially when those sections include pressing multiple different buttons in rapid succession.

Fortunately, Tango Gameworks combined peerless game design with a handful of awesome accessibility features. There's a lot at play here; the entire world provides easily noticeable visual and audio cues to help players keep time; there's an always-accessible rhythm meter that can further assist players; player and enemy attacks always land on the beat regardless of when an input was made, meaning players can time combos, counters, and dodges to when attacks land rather than the beat; there's no penalty for missing the beat, only score and damage bonuses for consistently landing on it.

From game design to additional options, Hi-Fi RUSH is an accessible and approachable rhythm game.

On top of that, there are four difficulty modes from which to choose and various optional settings. On the non-rhythm side of things, Hi-Fi RUSH includes granular audio controls; in-depth control settings for vibration, deadzones, and more; various graphical settings for things like motion blur, camera shake, and colorblind options; and fantastic options for subtitles that are split between cutscene, action, and contextual options. I absolutely adore this, as it meant I could have subtitles for both cinematic and in-game audio, including mid-battle call-outs from characters, and visual subtitle aids for in-world text.

Tango Gameworks also has built-in rhythm-specific accessibility options, which build on everything else to ensure that anyone can enjoy the game. This includes an Auto-Action Mode that lets you focus on keeping to the beat while the game automatically moves and attacks for you and a Single Button mode that means that all mini-games and QTEs can be completed by pressing any buttons to the beat. This should go a long way to catering to those who may find the game otherwise too exhausting or inaccessible or those who may have struggled with other rhythm games in the past.

Hi-Fi RUSH: Should you play it?

In-game screenshot of Hi-Fi RUSH.

Peppermint and Chai are a great duo, and I loved every moment of their story. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Hi-Fi RUSH isn't liable to change your mind if you simply do not enjoy rhythm games; however, if you've been prevented from playing rhythm games solely because of the inherent inaccessibility of the genre, then Hi-Fi RUSH is the most approachable rhythm game I've ever played. Beyond that, it's frankly an incredible action-platformer and rhythm brawler with stunning art design and visuals, varied and frenetic gameplay, and a lovely world populated by even more lovely characters.

Tango Gameworks may be historically known for its terrifying survival horror games, but Hi-Fi RUSH proves that there's a bottomless well of creativity at the studio and in the wider Xbox family. I absolutely loved my time with Hi-Fi RUSH, and I fervently hope that its immediate success on and beyond Xbox Game Pass encourages an expansion of Hi-Fi RUSH from a new IP to an evolving franchise. Hi-Fi RUSH is pure video game fun and is refreshingly straightforward in a world populated by games vying for as much of your time and money as possible.

The latest first-party Xbox game is also easily one of the best Xbox games and sets the bar early for what's to come in 2023. If more awesome video games like this keep shadow-dropping, then my backlog really is never going to shrink.



For those seeking a refreshing, purely fun single-player gaming experience, look no further than Hi-Fi RUSH. The latest Xbox exclusive is a rhythm masterpiece, and it's an uncomplicated blast from start to finish.

Buy from: Xbox (Standard) | Xbox (Deluxe)

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.