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Can You Play The Rhythm Game “Hi-Fi Rush” With The Music Off?


Sometimes it sucks to be a gamer who’s picky about music. Not only do you frequently feel compelled to turn a game’s music off — which can lead to weird moments, like when you go into the bar in Mass Effect and see people dancing to silence — but it can make rhythm games extra annoying unless they have the word “Metallica” in the title. Oddly, though, some rhythm games don’t actually need you to listen to the music. Metal: Hellsinger was like that; it worked just as well (or, in my case, even better) when I turned the music off.

It was with this in mind that I started playing the rhythmic third-person hack & slash action game Hi-Fi Rush (Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC), initially with the music cranked up, but later with it turned off, to see if it was even playable, let alone fun, without the tunes…and, of course, if it was fun in the first place.

Hi-Fi Rush

In Hi-Fi Rush,

Chai is a rock star wannabe who goes in to have his arm replaced with a robotic one, and accidentally has a MP3 player implanted in his chest as well. This prompts the facility’s robot guards to mark him as defective, forcing him to take up arms to defend himself. Well, not just arms; he also uses a bunch of scrap metal that’s magnetically configured into a club shaped like a Gibson Flying V guitar.

The kicker being that because of the MP3 player in his chest, Chai’s life now moves to the beat of whatever song is playing. Which isn’t to say he can’t hit things whenever he wants, more that if he does follow the rhythm, he’ll do more damage, and reap more rewards.

As for those attacks, Chai’s strikes in Hi-Fi Rush aren’t just limited to the usual mix of fast and light swipes and slow but heavy slams. He can also perform a finishing move called a “beat attack,” as well as a special attack when he gets enough batteries to power it.

Hi-Fi Rush also…

gives Chai the ability to dodge incoming attacks by dashing, though he can also get a little closer by using his robotic hand like a magnetic grapple hook in much the same way Master Chief did in Halo Infinite. Though it also helps him be like Kratos in God Of War: Ragnarok when he attacks some flying robots…as well as any ‘bots he’s sent flying.

Further helping Chai to survive is his new pal Peppermint, who can instantly transport to his location and shoot something, though she disappears just as quickly. Hence why she’s less of a sidekick and more like a special attack. Still, she can be rather helpful, especially when Chai runs into a robot with its own electric shield.

More importantly, though, Peppermint is instrumental in helping Chai get around, which is the other half of Hi-Fi Rush. Her gun is just as effective against force fields that block doors as the ones surrounding robots, and she can also be used when there’s a large button that, when shot, provides Chai with a path forward.

Hi-Fi Rush

When not fighting security ‘bots, though,

Chai spends his time in Hi-Fi Rush navigating the world, usually by jumping (or, more accurately, double jumping) onto moving platforms. Though he can also occasionally use his new arm’s grapplehook to fling himself like he’s Spider-Man on his first day. None of which gets especially complicated — most of the platforming in Hi-Fi Rush is of the “jump at just the right time” variety — though it does break up all the brawling.

Hi-Fi Rush even mixes things up by occasionally turning into a side-scrolling platformer. Though, as with the other platforming parts, these bits are never that elaborate, or challenging, and are more about timing than solving an elaborate physics puzzle.

But as I said, this is a rhythm game, and thus everything moves to the beat. Not just when you should slap someone, and in how the world works, but even acts of vandalism. See that soda machine? Hit it at just the right time and you’ll get something good. And no, I don’t mean a Pepsi.

All of which would suggest that you need to play Hi-Fi Rush with the tunes cranked up.

Yeah, not so much.

In combat,

hitting someone on the beat hurts them more, and can reward you with more gears, which you use to improve yourself, buy new combat combos, and purchase different special attacks. But even with the music off, you’ll probably hit enemies on the beat most of the time anyway. I certainly did. In fact, I hit the robots just right as often when the music was off as I did when it was on.

Though it helps that there are visual prompts telling you when to strike. The “beat attack,” for instance, comes with one of those common “pair of concentric circles with one circle getting smaller” cues we’ve seen in tons of games.

Hi-Fi Rush also gives you the option of having an on-screen beat indicator across the bottom of the screen, though I never found it necessary. I never found any of the visual hints necessary. I just button mashed like I always do, and it worked out just fine.

All of which is why I found Hi-Fi Rush to be just as much fun with the music off as I did when it was on. Which, by the way, is the same thing I said about Metal: Hellsinger, and that was one of my favorite games of last year.

And I say this as someone who likes some of the songs in this game. Sure, there’s nothing by Metallica, and one of the songs is by Zwan, the mistake Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin of The Smashing Pumpkins made after their better band imploded. But there are also two really good tunes by nine inch nails: “the perfect drug” and “1,000,000,” the latter of which does a nice job of accompanying a boss battle with a Godzilla-sized ‘bot cheekily called QA-1MIL.

Though the lack of any songs by Rush is unacceptable.


the absence of Canada’s greatest contribution to human existence is not the only bad thing about Hi-Fi Rush.

For starters, when using a controller, the default button to dodge is the right bumper, while the combat buttons and the jump one are “X,” “Y,” and “A,” respectfully. Which is counter-intuitive. Thankfully, though, you can easily remap the buttons so you can dodge by pressing the “B” button, which worked much better.

What also works well is the game’s visual style — which makes it look like the love child of Sunset Overdrive and Rollerdrome — and how the story is both energetic and entertaining, with moments of genuine humor.

Though this just makes it all the more annoying that Hi-Fi Rush undermines its story by having the cutscenes be done in anime-style animation, while the gameplay is similarly cel-shaded but clearly not the same. This is especially distracting when it shifts from one to the other, and back again.

I also don’t like how Hi-Fi Rush grades your fights. But then, I don’t like this in any game. And not in a “I don’t like to be judged” like a millennial kind of way. I just don’t care.

Hi-Fi Rush

Of course,

as you’ve probably surmised, these issues are rather minor, and don’t take much away from the fun of Hi-Fi Rush. Of which there is a lot. Having different ways to smack the crap out of a variety of robots is rather exhilarating, especially when you go full Master Chief meets Kratos on their asses. And while the platforming may not rival that of Lara Croft, Mario, or a certain Persian prince we all miss, it will still challenge your reflexes while giving you a welcome break from all the button mashing.

It’s why Hi-Fi Rush is a smacking good time…whether you listen to the music or not.



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