When it came out on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC in December of 2022, the snarky sci-fi first-person shooter High On Life immediately became one of my favorite games of the year. But it was also a “must play” for fans of Rick & Morty because one of the main characters, a talking gun named Kenny, was voiced by Justin Roiland, who’s the voice of both Rick and Morty, as well as the founder of High developers Squanch Games.
A month later, though, it came out that Roiland had been arrested and charged with felony domestic battery and false imprisonment, which prompted other people to come forward with accusations about his behavior. Roiland was subsequently fired from Rick & Morty, and his other sci-fi ‘toon, Hulu’s Solar Opposites, and he resigned from Squanch Games. And while the criminal charges were dismissed, and Roiland has denied any wrongdoing, he has not been rehired by Adult Swim, Hulu, or Squanch Games, nor has he been forgiven by the public at large.
Now, some people believe you should not equate the art with the artist, especially when said art is a collaboration with other people, like, say, a video game. Other people believe you cannot separate them. Me? I believe you’re innocent until proven guilty, but also that where’s there’s smoke there’s often fire, so you should do what feels right for you and leave everyone else to do the same. So, if you can’t play High On Life because of Roiland’s voice, or involvement, fine. If you can, fine. To each his own.
That said, as someone who was still able to play it, even with Roiland’s problematic accusations very much on my mind, here is my review of the newly released PlayStation 5 / PlayStation 4 version of High On Life.
Oh, and if you’ve read this far…
just to find out if PlayStation versions of High On Life are worth getting if you’ve already played it on Xbox or PC, sorry for making you wait: No, it is not. It’s the same game. The exact same game.
But what a game it is. In High On Life, aliens invade Earth after they realize that humans can be turned into a really cool recreational drug. But if you’re going to save the world, you’re going to need some help. Which is where Kenny comes in. He’s not just a gun. He’s also an alien, sentient, and well-informed, and can not only help you find other sentient guns, but together they can help you take down the invading alien drug cartel.
As for the gameplay, High On Life is a shooter, but with weird guns that do clever things, and can not only vanquish your enemies, but also solve situational problems that prevent you from getting somewhere you need to go.
How, you might ask?
Well, as I said, the weapons you use in High On Life are not like what you use in Call Of Duty. Kenny, for example, is a pistol, and a thankfully effective one, but one that shoots what looks like snot. Though he also, like all of High‘s guns, has a secondary function: his Glob Shot, which shoots a grenade-like wad of that snotty stuff that can take out multiple enemies with one shot, or knock some barriers out of your way.
Then there’s Gus (voiced by Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s J.B. Smoove), a shotgun that can also shoot large, sharp discs like the Saw Launcher in Far Cry New Dawn. Even cooler, when shot into certain surfaces, create platforms you can use to traverse up the side of cliffs. As if that wasn’t enough, Gus can also pull enemies toward you, much like Cal using The Force in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Well, sort of; Gus is no Jedi.
High On Life is also Ratchet & Clank-esque in how, later on, you get some rather clever gadgets that make getting around more interesting, as well as how the levels are somewhat linear and somewhat open, with multiple areas to explore. Though they’re neither as big or as broad as those in an open world game like Borderlands 3; they’re more like the parts of God Of War: Ragnarok when you’re on foot.
As for how it’s Doom Eternal-y, that would be in how High On Life gives you a dash move, one that works both on the ground and in mid-air. Though this is not the only way movement in High is like other games. You have a knife that can, in certain spots, be used to grapple like Spidey in Spider-Man: Miles Morales or Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West, and can even connect to ziplines for some BioShock Infinite-like grinding.
And those are not the only games…
High On Life cribs from. There are bits from Mass Effect (including a conversation mechanic), Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (rechargeable shields), the Batman: Arkham games (which we’ll get to in a moment), and even Pikmin (don’t ask).
And yet, High On Life manages to meld all of these familiar elements into something that feels, well, not wholly original, but original enough that it never feels redundant.
More importantly, it’s wicked fun. As clever as your guns may be, so too are your enemies. They’re also nicely varied, in both how they move and how they attack you. More importantly, they know enough to swarm you from all sides, while their bosses require you to be observant and resourceful. Though being able to use environmental hazards, as well as the game’s less than realistic physics, does help.
The same can also be said for the different places you visit in High On Life, which are also nicely varied and clever, making for some rather challenging but compelling gunfights.
while High On Life is as much fun on PlayStation as it was on Xbox and PC, it sadly has the same issues. Which is almost worse, since they had seven more months to fix them.
The biggest of these issues is how Hight On Life‘s controls are configured. Aiding you in navigation is a scanner, which highlights waypoints to your objective. But since you activate it by pressing up on the D-pad, you have to move your thumb off the right thumbstick, thus ceasing all motion. Which wouldn’t be so bad if said waypoints remained lit for longer than a few seconds. But then, that’s the same complaint I had about Batman’s scanner in the Arkham games, Lara’s similar ability in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, and, well, every scanning mechanic in every game ever.
That said, pushing up on the D-pad is a slight improvement over pushing down, which is what you do on Xbox and PC. Very slight. Though it’s still not as good as, say, the left bumper, which is inexplicably used to activate consoles and talk to people. Y’know, things you do when not moving.
High On Life‘s shooting and physics will also be a problem for people who expect the combat to be as precise as those in such serious shooters as Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II or Battlefield 2042. Instead, befitting its overall silly approach, the gunplay feels more like what you get from Serious Sam or Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands; a little more loose and a lot more forgiving.
while High On Life is very funny — assuming you like Rick & Morty-esque snarky comments about video games and sci-fi — not all of the jokes work. And no, I don’t mean in light of the whole Roiland thing; I don’t recall any of the quips making me cringe this time around.
That said, High On Life does have an option to make Kenny, Gun, and the gun gang way less talkative, which might mitigate the discomfort for some people. And not enough for others.
Of course, people who don’t like Rick & Morty to begin with won’t like High On Life either. And not just because Kenny sounds exactly like Morty. The alien designs are also rather similar, while a Rickesque weirdness permeates the game. Especially when you get to the mission where you have to do paperwork.
High On Life also has a problem so common that I basically just cut and paste a version of this paragraph into every relevant review: Some of the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the weapon descriptions, the subtitles, and other bits of text.
It’s also a little annoying that the PlayStation version of High On Life doesn’t add the “High On Knife” add-on. Though only a little since that DLC isn’t out until this fall (and will, at the time, be released for all versions of the game).
As is, though,
High On Life — assuming you can get past the whole Roiland thing — is as engaging and exciting a shooter on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 as it was on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. The gunfights are wild and frantic, your enemies are challenging, and your guns are as fun to use as they are funny to listen to. Which is why High On Life is once again one of the year’s best games.