How Hi-Fi Rush rediscovers its rhythm with an all-time-great fight scene
Invaders must dine
Hi-Fi Rush, our inaugural RPS Game Club game, sets its on-the-beat beatdowns in some pretty interesting places. Glistening sci-fi skyscrapers. An underground volcano lair. A Smaug-pleasing gold hoard, conveniently adjacent to a finance executive’s office. Who’d have guessed, then, that its absolute best fight – not just a thrilling brawl in itself, but the point at which a stumbling adventure plants its feet back in greatness – would take place in a canteen?
See, while Tango Gameworks’ rhythm brawler starts strong and ends magnificently, there’s an extended middle where its stage presence shrinks and fatigue starts creeping in. There are still good jokes, and interesting boss battles, and the core combat never gets dull, - but too often, all of those are split up by dull 'exploration' sections in identical-looking office facilities, as well as tedious platforming through industrial backrooms. Chai, a dynamo when pummelling robots, handles like a pensioner’s boule in the jumping puzzles, making them even less of a satisfying intermission once they become tougher and time-limited.
Then you’re shot from a cannon into a cafeteria full of robots, the opening of The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die starts pulsing in your ears, and glorious, cathartic hell breaks loose. It’s a pitch-perfectly designed fight in general: smashing tables and flying condiments add some chaos that’s absent from the bare arenas that most combat encounters use, and the interrupted diners include a challenging yet nicely balanced mix of the different ‘bot types you’ve been scrapping previously. Plus one in chef whites, which is just amusing.
And my word, what an utterly superb choice of backing track. Licensed music has yanked me out of games in the past, but Invaders Must Die sounds like it was crafted for this scene note for note. A subtle rising intro builds a tension that, again, most battles aren’t afforded, before a perfectly timed chorus drop signals the fisticuffs. And no disrespect to the original music of Hi-Fi Rush (especially Negotiation), but nothing else in the soundtrack has a bassy, fuzzy, DUN-DUN-DUN punch that melds so satisfyingly with Chai’s combos. It elevates the whole sequence, as does a mini-cutscene showing, for the first time, Chai’s fellow resistance members lending a hand without bickering. Maybe his real musical robot powers were the friends he made along the way.
It’s an absolutely joyous few minutes, and perhaps more importantly, gets Hi-Fi Rush back on track for the rest of its story. There’s still a good hour and a half left after the least boring lunch meeting ever, but everything after it gives the impression that the game itself is just feeling it that bit more. The jokes are funnier. The emotive moments, reliant on the camaraderie established in that mid-fight cinematic, land better. Even the ho-hum office/industrial environments are fully replaced by more grandiose level designs: where you’d previously be jogging along pipes, now you’re climbing a colossal golden statue of the main villain, having a mate punch its head off at the summit.
The platforming improves as well, to the point that my second favourite sequence in Hi-Fi Rush is an extended running, jumping, and grappling hook gauntlet just before the final boss. Which also happens to be soundtracked by a bangin’ licensed song – hey, it worked the last time, in a scene of pure energy and momentum that carries Hi-Fi Rush all the way to its final high note.
Of course, if you think I’m talking nonsense, and the turning point is in fact the Mimosa fight fifteen minutes before this one, why not say so in the RPS Game Club discussion at the end of the month?