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Hi Fi Rush feels like the first season of a really solid action anime. The writing isn't always amazing, and you can tell where they had to skimp on budget, but the parts that are good are really, really good and keep you wanting more.
To get this out of the way: I love character action games, and I also love rhythm games. Unfortunately I'm pretty bad at both of them. Thankfully, Hi Fi Rush goes to great lengths to ease the player into the rhythm and combat mechanics so that it never feels overwhelming, and the difficulty on Normal felt pretty reasonable while also rewarding constant use of parries and tag assists. Honestly, character action games are all about getting into a rhythm to begin with, so once you get into a fight, following the beat feels shockingly natural.
I feel too many people underestimate the strength of an amazing soundtrack in a high energy action game, so I'm glad Tango decided to put that element at the forefront. While I will admit I don't fully share game director John Johanas' love of 2000s-era pop rock, it absolutely fits the fantastic cel-shaded pop-art aesthetic and the upbeat vibes of Chai's adventure.
The writing is a bit hit or miss for me. I get that they were trying to do the Scott Pilgrim thing where the main character goes from a cocky asshole to a considerate friend over the course of the story, but the game isn't really long enough to give that arc justice and the amount of trust the team puts in Chai by the end doesn't really feel earned. The humor is also very much in the Airplane! style of "throwing seven million jokes at the wall and seeing what sticks," which means a few gags got a chuckle out of me while a lot of them felt like they leaned a bit too hard into making meta jokes about the absurd nature of video games. Yes, I know hitting a big button to open a door doesn't really make sense, but also pointing that out isn't really funny to me?
Along those lines, the game's writing isn't subtle about the game being limited by budget, including an extended gag referencing another game that very famously had the same problem. While I think the team at Tango did a great job with the resources they had, I can't help but think how much could be expanded in a sequel. I would absolutely love to be able to fully control Peppermint, Macaron and [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] to get a different spin on the rhythm combat. A bit more stage variety would be appreciated too - the outdoor sections are neat but a lot of the game's indoor factories feel pretty samey.
I realize a lot of people are already declaring HFR GOTY material, and while I wouldn't go that far, I can't deny that I'm impressed with Tango's first attempt at a character action game, and I really hope they build on the solid foundation they already have for a potentially incredible sequel.
The biggest surprise out of everything, beyond even the surprise announcement and release, is that I've now realized I actually really like That One Joy Formidable Song. You win this round, Johanas.
Gorgeous visuals and art direction completely ruined by bizarre pacing and god-awful dialogue that is weirdly sexist on top of being incredibly grating.
There's so many scripted sequences without player control that it feels like the game is trying to force me to remark on how pretty it is. Yes, it's pretty. Now please stop removing player control every two minutes because something exploded or my character fell down a hole.
This is a game trying so hard to be Bioshock that it forgot to have any semblance of its own identity. What a disappointment.
Dead Space 1 and 2 were formative games for me. I tend to liken them to the video game equivalent of Alien and Aliens: The first game is slower paced and creepy while DS2 is more actiony but still incredibly tense. Unfortunately, that gives Dead Space 3 the desgination of being the Alien3 of the franchise - a mess of legitimately good ideas ruined by executive mandates. The intro of Dead Space 3 bummed me out so much I didn't even play the rest (yes, I've heard the ship graveyard section is good, still not interested). So when EA announced they were remaking Dead Space, I had one thought: "Please, for the love of God, don't fuck this up."
And I have good news: They didn't fuck it up!
Dead Space splits the diffrence between complete reimaginings like Resident Evil 2 2019 and 1:1 recreations like The Last of Us Part 1. I would say the split comes to about 70% old content versus 30% new, which totally works for me. The biggest moments in the game remain largely unchanged, but a lot of content around the margins has been adjusted to create a more cohesive experience.
Speaking of cohesiveness, the biggest change is that the Ishimura is now one interconnected ship you can navigate freely instead of a series of linear levels. Personally, I think this is the best change they could have made: the Ishimura is as much of a character in the game as Isaac Clarke, and now it truly feels like a real ship that you can explore at your leisure. The dev team at EA Motive also added side quests to help encourage more backtracking and exploration: none of these feel necessary but they're a nice bonus that help flesh out the story as a treat for those who seek them out.
I wrote in my Callisto Protocol review that my biggest issue with that game was the weapon balance, since melee was way better than anything else. In contrast, I was impressed at how the Dead Space remake rebalances the weapons so that they all feel useful in some way. In the original, it was a running joke among players that the Plasma Cutter might as well be the only weapon since it was so strong and practical. In the remake, it's still good but takes way more ammo to kill enemies unless you're extremely precise. As a result I found myself running out of Plasma Cutter ammo and using weapons I mostly ignored in the original, like the contact beam or the force gun. You're encouraged to use every part of the buffalo in a way that feels natural.
Believe it or not, I don't really have any issues with Isaac talking this time; it makes sense from a consistency standpoint since he talks in the other two, and the devs have said in interviews that they purposefully didn't make Isaac talk more than he had to in order to keep the core gameplay immersive (a smart move). I also think making Hammond and Daniels more sympathetic is understandable in order to strengthen the impact of the later story twists.
However, there's one story change I don't like, and this might just be a personal nitpick since I haven't seen anyone else mention it: In Dead Space 2008, the Unitology aspects of the plot don't become prominent until the second half, when it becomes clear that the huge Unitologist presence on the ship was far bigger than initially presumed. In comparison, DS 2023 front-loads the Unitology elements of the plot and tells the player from the very beginning why Isaac doesn't like them (something that isn't revealed in 2008 until New Game +). I don't think it's entirely a bad thing, and I get that Unitology is synonomous with Dead Space now so it's not exactly a secret anymore, but I really liked how the initial game treated Unitology as an actual cult, quietly working behind the scenes and slowly taking over before anyone else realized it. The later Dead Space media kinda leaned into Unitologists as cartoon villains and I kind of hope Motive fights back against that impulse assuming they remake the other two.
My other complaint is that I actually wish they changed the last couple chapters more than they did. They were always my least favorite part of the original and it just feels like they throw out a ton of enemy encounters to pad out the run time.
Having said that, this is still a fantastic remake of an already fantastic game. Highly recommended for both fans of the original and people who missed out the first time.