Hi-Fi Rush got a surprise release recently, and while it was immediately made available, it took years to perfect its core gameplay mechanic.
Aside from being a major departure from Tango Gameworks’ horror roots, Hi-Fi Rush drew lots of attention for its core gameplay mechanic that combines action with rhythm gameplay.
When playing the game, the core mechanic may seem straightforward to understand and play, but to get to that point, it took the studio a year just to nail that one mechanic.
Johanas explained why it took so long for the core gameplay to be developed as:
“It basically took a year. Granted, like I said, we were a very small team in the beginning. But we just kept iterating on the core gameplay. My theory was that normally from a game perspective when you press a button it should instantly register in a rhythm game so it feels good. But in an action game, you press the button then there’s an animation, and only after the animation will it hit. So we kind of had to think backward so that no matter what, the animation will hit on the beat.
So the challenge was that it had to feel good from an animation perspective, then a sound perspective, and a feedback perspective. But also, we wanted to create a gameplay loop where you felt like you wanted to press the button on the beat.
And I think the normal instinct is that when you’re making a game is to show that there’s an easy-to-understand failure state. Like if you don’t press the button on the beat, you don’t attack. But we found that was frustrating from a player’s perspective, because if you’re not perfect, then nothing happens, and that’s frustrating.”
As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to solve the dilemma in the core gameplay mechanic of Hi-Fi Rush. After all, it’s difficult to find the sweet spot between the immediacy of a rhythm game with the high-octane combat of an action game.
Eventually, the team managed to find that right balance, but it took quite a long time.
“We just kept iterating on it to find this sort of positive gameplay loop where you’re rewarded for playing with the music but aren’t punished so everything syncs up regardless of what you do,” said Johanas. “But you know, pressing the button on the beat will give you extra points and do more damage. And so that way, we didn’t feel like a person who couldn’t play rhythm games would be punished for not playing by the rules, but it’s an incentive to learn the rules. It seems simple now that it’s there, but it took a while to figure it out and get it to work.”
The effort that Tango Gameworks put into the game was all worth it though, especially as the game was incredibly well-received following its surprise release.
Hi-Fi Rush is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Windows, and Game Pass. For more info on the game, check out our review, or read our full interview with director John Johanas here:
Full Interview: Hi-Fi Rush director John Johanas on the game’s development and surprise reveal