Furi has a lot of great things going for it. Intriguing character designs from famed Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki, licensed electronic music from the likes of Carpenter Brut, and a super responsive, intense combat system combine to create something unique and sometimes brilliant – but as a whole, the game doesn't quite come together as well as it should.
Furi sticks you in the role of an unnamed, silent swordsman who's been locked away for reasons unknown. Standing between you and the exit are a series of Jailers – each of them a unique boss enemy that you'll have no choice but to take down in order to secure your freedom. It's a pretty simple premise, both in terms of story and gameplay, which results in an experience that feels focused.
You'll spend your time doing two things in Furi: fighting the Jailers, and slowly walking through visually interesting environments as you make your way to your next opponent. It's this latter activity that ends up holding the game back just a little – these walking segments are meant to act as downtime following each gripping boss battle, but sometimes they're a little too drawn out for their own good, and the vague narrative exposition that occurs during your trek is never really enough to keep your mind from wandering.
It's easy to see what developer The Game Bakers was going for here, offering some respite between battles, but in execution it's just a tiny bit overdone. Fortunately, if you're killed during a Jailer fight, you aren't forced to take these walks all over again in order to get back to the brawl – you're simply dropped right back into the action.
And by that, we mean you've got to restart the boss fight all the way from the beginning. Not an issue in most other games, but Furi's battles can end up lasting a heck of a long time – it took us almost 20 minutes to bring down a couple of Jailers in particular, with most duels clocking in at around the 10 to 15 minute mark. Needless to say, when you fall in battle, it really does feel like a swift kick to the gut – especially when you're on the brink of victory.
But Furi's meant to be tough. The title revels in the challenges that it throws at you, as its bosses change their tactics every time that they lose a chunk of health. Indeed, the game can be uncompromisingly brutal – one wrong move and you can pay dearly for your mistake. It's a release that demands concentration and fast reactions; it mixes elements of bullet hell with reactionary close quarters duels, and it never pulls any punches.
Success always seems to be within reach, however. As mentioned, the controls are incredibly tight and responsive; press a button and something happens instantly, whether you're dashing, cutting, or parrying. When you're in the zone, Furi is an absolute joy as you weave between projectiles, perform perfect counterattacks, and see through your enemy's patterns. When a specific fight really begins to click and you feel as though you and your opponent are on equal terms, Furi is right up there with some of the best action titles that the PlayStation 4 has to offer.
Getting to that point can be frustrating, though. Now and again, the game's difficulty can spike, meaning that trial and error comes into the equation. Attacks that you'll likely never see coming can finish you off and you'll have the urge to hurl your DualShock 4 into the nearest wall. Again, Furi is at its best when you're not thinking - when you're relying on your reactions and instincts to survive - and having to memorise attack patterns takes away from that fulfilling rush of adrenaline.
Thankfully, a superb licensed soundtrack that's made up of punchy, tense electronic beats is always on hand to amplify the aforementioned rush. The music merges seamlessly with the title's art style and particular brand of action; when you're halfway into a deathmatch with a jailer and the track erupts into a harrowing chorus, it's hard to stop the hairs on the back of your neck from standing on edge. Furi is a brilliant example of how a fitting soundtrack can push a project beyond its limits - take our advice and wear a good pair of headphones when you sit down to play.
Furi's able to stand tall thanks to its super tight combat system, but it's a real shame that the same level of polish is absent outside of battle. Cutscenes suffer from very noticeable screen tearing, and cinematics often stutter as the game cuts from one camera angle to the next. None of these issues should come as any real surprise, though, since the title's built on Unity – an engine that has a rather dismal track record on Sony's console.
Furi excels when you're in the heat of the moment, fighting for survival against great looking boss characters. Super responsive controls elevate the action, and a fantastic soundtrack only adds to the brilliant rush that the game's capable of providing - it's just a shame that everything outside of the crisp combat doesn't quite measure up. When Furi's on point, it looks, sounds, and feels incredible, but a little too often, it struggles to maintain its intensity.