SUPERHOT – Review
Superhot first made waves back in 2013 as a part of a 7 day game jam, where developers The Superhot Team’s impressive demo made a big splash on the international FPS scene. Cue forward to three years and a successful Kickstarter campaign later, Superhot has been released on Steam and it will soon follow on consoles. There is little more to say about Superhot other than it’s a gratifying and sublime weaving of mechanics and narrative that compound in ways that I never expected.
You may have heard me mention Superhot once already in our 2016 Player 2 Fantasy Draft. It was my 4th pick, and that was driven purely by the action laden pre-release trailers that superbly showed off its main hook; time only moves when you do. It doesn’t quite work like that as time actually moves forward very, very slowly when you standstill. However, this is merely a way to keep things moving along with at least some pace. I could’ve easily taken plenty of time to plan my next move perfectly, but the stress of knowing that each touch of the thumb sticks was going to make time creep ahead meant the urge to rush through it became quite strong.
I’m slightly getting ahead of myself though, so I’ll back it up a step or two.
Superhot is a first person shooter that plays out in short sequences that could best be described as the action movie lovechild of The Lawnmower Man and pretty much any John Woo flick from the 90’s. The game’s simplistic but striking art style complements the relative simplicity of its unique shooting and movement mechanics.
Each mission requires the player to take out each of the enemies within a certain space to move on to the next on. Although that seems a simple enough task, it gets pretty hair raising at times. Whilst the early game missions are good at giving the player some breathing space by being somewhat open and providing a clear sight to where the enemies are coming from, later missions will have you checking your corners at every turn.
It can take a little getting used too at first. I was fumbling around and scraping my way through at first, but it didn’t take long till I could get into a rhythm of head shots and bullet dodges that would make Neo from The Matrix feel proud. In fact, Superhot takes more than a few of its core beats from films like The Matrix, as well as games like Max Payne. The bullets leave a bright red trail as they sting through the air, which not only looks flashy, but it provides an idea of where the shots are coming from.
It’s with pretty great regularity that you’ll be caught out by something unawares in Superhot. I was shot in the back more times than I care to admit, because despite checking each corner feverishly, if you’re like me and mistime your movements you can very suddenly be surrounded by a hail of gunfire. Death isn’t all that much of an issue, though. One hit from an enemy is all it takes to put the player down, but an instant restart is a single button press away.
At the end of each mission, you’ll see a real-time replay of your playthrough. You can edit down clips of that time you threw a briefcase at one guy, grabbed his gun in the air, shot the guy next to him, threw your gun at the first guy, grab the gun of the guy you shot from the air and shot the first guy. All in one beautiful movement. After editing you clip, you upload it to killstagram.com, where you’ll find all the clips you’ve ever uploaded, as well as anyone else. It’s an interesting feature that’s clearly there to extend the game’s reach, and to that effect it seems to work.
So what’s the reason for any of this? Why are you shooting red, polygonal humans with black, polygonal guns? The simple (and spoiler free) answer is that you’re playing a game. This becomes apparent within the first moments of Superhot, as at launch the game opens up to an ASCII-themed operating system. A friend has sent you the Superhot.exe file, an as yet unfinished game that is doing the rounds online, and tells you to get in on the action. I won’t go into more detail than that, but I will say that it’s ending is one of the more memorable sequences that I’ve played through in recent memory. It’s delivery of the final narrative blow is one that left me more than satisfied, despite wishing there was just a bit more.
So now that I’ve done my fair share of talking this thing up, I’ll get down to the things I didn’t like so much.
The first thing is that I really just wanted there to be more. Not a whole lot more, but I felt like there could’ve been even further expansion on the mechanics through the use of just a few more levels on the back end. Just as the tension amps higher, the game wraps up, and despite being vastly better than anything I thought it could be, it highlights just how much more incredible Superhot could be if they’d taken things further. Whether or not this is backed up by future DLC or mod support I’m not sure, but I certainly hope it is.
The endless mode that unlocks after the completion of the game is good, but it’s not the same as the missions purposefully designed to give you that action movie hero feeling it’s going for. It’s more about throwing as many bad guys at you as it can, whereas the story missions are more situational, which admittedly is more a matter of preference. At least the mode is there, and it gives you something to do after things are all said and done.
There are a few smaller things, one of which being there are lots of invisible edges for bullets to get caught on. It’s a small but noticeable problem in a game that relies on a certain level or precision. Far from deal breaking, though. Superhot drips in a certain style and uniqueness that hasn’t been seen in the first person shooter genre since Bioshock. I hope there is more. I need there to be more.