It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played.
I actually mean that. I’ve been wanting to play SUPERHOT for some time, but I have only recently gotten around to it. Since it became part of the Games With Gold catalog, and featured as one of the Twitch Prime free games as part of the rollout of that program, I took it as a sign that I needed to take a shot at it.
And I’m happy I did.
SUPERHOT isn’t a complicated game. If anything, it’s one of the simplest games I’ve played. You shoot enemies, throw things at them, and jump around sometimes. Now, if that represented the entirety of the game, I imagine most people would be very disappointed. However, that isn’t the case here.
Once you start the core experience (after screwing around with the main menu like I did), you’re given an incredibly helpful hint: “Time moves only when you move”. Of course, that isn’t completely true as you can still turn the camera at will without moving time forward, and time isn’t perfectly still even if you remain motionless, but that tip is accurate enough. Time being slowed down when you’re stationary is also necessary, because if you take so much as one hit, you’re done for.
In any other game, this would be frustrating as hell, but in SUPERHOT, one-hit kills and time manipulation turns an otherwise mundane shooter into a puzzle game of sorts. You need to leverage your ability to control the flow of time to eliminate the hordes of red guys in order to move on. This means shooting, punching, slicing, or pelting them with objects. If you run low on ammo, just throw your weapon and take one from your enemy. SUPERHOT makes you feel like Mr. Anderson/Neo or John Wick, especially if you take the time to watch your replays.
It’s divided up into levels, all which pose a different challenge. The first few serve as a tutorial of sorts, giving you an idea of how to play. I enjoyed the variety of levels, and the frequency of new concepts being introduced.
Except those dude with assault rifles. They can go die in a fire.
Once you finish the main game, you’re given the option of taking part in a number of other game modes, like Endless and Challenges. Endless throws you into an arena that populates with an endless amount of enemies, and you can choose modifiers once you unlock them, like killing 20 enemies as quickly as possible or doing so in a set amount of time. Challenges are a little more specific, usually giving you a specific weapon or modifier to spice things up a bit. I love that there’s more to do once you complete the main story (yes, there’s a story).
The SUPERHOT Team definitely chose a more minimalist approach, and while I understand why they did from a technical perspective, they also found a way to make it work from a narrative angle as well. Enemies are suitably depicted as red guys with weapons who are trying to kill you, who are contrasted against a greyscale background with weapons being shown as black. It makes identifying threats and tools rather easy, though there were a couple times where I died because a vehicle rammed me before I realized it was hurtling towards me.
I almost-thoroughly enjoyed the audio; the only exception being the constant blaring of “SUPER… HOT…” after completing a level. While I know that’s part of the game for a reason, I didn’t much care for it. Everything else is spot on, from the sound of a hard disk in the main menu, to the way objects and enemies shatter and gunfire is altered by the fluctuation of time passing. It all sounds excellent, and satisfying.
At least until you complete a level and have your eardrums blasted out. Probably not a good idea to play with headphones at high volume. Then again, that’s good advice in general.
SUPERHOT is a strange duck. I came into playing it expecting simple, dumb fun in the form of time alteration mechanics and some shooty-shooty-bang-bang gameplay, and discovered that there’s far more to it than meets the eye. In fact, I trolled through the main menu the night I first started playing it, only to find a “chat room”. Sitting through the conversation gave me a good idea I what I was getting myself into, and landed me an achievement as well!
I don’t want to say much more than that, just because it all relates to the story, and I don’t want to spoil anything. You should know that SUPERHOT gets pretty meta.
SUPERHOT‘s story, while rather short, is an interesting piece of science fiction. While the protagonist, who is more or less just you, thinks that it’s all just a game…
Wait, because it is a game, or is it? Yeah it is just a game, but maybe not? Spooky.
Rest assured, SUPERHOT is just a game, but that’s basically the premise of the story. There’s more going on for the folks that play the crack of the fictional version of the game that you’re playing than you’re initially led to believe. Occasionally, between levels you’ll be kicked out of the game within the game to take part in conversations with others, during which you’ll gain further insight into what you’ve gotten yourself into.
I won’t say anything more.
I’ve gleaned about as much as I can from the various conversations in SUPERHOT, and what I’ve figured out is that the online gaming community’s obsession with the fake game within the real game you’re playing isn’t natural. There’s something more nefarious going on that you need to know about. You see, someone is cont…
SUPER… HOT… SUPER… HOT… SUPER… HOT… SUPER… HOT… SUPER… HOT…
I can honestly say that SUPERHOT deserves a look from anyone that loves puzzles, combat, meta-narratives, or just games with unique mechanics. The combat is fun and can get rather complicated with multiple enemies trying to kill you at once, the minimalist nature plays into the story well and keeps you from having to process too much information at once while you’re attempting to dodge bullets, and it features an interesting narrative which goes beyond what I’d expect from a game of this nature.
So pick this up if you’re at all interested. Additionally, The SUPERHOT Team is working on an expansion for the game which explores more combat and challenges, and will be a standalone experience. Oh, and it’s available for VR headsets as well, including PlayStation VR.
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