By: Brian Gunn
SUPERHOT is the sort of video game that comes along and makes you think it’s strange that nobody really tried a similar idea before: that of blending first-person action and nearly turn-based strategy in an exciting and innovative concoction.
While SUPERHOT is a first-person shooter, due to the central mechanic of time being slowed down it doesn’t play like many on the market. Though you’ll run, jump and shoot, as in other titles, everything plays out on a broader spectrum.
You can hit enemies with a melee weapon from fairly far away, and a single bullet will shatter your enemy into a million pieces. This lets players focus more on movement and strategy. While the game controls wonderfully in general, it might be worth whipping out a gamepad as it lets you have a little more control over movement with the analog stick, which can be a life saver in tense moments.
One of the most striking things about SUPERHOT is its minimalist art style. The entire world is white, with enemies in red and weapons in black. Everything seems to be made of a sort of tempered glass given the way enemies shatter into hundreds of pieces upon defeat.
Its lack of detail not only gives the game a unique style, it helps with visual orientation. Dodging a bullet in a highly detailed modern setting might be a lot tougher as it would blend into the background. An emulated old computer interface acts as the game’s menu system and story delivery system, complete with random folders full of useless pictures and mini-games.
Audio is similarly minimalist. There’s pretty much no music and very little ambient sound effects. This serves to let the few effects that do occur during combat punctuate with thunderous effect. Bullets flying or enemies shattering are satisfying and often a good positional cue.
The chant of “SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT” seen in most of the game’s trailers is used to close out a level as it plays back the action, and it’s hard to not get caught up in saying it yourself. It also serves as a bit of a demoralizer as the chant changes a bit when you do poorly on a stage.
The story of SUPERHOT has you assuming the role of, well, someone that may very well be like you, but in the future. They are a gamer sitting at their computer when their friend tells them about the exciting new shareware game “superhot.exe.”
This sends you down a brief cyberpunk tale about digital consciousness and the dangers of getting too absorbed in videogames, amusingly enough. While the story is interesting, it can pop up at irritating times when you just want to throw a katana at a guy while dodging bullets.
Each level is generally brief, with a simple goal of killing all of the “red guys” as the game puts it. Players will have a wide variety of guns, melee weapons and random objects to throw in order to accomplish that goal.
While the tag-line of the game is something along the lines of “Time moves when you move” it’s actually more or less just slow motion, as staying still will eventually get you killed. Balancing out dodging bullets with going on the offensive is the key, and the game gives you lots of tricks to do so.
The main meat of the game is fairly simple and approachable, but soon you will find yourself devising strategies that involve things like throwing a katana into the air so you can grab it later when you’re across the room. Not only does it work well, but it looks obscenely cool.
The actual campaign is fairly short, likely in the two hour range for most players. However, upon completing the story, many new modes open up. The game’s roughly 30 levels form the basis of Endless modes that are similar to horde modes, and Challenges that have rules that restrict your actions — such as not using guns.
These modes further branch out as you play them, with the basic Endless mode offering alternative challenges; for instance, killing 20 enemies as fast as you can. Challenge modes get a few things I wouldn’t have expected, like one that plays out like a 2013 prototype where type actually totally stops when you’re not moving.
SUPERHOT offers up a neat twist on the first-person shooter formula that really stands out as a unique experience. While it may have a short campaign, the multitude of extras will likely get a lot more hours out of players as well.