Version Tested: PC
Available On: PC, Linux, Mac OS, XBox One
Where To Buy: Steam
SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT.
Every time you successfully navigate through one of its stylish levels, SUPERHOT chants those two words back at you as it endlessly replays your successful run. The mantra is a perfect soundtrack to a ballet of bullets, dodges, and thrown items. It becomes the finish line as you work your way through each level – when the faceless red enemies stop coming and the game begins to chant, you have achieved your goal. SUPERHOT is a sleek and surprising game that immediately stands out with its visual flare, but it also has the substance to keep you coming back again and again.
There is a semblance of a story in SUPERHOT, sort of a “Big Brother/Illuminati/Dystopian” thing going on, although it is deliberately confusing and minimalistic. The graphics are also minimalistic, but very flashy and aesthetically pleasing. Nearly every aspect of the environment is a washed-out white, like the textures, have not yet been added to the world. Items you can pick up (and thus use as a weapon) are black. And enemies are featureless and red, making them pop from the background. They shatter like glass when you land a killing blow, leaving no doubt if an enemy is killed or wounded. SUPERHOT is a game with some serious style.
The premise behind SUPERHOT is fairly straightforward. Red enemies are trying to kill you. They have superior firepower. The trick up your sleeve is that time only moves when you move. That means enemies, bullets, cars, and trains can all be observed and analyzed before you decide to act. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, you can stop and analyze the situation again. SUPERHOT is really a puzzle game disguised as a first person shooter. As you learn from your mistakes and better understand your abilities, you can start to see how a mission will play out before you even reach certain moments. There is extreme satisfaction when your plan goes without a hitch and you finally conquer a nasty level. There is equal satisfaction when your plan goes completely wrong, yet you manage to improvise and still achieve your goal.
Of equal importance to the joy of success, there is rarely a sense of unfairness when you fail (unless it is on one of the many game modifiers that are designed to challenge strong players). Generally, when you are killed on a mission, you know exactly where you went wrong. It is just a matter of hitting a key and instantly giving it another shot. Even a complete newcomer to the game should have a pretty good idea how to complete any given mission, and that is an important facet for any puzzle game to have. It boils down to one simple idea: “Can you execute under pressure?”
The aforementioned replay at the end of each successful level further amplifies your satisfaction. You will stop time multiple times in each level to regroup, reassess, and observe changes. The replay runs in real time, however, eliminating those time stops. When watched in real time, SUPERHOT makes even the most hopeless shooters look like seasoned Counter-Strike pros. Weaving in and out of enemies, catching guns out of midair, throwing enemies into oncoming traffic – the feeling of skill that the game conveys with its simple premise is sublime.
The campaign itself is relatively short, probably clocking in at right around two hours. After the campaign is completed, the real bulk of the game’s content opens up. Modifier scenarios can be added to change the way levels are played or to ramp up the difficulty (enemy bullets move faster, you are not allowed to fire guns, you must complete the game on one life, etc.). An “Endless” mode opens up, where SUPERHOT will throw wave after wave of its featureless red enemies at you in a high score challenge. There are timed challenges, leaderboards to scale, and even a replay uploading site called “Killstagram” where you can showcase your most impressive level runs.
The only nagging issue with SUPERHOT is that it almost feels like parts are missing. Comparisons could easily be drawn between SUPERHOT and Portal, in that both are first person puzzle games built around one mechanic that grows increasingly complex. Even though it was a short game, Portal felt complete, most likely due to the excellent story (and the near infinite level of user-created content that is available helps bulk it up). But SUPERHOT still has me wondering if I am missing something. Throughout the menu screens, strange games with ASCII graphics are hidden. A carpet pattern generator pops up on the screen (really, this was a thing). Are these little additions deliberate obfuscations with no real purpose? Or am I missing some grand connection?
That being said, SUPERHOT is a game you really should take for a spin. It takes a shooter concept that has been run into the ground, “bullet-time,” and makes it totally fresh again. It also crafts some fairly fiendish puzzles around this concept and bends your brain in a totally new way. And if this game were ever to receive mod support or a level editor like we see in games like Portal, look out. I would love to see what kind of levels the gamers on Steam could come up with.
- Gameplay: Fast-paced puzzle game disguised as a shooter. Extremely rewarding.
- Graphics: Minimalistic and stylish. The animation is fluid.
- Sound: Not much here. Guns shoot, enemies break like glass. For some reason, the “SUPER. HOT.” chant that ends each level is one of the most satisfying parts of the game.
- Presentation: Minimalistic all around – story included. Deliberately vague. SUPERHOT is purely wrapped around its one mechanic.
- Very stylish and satisfying gameplay
- Interesting concept and execution of mechanics
- Game world and story are fascinating...
- ...But the story lacks satisfying revelations.
- Feels incomplete.