The Purity of Play
It would be pretty easy to misjudge Superhot from screenshots alone. An entirely white world populated by faceless red mannequins and all black weapons. This would be a terrible mistake though because Superhot perfectly embodies minimalist art. You have to experience the package as a whole to really understand what it is. It will never be all things to all people but what it does, it does to a level of utter perfection. There is no music or dialog but these things would only have distracted from the purity. The sound engine is particularly impressive in the way it slows down and speeds up with your movements. If you can stand still enough all the sound becomes a low hum, without any apparent lack of quality. Bullets crawl past your head and seem to drill through the air as if it was stone. Enemies appear to be made of some kind of crystal, shattering like glass and falling into a pile when struck. While the baron monochrome environments may seem cheap, it all adds up to make Superhot an ethereal, purgatory like experience.
Bullet Time Puzzler
Superhot’s gameplay really cuts to the chase. It dumps you right into those moments in a film where you just want to yell at the hero and says, “Here, you work it out, then”. It is a puzzle game like no other, time moves when you move. This brilliantly simple mechanic made the original game a smash hit and it works on a whole new level in VR. It transports you to a world where even the normal laws of physics don’t apply. The way it forces you to slow down and be tactical also gives you time to think and this can get very philosophical. What events lead to this moment? Who are these people and why are they attacking me, am I the hero or the villain? You have enough time to dominate the enemy, and enough time to consider the morality of your actions. Each level starts out at the crisis point in a scene where dialog has broken down and action is the only option, like all the best parts of an action movie. If Superhot played out in real time the entire thing would be over in about 5 minutes. You have to use every microsecond if you hope to survive. Even reaching for a weapon costs valuable time and you have to make each shot count. Every hit is an instant kill for both you and the enemy, anything from shotgun blasts to a thrown coffee mug. Obviously you will die many times but restarting happens in an instant and rarely feels unfair or frustrating. You can, and will, catch weapons out of the air, dodge bullets, and cut projectiles in half with a knife. It’s exactly what it sounds like, you are Neo.
On release the game only had a main story mode that could be completely in roughly 4 hours, depending on your skill and patience. With such addictive gameplay, this left many players pining for more. Thankfully the recent “Forever Update” extends the play time quite well. The new game modes include head shots only and time limited runs as well as a new hardcore mode where time moves faster and weapons have only one shot each. Perhaps the best addition is the new “Endless” mode featuring brand new locations with a constant onslaught of enemies. Best of all it’s a completely free update, impressive considering the level of re-playability it adds.
So, Superhot may just be one of the best action games ever made. But what about those who like a little story or character development? Well, once the few weapons there are have been introduced, there really is no progression at all. Grab the nearest object and use it to kill someone while not being killed yourself. Rinse, repeat. All the locations are your standard action movie troupes, strip club, Chinatown, helipad etc. Everyone looks the same and nobody ever talks, there’s not even a single written word other than the interface. There are a few short scenes that happen in a sort of “real world” computer lab that also serves as the in-game menu. It’s nice, but it does feel tacked on. None of these things ever bothered me but then, to put it bluntly, I’m a guy. If The Matrix had any lasting effect beyond the bad taste of the sequels, it’s that it made a generation of boys obsess over slow motion bullet physics. If you have ever done this, Superhot is an absolute must buy. If however you demand story, character, or progression in your games, then you should probably to look elsewhere. For best enjoyment you really need to get into the moment. Strike an epic pose, hold your gun sideways and release your inner Kung Fu master. You will feel like Neo, you will come up with hilarious one-liners and you will try to kill someone with a flying stapler.
Final Score 9/10 : A truly unique puzzle game for the teenage boy in all of us.
- The ultimate in bullet time gameplay
- Artistic Style
- Perfect motion control
- A bit short on content
- Limited story
- Limited progression