SUPERHOT Team, Kickstarter Backers
First Person Shooter
PC (Reviewed), Xbox One
February 25, 2016
This chant is at the heart of SUPERHOT, a First Person Shooter (FPS) that’s more about puzzling your way through levels than it is about shooting. What began life as a game jam project has now blossomed through the blessings of Kickstarter into a full-fledged game.
The core mechanic that gives SUPERHOT its distinct take on the FPS genre is that time moves only when the player moves. This is not entirely true however, as time does move very slowly even if you stand still, rather than stopping completely. It’s more of a ‘Bullet Time’ mode implemented inversely. What this ends up doing is making the game feel more like a puzzle rather than a shooter. Your goal is to dodge attacks, anticipating newer attacks while killing all the enemies.
The art style of SUPERHOT is minimalistic using only shades of Red, White and Black. The enemies and bullet trails are red, the levels are white and weapons as well as your character are black. Clever use of shadows and lighting effects still ends up making this a rather pretty game, and since it is powered by the Unity engine, it looks quite decent on even low end PCs. Curiously the UI follows an old-school text based approach harkening back to the early days of the internet, but with the added twist of appearing on a Virtual Reality (VR) device. There are plenty of ASCII artworks and videos to be found if one browses the other menus and there are even a couple of simple minigames.
While SUPERHOT’s gameplay mechanics might be brilliant and feel rather refreshing, the game’s seemingly random levels are strung together by a story that doesn’t shy away from breaking the fourth wall. It is cheeky enough to instruct what sort of review one must give for the game, though the praise isn’t undeserved. The story also introduces some new mechanics and provides enough of a break to keep the gameplay feeling fresh. While you start off with a simple Revolver, you are introduced to Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Melee with fists, blunt weapons and sharp weapons, and finally shifting into an enemy’s body to take over it.
A curious thing about the guns in SUPERHOT is the very limited ammo they have and how it magically resets if you drop the gun and pick it up again. It also feels unfair when the enemy characters never seem to run out of ammo for their guns. Each gun behaves differently with the revolver having a single shot, the shotgun spraying a bunch of bullets together and the Assault Rifle shooting multiple bullets, one at a time, per shot. The game also lets you use a Katana which can be used for slashing or thrown to take out charging enemies. A Katana can even cut a bullet in half, with some precise timing. You can also hit a bullet with a bullet for that matter.
While the game can be completed in some 3-4 hours, it offers significant replayability thanks to various challenges and gameplay modes that unlock on beating SUPERHOT the first time. You can speedrun levels to beat the challenge times where the timer can run either as time moves in the game or in real-time. Or you could try beating all levels with a Katana. Or without dying even once. Challenges unlock as you beat the earlier ones.
Beating SUPERHOT also unlocks Endless mode which has separate arenas and endless enemies coming at you, with the difficulty ramping up based on the number of kills. These are also useful for getting any leftover killcount achievements. Each arena also has some different challenge modes to add even more to the replayability, which unlock as you score more kills in it.
The game is eerily quiet with sound effects only active when guns are shot or an enemy is killed or an object shatters. There is an indication when time is sped up by movement, but SUPERHOT has no OST to speak of, except in the credits roll. Killed enemies also shatter like glass adding to the illusion of them being just virtual objects rather than real people. The levels are pretty small and each one can be finished in a few seconds. You are given the option to edit, save and upload replays after every successful level while the game chants SUPER HOT. Replays are uploaded to the site killstagram.com
Overall, SUPERHOT has reimagined existing mechanics in an interesting way and has enough appeal to draw you back for short sessions of killing the red dudes. There’s significant replayability on offer without feeling very repetitive. This game is just SUPER HOT.
+Minimalistic art style