Whether you’re a fan of CoD or a Portal extremist, Superhot offers both camps a rich and innovative new spin on the old FPS. This debut release from (conveniently named) Superhot Team provides players with stylish shoot em’ up combined with clever puzzle-solving elements and is sure to appeal to many.
Superhot starts out in a simulator experience that has been sent to you via an ancient computer interface reminiscent of Windows DOS. Navigating the menus, accessing games and communicating with the enemy all occur through this old-school display.
Now you see me, now you don’t!
As the player, you work through different levels, attempting to destroy all the enemies within through the use of different weapons and body switching. As you play however, things slowly take a turn for the worst and you as the player must decide between the game and life. It’s a good thing that the gameplay is so slick, as the plot of Superhot turns out to be basic at best. As I played, I felt like the game would lend itself to perhaps breaking the fourth wall and make the player imagine it not as a game but something real, but the story premise never really takes off. It’s unfortunate because this initial premise is cool and some of the actions and sequences that occur outside of the standard gameplay are really well constructed. There’s a notable moment when you are forced to quit the game and shutdown your computer in order to progress, but cool moments like these are the exception not the rule, and the story is largely stagnant. There is no doubt that the game is unlikely to be remembered for its story, but rather for its stellar gameplay, and in this department it is nothing short of amazing.
As you move through the levels the objective is fairly simple: kill all the enemies using whatever is at your disposal. The innovative trick however is the aspect of time manipulation. As the player you control the speed at which all actions happen. In essence, if you move forward then time moves forward and if you stop, time stops and it allows for some really cool and intense gameplay. Things like being able to punch an enemy, steal their shotgun and then pause to consider if other enemies are around and then aim and shoot provides endless amounts of fun and some very challenging circumstances. At one time, I found myself dodging multiple bullets by taking the time to slowly move away from them and watching them paused in mid-air to ensure they weren’t going to hit me before swiftly grabbing a katana floating in the air to slice down the three enemies that were right next to me. It sounds chaotic and it certainly is, but there is this awesome pleasure at the end of it when you succeed in pulling it off. Chaining together multiple attacks with varying weapons is a task that takes practice and I felt like I really needed to monitor the alternative weapons around me so I was ready for any situation.
I never realised how easy it was to cut a man in half
Picking of a limb with a pistol will get you a kill, but smashing a baseball bat to the cranium will get you a kill and a head explosion which feels like a bomb just went off
This deliberately dated and clunky lo-fi interface between the main levels is juxtaposed beautifully against the visual spectacle of Superhot. The consistent use of white, black and red throughout the level may seem like a bland idea, but Superhot manages to make it work. Enemies are red, weapons and bullets are black and everything else is white and it really helps tie it in with that MS DOS feel that the game has. Visually, had it been more dynamic, it would have felt incompatible with the game. It’s a clever move by Superhot Team which paid off. The other great graphical aspect is the destruction of the enemies. Although they all crumple away with one shot, the way they do is tied directly to the weapon and where it was used. Picking of a limb with a pistol will get you a kill, but smashing a baseball bat to the cranium will get you a kill and a head explosion which feels like a bomb just went off. The team have really taken the time to make sure that getting a kill, as easy as it is, is dynamic to the situation.
Computer says no
Lockout laws would fix all this!
The game’s learning curve isn’t steep, but the difficulty is. The first few levels were rather easy to pass and offered a good variety of choices as to how to most efficiently blow your victims’ heads off. After these tutorials though there’s a relatively sharp difficulty spike and you are suddenly thrown into rooms with bullets flying at you from all angles. It’s like the difficulty meter was cranked from 5 to 11 all of a sudden. The levels give you the tools to complete them but be prepared to die a lot. Just a stray bullet or punch from an enemy will mean lights out for you and the margin for error can be extremely small. Understanding the pattern by which enemies arrive and how to move between them is sometimes daunting, but if you stick with it and manage to clear the stage you’ll be treated to a replay of the action that will make it look like you just Bruce Willis’d your way through an entire Die Hard movie in five seconds.
Shot to the heart and you’re to blame!
After the story mode (which takes about four hours to complete), players can continue the Superhotness in Endless and Challenge Mode. Endless Mode is, as one might expect, you surviving an endless stream of enemies. Enemies will continue to come from all angles and areas of the map and it’s fun to see how many of the red AI shooters you can taking down before biting the bullet. It’s certainly a brisk challenge and you are rewarded with new maps to test out. There’s no global leader boards as such, it’s just you versus the AI. The Challenge mode implores players to replay the entire story again, but with twists on the gameplay. Variations like Katana-Only and Real-time Speed demonstrate how the game’s rich dynamic can yield such a different experience with relatively subtle twists in the rules of the game. For example, in Katana-Only Mode, you are restricted to that weapon even though the enemies have guns and baseball bats, shifting the focus to close quarter fighting and having to really pay attention to where katanas are. It’s a classy and innovative means for the developers to get more gameplay out of the game and I personally applaud it.
Dude, where’s your tree dude?
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Navigating around the menus of SuperHot will also reveal some little hidden gems, including a mini-game called Tree Dude and a hidden folder which is NSFW. Superhot Team have really taken the time to make this indie title more varied and interesting with these inclusions, though there are menus which offer little to nothing of tangible interest such as the VR menu which just shows inanimate objects in 3D.
Superhot successfully manages to blur the line between an FPS and puzzle game. On the one hand, its chaotic gameplay and shooting aspects will appease the FPS fan in you, but those who try to play it like a straight shooter are sure to end up dying more times than they care to admit. It’s taking the time to check your surroundings and plan your moves that brings a truly enjoyable cerebral element to the proceedings and marks it as a very interesting innovation in the puzzle game genre. It’s a pity the story ends up being a little flat, but the slick, clever gameplay will be more than enough to keep you coming back to Superhot’s challenges and game modes.
Reviewed on PC