Every once in a while a game comes around that makes me glad that I don’t tend to watch trailers, look at previews or even, quite shockingly, read reviews (a strange thing as the co-owner of this very website, I know).
SUPERHOT is one such game, because if I hadn’t gone into it only really knowing about its striking visual style and unique first-person shooter gameplay, I doubt it would have had the same impact on me. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that SUPERHOT is the kind of game that blows your mind if you go into it blind, so if you want the same experience I had, stop reading and go buy it now. You won’t be disappointed. If you need more convincing at the expense of losing a bit of the magic however, read on. It’s your loss!
Now first off, I’m supposed to say that SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter in years, and it’s quite possibly true. You see, SUPERHOT is that innovative that I struggle to consider it a shooter at all; it’s more of a hybrid strategy/puzzle game played out in a first person viewpoint. And the guns you say? Well, they’re just pieces of the game’s many puzzles that facilitate their completion.
During SUPERHOT’s admittedly short campaign you’re dropped into numerous small environments with just one aim: kill everyone. How you achieve that is largely dependent on what you can lay your hands on to do so, but there’s one major caveat in that every action you make progresses the passage of time. Like some kind of turn based dungeon-crawler, every time you move, the enemy moves. Pick up an item or shoot a gun and for the brief moments of a second that it takes you to do so life goes on around you, but stand still and everything remains (nearly) motionless. Essentially then, every environment plays out like a conundrum in which you’ve got to work out where to go and what objects or weapons to use to take out your opponents, avoiding their bullets by walking slowly so that you can weave between them. Complete the task at hand and aside from being repeatedly bombarded both aurally and visually by the word SUPERHOT, your actions are replayed in the background at normal speed, making you seem like some kind of Hollywood badass with a top-level choreographer.
Guns, swords, bats, bottles; pretty much anything you can get your hands on can be used as a weapon in SUPERHOT, or at least be thrown at your enemies to stagger them, causing any weapons they are holding to be relinquished from their grasp. This throwing mechanic is a particularly important part of SUPERHOT’s gameplay due to the fact you can’t reload any guns you acquire, meaning that once they’re empty it’s a case of finding a new one; often achieved by throwing your empty firearm at an armed enemy before grabbing the gun that they’ve surrendered in mid-air. If you ever find yourself in a sticky situation with nothing at hand however, don’t sweat it, as one punch at close range is also enough to get an enemy to drop their weapon, and three will eradicate a foe for good. Later on in the game you also gain the nifty ability to hot-swap between bodies like some kind of possessive entity, adding yet another dimension to the gameplay. Don’t think that you can just switch between your enemies that have guns and open fire with reckless abandon however; the fact that any armed foe you jump into inexplicably has their weapon destroyed and the presence of a cooldown timer means that this powerful skill cannot be used for an easy win.
Despite SUPERHOT‘s engaging and innovative gameplay, what really surprised me was the narrative and presentation that encapsulates it. Initially presented with a basic computer interface upon loading it up, you’re likely to be a little bewildered by what lies before you. In fact, if you’re like me you could spend a considerable amount of time investigating every folder and executable before you even start the game, maybe enjoying a spot of “Tree Dude” for 15 minutes or so until you get bored. The game begins properly though when a chat acquaintance contacts you to tell you about a game that’s super weird and requires a crack to play. Sending over “SUPERHOT.exe” to you, you boot it up and immerse yourself in its surreal pleasures, but slowly and surely you begin to discover that it may be more sinister than it initially seems to be. Running at around two or three hours long, the story is all over perhaps a bit too quickly, but while it lasts it is absolutely enthralling and certainly an unexpected delight. For many players the end of the story will just be the start of their journey with SUPERHOT however, as upon completing it both Endless and Challenge modes are unlocked offering a myriad of gameplay variations that could keep you playing far into the future.
With its homogenous red polygonal villains and pale angular environments, SUPERHOT is a mesmerising combination of basic but highly stylised graphics and deep strategical gameplay that is easy to pick up but very hard to put back down. Sure, if you’re the type of person that just plays through a game’s story and doesn’t bother with any of the extras, then you might be a little disappointed with the game’s short running time, but while it lasts the experience is one of the best there is. Those who view the story as a prelude to the many hours that can be spent in the game’s Endless and Challenge modes however, completing speed runs, seeing how long they can last against a constant stream of enemies and beating levels only using swords for example, will find a game with as much longevity as it has originality.