I find that it’s a lot more difficult to get surprised with video games these days. Whilst they continue to evolve and grow in scope, it’s rare to feel like I’m playing something ‘new’. Heck, even a lot of indie titles are taking inspiration from retro games these days with a plethora of re-incarnations of the classic genres we know and love. It’s not a bad thing by any means and I’m always happy to keep playing what I’m used to – it’s just nothing new.
That’s what makes SUPERHOT so refreshing. At its core are three elements that gamers are used to seeing in video games these days – it’s a first person shooter, there’s time manipulation and it features stylised visuals. Rather than recycling gameplay we’re used to though, SUPERHOT evolves upon it and offers one of the most original and fresh gameplay experiences I’ve had in a long while.
SUPERHOT is a first person shooter with the unique premise that time only moves when you do. Whilst it may seem like this might take you out of the action, it actually does quite the opposite – with bullets shooting around you in slow-motion and the ability to see exactly what each enemy is going to do just before they do it, you’re actually absorbed into the action packed experience even more.
Enemies in the game can be taken down with one shot but unfortunately it’s the same for you too. It’s something you have to be really wary of – SUPERHOT is a tricky game with enemies coming at you from all angles. They’ll take you by surprise too, especially when you’re focused on the enemy in front of you only to see a few bullets whistle past you in the meantime. The game never feels unfair with its difficulty though, with each level easily beaten with the right amount of planning – time is on your side too, so there’s no room for excuses.
In this way the game actually plays a little like a puzzler too. Enemies will always come from the same places, the only differences being what weapons they’ll be carrying. It’s more often than not a case of trial and error, with each attempt you make at a level seeing more and more progression until you’re eventually able to beat it.
Despite it’s puzzle-like level design, SUPERHOT still allows quite a lot of freedom in how you approach each level, offering a variety of different methods to approach them. Want to carefully take out enemies from a distance, sneaking in and out of cover? Go for it. Want to go in all guns blazing, carefully avoiding enemy gunfire as you wipe out each foe with ease? It’s possible. You can even fool your enemies into shooting each other if you’re clever enough – the game has endless ways to approach each level. Still, with a fixed enemy and level layout it does feel like a puzzler in a way too.
Levels play out like scenes straight from an action movie with a variety of different scenarios testing out both your shooting abilities and your reaction speed. A few personal highlights include a melee battle in a cell with four enemies coming towards you, battling across a speeding train and a close-quarter elevator shootout. Levels are short affairs, but they’re all action packed with a variety of different hazards to watch out for. You might have to leap over a speeding car or rush to a hatch of a speeding train before an incoming bridge decapitates you – SUPERHOT certainly doesn’t fall short with the amount of action on offer.
You’re constantly offered new weapons and abilities as you progress through the game too, the stand out ability being the power to switch bodies with an enemy. This sets up some great instances throughout the game – imagine being surrounded by three enemies, only to take control of one of them and wipe out the other two before they’ve had the chance to notice the swift change. It’s satisfying to pull off and feels so good when done in the middle of a hectic shoot out.
The weapons on offer are neat, though there isn’t a huge variety. You’re able to use a pistol, a shotgun and an assault rifle, each offering a variety of pros and cons to their use. You’re also able to get up close and personal with enemies too, with a standard melee attack along with a set of close-quarter weapons such as bats and a katana available. The katana is awesome – not only can you split enemies in half, but you can also slice incoming bullets in two. There’ll be occasions when there are no weapons readily available, but luckily you’ll always find objects in the environment that you can throw at your enemies. Whilst not damaging, they will cause your foe to drop whatever weapon they’re carrying. If you’re quick enough you’ll be able to grab the weapon in mid-air and swiftly blast its previous owner away with a headshot – seriously, SUPERHOT does an amazing job of making you feel like a certified badass.
Each level is finished with the word ‘SUPER’ and ‘HOT’ constantly repeating in a pulsing tone as you watch a real-time replay of the level. The replay function is one of my favourite features in the game – when you watch everything back in real-time it manages to look even more unbelievable, especially since you’re pulling off feats you’d never have managed if the game actually played out in real-time. You’re able to quickly edit your replays too, as well as upload them to SUPERHOT’s replay sharing portal ‘Killstagram’.
SUPERHOT reeks with originality, something evidenced in its story too. The game opens with a menu in the style of a UI of a simplistic computer system (think something like DOS). You then get an incoming message from a friend telling you to try a game called ‘SUPERHOT’ – the game breaks the fourth wall in this sense, with actual gameplay being considered a cracked version of a game that has been leaked from a company. The whole ‘game in a game’ premise sets up some neat ideas, such as updates coming through for the game as well as password-protected files, along with sharing your reactions to the game with your friend. I don’t really want to go into detail with the storyline though – it’s something that’s best experienced yourself as opposed to being spoilt in an online review.
The aesthetic design of SUPERHOT follows a ‘less is more’ style with simplistic environments made up of whites and greys. The same goes for character models, with a polygonal style that consists of a red and orange colour palette. Despite its simplicity, the game manages to looks incredibly slick and stylish – SUPERHOT certainly has the style to go with the incredible substance offered by the gameplay.
It won’t take you long to blast through SUPERHOT’s thirty plus levels which is a shame, partly owed to the fact that I was having such a good time playing the game. It took roughly three hours on my first playthrough, though you can always return to the game to play through ‘Endless Mode’ or take on some of the hardcore challenges available after you’ve beaten the game.
I’ve been looking forward to SUPERHOT for a long time. Whilst it started life as a 7-day GameJam project, it’s gone on to grow into something much more – it’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years. With it’s time bending gameplay, super stylish visuals and action packed level design, I’d recommend SUPERHOT to absolutely all shooter fans. Just don’t expect to be able to put the controller down once you’ve started!
– Incredibly fun time manipulating gameplay
– Action packed levels that provide interesting scenarios
– A simple but stylish visual style
– An original story that’ll keep you intrigued until the end
– It’s over a little too soon