The fps genre is one that's been attempted by every game developer and their uncles. By this time, there's almost no surprises left; nothing that hasn't already been done to some extent. Enter SUPERHOT from SUPERHOT Team. This game has been out on the Xbox One and PC for some time, but has just recently made the jump to PS4. Does this time-bending fps make for a worthy port on the console? Or is it an unimaginative title that will be forgotten in a few weeks? Read further to find out.
Going into SUPERHOT, I wasn't expecting any kind of story in place, but was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a narrative and it was expertly handled. I won't spoil too much for the sake of keeping the experience alive, but know that it blends perfectly with the style of the game and appropriately screws with your own mind in the process.
On a basic level, SUPERHOT is a story about a popular VR game that gets circulated among gamers. Your friend sends you a copy, and you (in universe) begin playing this game and find yourself quickly addicted. From there, things get a bit more surreal. The prompts in each level become stranger and you begin questioning what you got yourself into. It's an unsettling time, no doubt, but that's what made it enjoyable.
The story may be enjoyable, but the star of the show for SUPERHOT is its gameplay. It markets itself as an innovative fps. The main theme is that time only moves when you move. Each level presents different challenges all built around this mechanic that force you to slow down and check your surroundings rather than rushing through and mindlessly shooting enemies like many other shooters on the market.
Don't misunderstand, SUPERHOT is not just your standard Call of Duty with a time manipulation mechanic thrown in as a gimmick. Instead, the developers smartly placed many abilities to shake things up. Each gun you use will run out of ammo. You can't simply reload though. Instead, you have to throw your gun to stun an enemy, who will then drop his gun. Then you snatch it out of midair to get another firearm. To be honest, reloading has never been more satisfying.
On top of shooting and reloading, you can also pick up melee objects (which you can either attack with or throw), deflect bullets with a special weapon, and even "Hot Switch" with an enemy to change bodies and dodge an attack at the last minute. It all works extremely well and each function has its time and place. None of them felt wonky or forgettable. Each is useful in their own way.
Moving on to the levels themselves, this is where SUPERHOT subverts its respective genre. While the use of guns and multiple bad guys to shoot might point toward it being an fps, this is experience is a puzzle game through and through. Each level presents a different scenario in which you must find the best way to tackle one. If you're in an elevator surrounded by three guys with guns, which one do you punch first? Do you move at all? The great thing here is that your problem-solving skills are tested, but there's no one way to figure out each level. SUPERHOT prides itself in having options, and the better you are, the more risks you can take.
A fun addition to this formula is that every time you beat a level, you will get the option to watch your playthrough in real time. This was especially exciting as I would see my character dodge bullets, plow through enemies, and throw items like some ridiculous action movie star. It wasn't a mechanic that needed to be there, but it certainly added to the experience.
Because of how well this works, the game is very addicting and easy to get lost in. The levels are quick to beat, making you wonder what challenge you'll face next. However, if you play for more than two hours, you'll likely get through all the campaign has to offer. I was left scratching my head when I finally beat the game. I desperately wanted more scenarios to blow through. This is both a compliment and a complaint. While the entire experience was a lot of fun, it was fairly short.
Thankfully, SUPERHOT doesn't begin and end with the campaign. From the start, you have access to some minigames that would find a great home on a smart device. Then once you beat the main story, you immediately unlock an Endless and Challenge mode.
The Endless mode is likely where you'll sink most of your time after you beat the campaign. You are presented with one arena at the start, but as you kill more enemies, you will unlock different levels to try. If you're a completionist, you could easily spend days trying to get all of the different arenas. Furthermore, the Endless mode itself takes the tight gameplay, slowly ramps up the difficulty, and makes each round feel fresh.
Unfortunately, the Challenge mode doesn't get the same love. While there are many different challenges to unlock, they are all variations on the campaign. For example, there's one challenge where you go through the campaign with a katana. There's another where you can only punch and Hot Switch. While these differences attempt to make each round feel unique, the fact that they're all the same levels you played in the campaign makes the mode feel bland very quickly.
The Challenge modes also have speedrun sections where you can try and get the best times under certain limitations, but those will only appeal to a particular crowd. It won't be for everyone, but there's definitely a market for it.
graphics & audio
Because SUPERHOT is a game built around a unique mechanic and a VR style of gameplay, the graphics are made to reflect that. Each level is a shiny, white world. All of the weapons and usable items are all black, while all of the enemies you fight are red. There's a nice contrast in color to let you know what's what, and the simplistic art style never bothered me. After all, every choice made in how the game looks was purely intentional. Even the bullets can be easily seen by the red trails they leave behind. The only complaint I have in this department is that some of the animations don't look too good.
The menu itself is also appropriately retro-looking, but it is a bit clunky to get through because everything is labeled with a ".exe" or some other technical lingo and this style doesn't always clearly communicate which function does what.
Moving onto the audio, here is where SUPERHOT gets a little inconsistent. All of the sound effects work really well. There's always an audible click to let you know that your gun has reloaded, you can hear when bullets are being fired, and enemies give out a pleasing shatter whenever they die.
The biggest problem in the audio department is that there is no music when going through the game. While that may have been intentional, a nice techno soundtrack could've made each level feel that much more alive. It could've further immersed me in the experience. The fact that it's missing makes it seem like a missed opportunity. Also, on a side note, the game continuously saying "SUPERHOT" got on my nerves after a while.
SUPERHOT in its purest form is one of the most innovative shooters of its time. If you're bored with a genre or would like something new to toy around with, I strongly recommend giving this game a shot. It's variety in levels, rock solid gameplay, and unique premise give it a style that makes it all its own. The game never feels like it's bothering ideas from other titles, and that's a testament to how well it was designed. Sure, a lack of content and some repetition hold it back from being astounding, but don't let that stop you from understanding how excellent SUPERHOT is as a concept and a video game.
If you have a PlayStation VR, I would advise you get that version for the most immersive experience.
|+ Innovative Design||– Slightly Lacking in Content|
|+ Unsettling Story||– No music|
|+ Well-Polished||– Short campaign|
|+ Fun Gameplay|