Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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SUPERHOT | Header image
Developer SUPERHOT Team
Publisher SUPERHOT Team
Release Date Steam – February 25, 2016
Xbox One – TBA
Genre First-Person Shooter
Platform Steam, Xbox One
Age Rating ESRB – Teen
Official Website

SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years. And I’m not only saying that because the game told me to.

Ahem. Anyway, SUPERHOT is a first-person shooter where time only moves when you move. It was originally released back in September 2013 as a free-to-play browser game, after being created as a 7-Day FPS project. There wasn’t that much to it, but the unique and engaging gameplay had me hooked from the start. The time mechanic, while not entirely original (it’s very similar to a mechanic in Braid, for example), is remarkably well-implemented and adds an additional layer of strategy to what would otherwise be a decent but standard shooter. The original, now called the prototype, is still playable for free on the dev’s website.

The full Steam release, which has been in the works since shortly after the prototype first appeared, would have been great if it was exactly the same as the original, except longer. Instead, the developers took the central mechanic and added new and different elements to it, such as throwable items and body-switching, on top of the already-strong prototype. The foundation is here and strong, but the final game builds upon it in some great ways.

SUPERHOT | Subway level

It’s all pretty similar to the prototype from 2013. That’s not really a bad thing.

There’s not much I can say about the story, partly because anything I say could be a spoiler and partly because I’m not entirely sure I understood it. Surprisingly, SUPERHOT takes the meta-game style, similar to Pony Island and Calendula from earlier this year. The game does its best to mess with the player’s head in a variety of ways, often speaking to the player directly and disobeying certain inputs. Again, I won’t say much in the interest of avoiding spoilers, but there’s more to this game than meets the eye. It’s surprisingly dark once you get into it.

Aside from the story and length, the Steam release of SUPERHOT adds a variety of new weapons and gameplay elements on top of the time control and the original pistol. The player can pick up shotguns and assault rifles, as well as several different items in the rooms to throw and several melee weapons. Bullets are always an instant kill, to you as well as the enemies, while melee attacks with or without weapons can take one to three. Hitting an enemy with a thrown or melee attack will cause them to drop their weapon, which you can then grab and use to attack the others around you. You can also throw guns in the same way, the only use for them once they run out of ammo. The main exception is the katana, which will always kill in a single hit, either as a melee or a thrown weapon. It’s especially fun to skewer two enemies with one thrown katana.

SUPERHOT | Transition

The transition from the main menu to gameplay.

The varied ways to dispatch enemies would make for a reasonably enjoyable game even without the time mechanic in place. It makes the entire process of clearing out a room more methodical and strategic since you die in one shot and need to have full situational awareness at all times to avoid being shot from behind while moving or attacking. Later on, the game adds an additional takeover mechanic, where you point your crosshair at an enemy and press a button to take over their body permanently, giving you a new position to take on the enemies around you. Your previous body dies, and although the target throws away and destroys whatever weapon they were holding in the process, it is still an incredibly useful tool when you’re in a bind. You can easily rush a nearby enemy and steal their weapon from your new position if you use the ability effectively.

SUPERHOT | Hotswitch

“Hotswitching” lets you permanently take over enemies’ bodies.

The visual presentation is stunning, with everything taking on a faceted appearance. Enemies and throwable objects both stand out, with the bright red enemies and black objects in stark contrast to the white and gray backgrounds. Information is presented to the player in-game as huge text flashing up on the screen, including alternating “SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT.” at the end of each level as it shows you the replay of the level you just finished in real time, how it would look without time slowing down. The sound design is very minimalist, consisting mainly of weapon sounds and the repeated “SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT.” between levels. Every in-game sound follows the passage of time, slowing down and speeding up accordingly.

SUPERHOT is a game that takes something that would have made for a great game on its own and expands upon it, adding layers of depth and an engaging plot. Completing the story mode, which took me roughly 2 hours, unlocks endless mode and challenges. Endless mode is exactly what it sounds like, and the challenges include going through the entire game with only a katana and speedrunning, with more unlocking as you play them. The game also saves the replays of every level you finish, allowing you to upload them to their website.

SUPERHOT | Assault rifle

The assault rifle is the only weapon that can be fired multiple times without waiting between shots for the recoil.

By far my biggest gripe about SUPERHOT is the asking price. While backers of the Kickstarter campaign and anyone who preordered the game paid $14 for the Steam and DRM-free game as well as extras, the final Steam release of SUPERHOT costs $25 USD. Why exactly this might be, I have no idea, but it seems far too much to be asking for a game where the story mode can easily be beaten in under 2 hours. There is other content, for sure, but no matter how polished and fun the gameplay might be, $25 is just too much to be asking for what’s available. If you want to play SUPERHOT, and I highly recommend that you do, buy it on sale or when the price drops significantly from what it’s at now. I love what’s there, but ultimately for the price I expect there to be more of it. I should also note that the keys cannot be rebound, which could pose an issue for people with non-QWERTY keyboards. It all puts me in an odd spot, since I definitely think that people should play SUPERHOT, but am hesitant to recommend it at the price.

SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

SUPERHOT | Between levels


Review Score

Review copy purchased by author

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.