This takes the first person shooter genre and tilts it just so, and creates something new in the process. If that sounds interesting to you, pick this game up.
Remember the first time you saw The Matrix? Hopefully, you got to watch it before people overhyped it for you, and you knew as little about the movie as you could. If so, you likely were blown away at the film’s style, and the action scenes are still emulated almost twenty years later. Along comes this little game called Superhot, and I can finally live out my Neo fantasies in video game form. But what exactly is Superhot? Well, much like The Matrix you must see it for yourself, but I will do my best to explain.
Superhot is a first-person shooter, but that’s selling it way short. I’d call it a first-person puzzle shooter, or FPPS if you’re funky. The game’s tutorial says that time only moves when you do, but that’s not quite the case. Time moves at a bare fraction of normal when you are motionless, and flows normally as you take steps. Each level is a small, self-contained battleground, and you need to take out every enemy to proceed. How you do this is entirely up to you.
This is where the magic of Superhot comes through. Every gunshot or edged melee weapon strike is an instant kill, no matter where the attack lands. The challenge comes in managing large groups of enemies and assessing threat levels. You rarely start with a gun, so the first order of business is a quick melee strike, or throwing a vase at an enemy to make him drop his gun, which flies through the air, just waiting for you to pluck it before it hits the ground. Of course, you’ll want to immediately shoot the gun’s former owner, but what about the guy behind you? Or the two coming around the corner? Guns have a very limited number of bullets, and since time is moving so slowly you can’t just hammer on the fire button.
This requires a lot of trial and error as you work out the best way to tackle each stage, but I found the emphasis on improvisation refreshing. I had to be mindful of my footing, the behavior of each gun, and sometimes discard a perfectly good weapon just to give me an extra second to dispatch a foe. Some of the levels would take me upwards of half an hour to orchestrate the perfect killing run, but I was always rewarded with a real time replay of the carnage I had initiated. Seeing the events unfold at normal speed made me feel like a virtual John Wick, to borrow yet another Keanu Reeves movie example.
Complimenting the sheer badassness of the combat is a minimalist aesthetic that initially turned me off from the game. The environments are all stark white, while enemies are red, featureless figures. They are also decidedly low on the polygon count, resulting in an almost Lawnmower Man caliber of virtual reality. In short, it’s really not much to look at, but the satisfying visual of baddies shattering like glass when they’re taken out worked on me in a big way.
Bookending the Spartan visual style is an overt homage to computer gaming from the early ‘80s, with C: prompts and command lines all over the place. Even though I had little experience with this type of gaming I appreciated how Superhot commits to the bit. This DOS-inspired framing device is integral to the plot, which is the only thing I will not go into detail here. The story of Superhot stayed with me long after I wrapped up the final level, and has some deep implications, but to lay out those story details would be doing a disservice to anyone thinking about playing this game.
Sometimes, little games like Superhot come out of nowhere and take me by storm. Even though the adventure was done and dusted in a scant six hours, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. I mulled the story over in my head for days, and the more I think about Superhot the more I think that I played something very special. This is an experience you should seek out with all haste.