SUPERHOT (X1) — Review

I recently took some time out of my busy Overwatch schedule to play a game I’ve been interested in since it’s PC release back in February.  The entirety of SUPERHOT’s campaign can be experienced in a single two-hour session, meaning this will be a pretty short review, and the $25 price tag can be a bit off-putting, but I think SUPERHOT is worth the price of admission.  One thing is for sure — SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Simple graphics and time manipulation make a one-of-a-kind game.

Simple graphics and time manipulation make for a one-of-a-kind game.

  • TL;DR: One central mechanic makes SUPERHOT an incredibly unique experience
  • Platform: X1
  • Time Played: 2:00
  • What I Played: All of the main campaign, tried a few challenge mode stages

SUPERHOT starts off with you in a chat room.  A friend of yours sends you a few files: superhot.exe, readme.txt, and quit.exe.  The friend tells you that superhot.exe is really fun, so you fire it up.  You quickly become addicted to it, though, and struggle to keep reality and the game world separate.  There is a fairly twisted story that requires a lot of introspection that I won’t go into detail about here, as finding it out for yourself is half the fun of it.

What I will go into in detail is the easy to understand, difficult to master gameplay.  In SUPERHOT, you are dropped into white/grey stages with a number of red, low-poly enemies.  These enemies are trying to kill you with guns, swords, and clubs, so naturally you are trying to kill them first.  Both you and the enemies are downed with a single hit.  The catch in SUPERHOT is that time only moves when you move.  When an enemy shoots, you can stand perfectly still and trace the bullet’s path so that you can dodge out of the way.  This seemingly simple change makes SUPERHOT one hell of a different FPS game.

There are no skills to upgrade or gear to wear in SUPERHOT, but you will pick up different techniques over the game’s 30 or so levels.  Guns have limited ammo and you can throw them when they are empty, which can be used to stun enemies.  Stunned enemies will cough up their weapon which you can grab out of mid-air to keep fighting with.  A couple of punches will also net you a kill, although they each take precious time.  The incredibly low detail, from the plain stages to the low-resolution enemies, helps focus you on the task at hand.  Where did that bullet just come from, where did that shotgun blast sound come from, where is my next target?

Super soldier mode: engage.

Super soldier mode: engage.

I can’t help but compare combat to scenes from the movie John Wick.  Each level leaves you feeling like the ultimate super soldier, dodging incoming fire and taking down enemies with deadly efficiency.  An explosion of shattering glass after each kill keeps the energy up.  This feeling is driven home at the end of each level by showing what you did in real time.  You get to watch yourself shoot two enemies, serpentine dodge a shotgunner three times before punching him and taking his gun, then clearing around a corner in no time flat.  It never gets old.  You can also save your clips and upload them to SUPERHOT’s official video sharing site.

The entirety of SUPERHOT is wrapped up in this AIM/IRC layer, which is a bit strange at first but quickly starts to gel.  You’ll play a few levels and be kicked out of superhot.exe after it glitches out, which is when your chat friend sends you a newly cracked version of the software.  There are a few other directories on your computer to distract yourself with, like ASCII art and minigames.  The lumberjack one is pretty fun for about 10 minutes.

Endless and challenge modes add content on top of the ~30 levels of the main campaign.  There are a fair amount of challenges, each with it’s own completion time to hit.  If you’re the kind of player who likes to feel complete mastery over a game’s systems and controls, these challenge modes are definitely for you.

"Alright, I shot this guy and I see the two ahead. I'll throw the sword at that one, dodge, move up..."

“Alright, I shot this guy and I see the two ahead. I’ll throw the sword at that one, dodge, move up…”

This may be my shortest review to date, but a two hour game can have that effect.  SUPERHOT is definitely a fun experience and the central mechanic of stopping time when you stop moving really shakes up the traditional “kill the bad guys before they kill you” FPS vibe.  I didn’t mind the $25 price tag as I found the uniqueness of the game to be worth it, but I can see the argument in waiting for a price drop.  SUPERHOT is a fun time even though it is largely a one-trick pony.

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