Time moves only when you move. This is the brilliantly simple premise that underpins Superhot, one of last year’s most celebrated shooters. Far removed from Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other genre stalwarts, it places an emphasis on strategy and puzzle solving while making you feel like the ultimate badass.
Superhot’s origins as an indie gamejam prototype are fairly evident in that it feels like a base concept that has been stretched into something bigger. That said, instead of giving players a longform narrative and vast levels to explore, the game is fed to you in bite-sized chunks. Each of these scenarios require you to kill all of the enemies (or “red dudes”), using whatever weapons you can find. You’ll need to be careful though as one well-placed bullet will send you back to the previous checkpoint.
As you ease into the game’s rhythm you’ll find yourself immersed in its ballet-style gunfights, nonchalantly sidestepping enemy fire as you close in for the kill. Varying spawn patterns and layouts will keep you on your toes as enemies look to flank your position or fire down from catwalks.
When in a sticky situation, guns aren’t always the answer as you’ll quickly discover. This is due to the effect slowmo has on a weapon’s fire rate plus the scarcity of ammunition. It’s by no means a bad thing, rewarding player who think outside the genre’s usual restrictions to disarm foes or shield themselves from bullets.
Attaching a story to the 2-3 hours’ worth of levels could easily have gone wrong yet works brilliantly. Superhot is framed as this mysterious virtual reality experience being shared between users of a chatroom. After booting it up on your old-school terminal, it draws you into a surreal cyber world. It’s dark, playful and serves as a perfect complement to the action, providing a breather between sections yet never intruding or ruining the game’s pace.
Upon reaching its conclusion, Superhot invites players to dive back in and test their skills with bonus modes and a series of challenges. They definitely help to add some much-needed bulk yet don’t have the same draw as those core missions.
Another aspect many will latch onto is Superhot’s minimalist look. Using only a modest dash of colour and basic lighting, environments have a sleek and stylish aesthetic, halfway between an architectural model and digital simulation. The sound design is equally understated, patching together the chirps, drones, and buzzing of computer hardware with an occasional burst of Daft Punk-esque electro.
Although some will call the game out for being short, this actually works in its favour. If Superhot were any longer, it would lose that all-important momentum it manages to build up so well. Needless to say, that second playthrough won’t have anywhere near the same impact as it did the first time, though a minority will want to wring out every last morsel Superhot has to give.
A crafty base concept and careful execution make Superhot one of the most intriguing games to come from the recent class of indie-developed shooters. Its bizarre setting and puzzle-like approach are refreshingly original and hopefully something the team will now expand upon following Superhot’s early success.
Version Tested: PS4 Pro