Release Date: February 25, 2016
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Review Platform: PC
If I described SUPERHOT as a one-trick pony, it would be an accurate statement, and it would generally also be considered a criticism. Except that SUPERHOT is a really, really fun one-trick pony. And this pony doesn’t waste time trying to be something it’s not. SUPERHOT takes the perpetually unoriginal FPS genre and does some amazing things with it.
The Down and Dirty
The simplicity of this game is what makes it standout.
The entire setting, including walls, floors, furniture, and vehicles is rendered in white. All of your featureless enemies are an iridescent red and your character is an iridescent black (although you won’t ever see more than an arm or two of yourself). Weapons are black as well. These choices create a starkly beautiful contrast throughout the game, inexplicably adding to the whole experience. It just works.
Combat is similarly basic. One hit, one kill—that goes for both you and your enemies. It doesn’t matter if you’re hit by the blast of shotgun, eviscerated by a katana or just thwacked by a solid right hand, one hit will do the trick. The guys in red die just as easily though. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more of them.
Guns have limited ammunition and can’t be reloaded. The contents of their magazine is not displayed anywhere, so you’ve got to count each shot and plan accordingly. Empty guns, melee weapons and other objects like bottles can be thrown at your enemies, stunning them briefly and launching their own weapon towards the player, which can then be caught and equipped in mid-air. Rinse and repeat.
And that’s SUPERHOT in a nutshell.
Sure, it might sound a bit pedestrian, but the key element that ties everything together is time. When you move, time moves with you, and so do your enemies. Every step and every action, like picking up a pistol, forces time to progress. Choose to remain still and time will come to a screeching halt, allowing a plan to be formulated for your next moves.
Out of ammo? No other weapons in sight? Two enemies in front, two behind and more on the way? Multiple bullets headed your direction? What will you do? Decisions, decisions. Situations like this happen regularly in SUPERHOT, where the brilliant usage of time actually makes this FPS feel more like a puzzle than a shooter. It also allows for some incredibly satisfying action sequences that are disappointing only when they come to an end.
Where SUPERHOT does not succeed, is the storyline. The story is told through the boring interactions of two people chatting over a DOS-era command prompt screen. Two anonymous people having a cheesy conversation with vague hacker, stalker and Matrix overtones through an old computer screen just doesn’t do it for me. The biggest problem is that players are forced to sit through these tired dialogs in between stages. Frequently I found myself frantically mashing keys in the hopes of skipping these pointless interruptions. SUPERHOT would actually benefit from completely removing its own storyline and instead emphasizing its strong gameplay.
The Bottom Line
SUPERHOT provides an exhilarating experience that perfectly negotiates the line between an FPS and a puzzle. It feels balanced, polished, and challenging. Each stage adds another element and switches up the environment nicely.
The plot is utterly pointless, adding no enjoyment nor engagement. The campaign, if you can call it that, is quite short at only 2-3 hours. This, however, is somewhat offset by the plethora of scenarios unlocked after beating the main “story.”
All things considered, SUPERHOT is probably the most fun one-trick pony to be released in a long time.