Superhot is the first person shooter power fantasy brought to life. Whether it’s scripted events, stupid AI, or really forgiving auto aim you never actually perform the badass moves seen in action films yourself. This is accomplished in Superhot by nearly freezing time when you look or aim, returning time to normal speed whenever you move. The result is nothing shy of remarkable and I have to admit when the whole scenario is played out in real time you can tell yourself that those amazing moves were all your doing with confidence. As intriguing as it sounds, Superhot is mostly not a shooter and probably most akin to a puzzle game, especially as you briskly near the conclusion. It may be cool looking and it may intrigue, but Superhot still lacks the storytelling and scope we’ve come to expect of games at this tier.
Aside from the mechanics you’ll immediately notice the fantastic and stylish visuals that borrow a color scheme from the likes of Mirror’s Edge and an aesthetic straight out of 90s VR. It’s self aware, however, with both the events that unfold in the game and the way your enemies crash to the ground in a digital form of shattering glass. The whole effect, while somewhat simplistic, is more effective than I would have imagined. You’ll progress through 34 total scenarios and your skill set will increase beyond the basics of dodging bullets up close to throwing items at enemies while you juggle their guns and beyond. When you learn a new move or mechanic you’ll be dropped into a handful of scenarios that test you knowledge and abilities as well as check your adaptation to curve balls. Superhot loses steam here because the “curve ball” is almost always a batch of enemies spawning in at deliberate locations to get the jump on you. In addition, those spawn points don’t seem to change (although the weapon they wield does) so it’s nothing more than a game of memorization after an unfair ambush. I thought that with modern AI we would have done away with the pattern recognition of the 80s and 90s but apparently it’s back in force. The bare bones plot that casually navigates you through the missions also eludes to this potentially being part of a higher design, but I find that to be mostly ironic given that you’re apparently training for real world scenarios.
Speaking of real world scenarios, that’s another place where Superhot stumbles. Many of the missions will begin in the middle of a circumstance where the only answer is to immediately do something, like move out of the way of a moving truck. Well unless you know that and know exactly where to go the truck, even in slow motion, moves forward enough while you look around to flatten you the first time. This was a mechanic used time and time again at the beginning of missions and I never found it fun or effective. Game design is not supposed to be about killing you to teach you of danger and then seeing if you can avoid it a second time, but rather give you the tools to adapt the a situation and hopefully overcome it the first time. The same is true with enemies as well, where you will literally die a half dozen times as you try to figure out who the hell spawned in the beginning and where the hell they all are. One of the first missions that does this called “Elevator Pitch” so if you get to that point and find yourself frustrated and rolling your eyes as you attempt to perform the blocking the designers made for you, strap in because it won’t be anywhere near the last time you’ll do this song and dance. There’s even a late mechanic that comes off as quite helpful but of course gets disabled for a majority of the difficult final scenario. I don’t understand why you would introduce a mechanic only to take it away for your big final test. If it breaks the goals of the challenge perhaps you shouldn’t include it.
These problems, while consistent and noticeable, don’t completely ruin the experience thanks to a majority of missions being well designed. In addition, my issues with the missions could be a personality difference and the missions I loved are someone else’s hell. I have to commend the team for a diversity in mission structure and play style as you navigate a myriad of circumstances. In addition when you completely nail a mission start to finish the first time – especially if it’s a complicated circumstance – the sense of accomplishment puts a big smile on your face. I also haven’t had my heart beat so fast during a game played almost solely in slow motion. Ultimately it’s a simulation that lets you see and perform the actions of Neo at the end of the first Matrix film and for the most part it’s spot on. Superhot is, through and through, a game about taking your time and thinking because at full speed I think this title is just shy of impossible. That’s okay because it was designed that way, but if you find yourself getting frustrated (and I certainly did), it’s probably best to take a break and calm down.
At this point we should probably delve into an issue some players will have: the game length. On this week’s podcast I mentioned being about 2.5 hours in and only on mission 17 so I figured the game to be about 4 hours long. That was not correct. I was, in fact, on mission 31 and completed the game less than a half an hour later. I also heard this game is more like 90-120 mins, which after running through the game a second time still seems too short if you’re actually trying to take in the title. I put this pretty locked at about 3 hours long. When you consider the $25 price tag it’s really going to be up to you whether or not this is worthwhile. I did have fun playing through a second time for all the collectibles (use a guide) and it filled in some gaps with the story the first time, but unless the unlocked Endless Mode is something you desire this will be a short, but very sweet, experience. Given how the plot and the game suddenly seem to conclude, I think it’s safe to say that the SUPERHOT Team either didn’t have time to finish this game or ran out of scenarios and ideas when the project had a larger scope. Either way if this is a point of contention with you – and to be clear it is not for me – then you may want to consider if this is the game for you. Keep in mind that Steam will allow you to return a game provided that you haven’t played more than 2 hours, but use that function to demo the title and return if you don’t like what it’s offering and not as a challenge to see if you can complete the game to get your money back. All in all Superhot is a flawed but unique hybrid between the puzzle and shooter genre that acts as a breath of fresh air but can’t seem to provide a consistent experience.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
A review code was provided. Superhot is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linus for an initial price of $24.99. It was completed twice with an approximate time of 3 hours for campaign mode and a total play time of approximately 7 hours by the reviewer. Aside from endless mode, which is a modified version of the scenarios in the main story, there are no additional modes other than campaign.