Gaming has been so completely oversaturated by first-person shooters over the past two decades that it’s hard to imagine that there’s any room left for innovation. Fast-paced shooters. Slow-paced, methodical shooters. FPSs with parkour and RPG elements. It seems like it’s all been done.
The last time there was something truly different in the field was when Valve released Portal, which made players completely re-think how to traverse a level. But the first portal came out almost a decade ago, and beyond that, it’s been almost nothing but additional entries in the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises.
But Superhot shows there might still be a few new ideas that can be squeezed out of first-person shooters. Superhot is a unique and fun new take on the genre where every firefight is a puzzle and time only moves when you move.
Superhot borrows a bit from any random FPS, the Fallout V.A.T.S. system, and even the underrated rails shooter REZ to craft its gameplay.
You begin each level in a completely white environment, typically unarmed. A few human enemies made up of only red polygons may be nearby, but they can only move toward you or fire their weapons when you move. That might sound like it makes the game incredibly easy, but one-hit kills are also in full force. The strategy involved in setting up a perfect shot may feel like a Fallout game, but the ever-present fear of dying makes the game flow more like Super Meat Boy or N+.
Levels start off simple. It’s just a matter of grabbing a gun, positioning yourself just right, and offing a few foes, but the difficulty quickly ramps up, with some levels including upwards of dozen enemies. You’ll have to move fast and plan carefully to take out a few “red dudes” with a pistol before grabbing a katana sword and ultimately throwing it at last group of enemies before picking up a shotgun to finish them off once and for all.
When Superhot works well, it feels like a perfectly choreographed Hong Kong action movie that you’re in complete control of. Enemies, shattered into thousands of red polygons, are frozen in midair as bullets whiz by and you move to the other end of the level to get off your next shot.
That being said, a few levels can require frustratingly perfect planning and timing. And if there are too many enemies in a level, it’s easy to be taken out by a stray bullet from behind that you had no idea was coming. Still, these are mostly just speed bumps in an overall enjoyable experience.
And oh yeah, Superhot may just look like a tech demo for an interesting idea (and indeed it did begin life as just a prototype for seven-day game development challenge). but there’s actually an interesting story here about getting the Superhot game from your friend and findin that it slowly consumes your life. Yeah, that sounds like a bad ’90s sci-fi movie, but the story, told only via chat text, works well here, and there are actually a few cool Eternal Darkness-esque moments that blur the line between glitches and what’s really part of the game.
Ultimately, Superhot is a lot more than just the tech demo that it began life as, but it’s also not quite the future of the FPS genre. What it is an innovative new take on the genre that everyone looking for something a little different should check out.
At first glance, you could fault Superhot for looking like a Playstation 1 game, but Superhot’s graphics are actually extremely well thought out and stylized. The world is white. Enemies and danger are red, and weapons are black.
Yes, all of the models are very low-poly, but it would be ridiculously difficult to figure out where bullets were coming from if Superhot looked like a Call of Duty clone. Superhot may not look like much, but it knows what it’s doing with its art, and if the style hasn’t grown on you by the end of the (fairly brief) campaign, then you’ll probably never be convinced to like anything but ultra-realistic graphics.
Superhot’s minimalist design extends to its sound as well, so a deep voice repeating the words “Super…hot!” at the end of each level is about all you’re getting aside from the sound of weapons and the whir of a modem during interludes.
The thing is, it all works pretty well. I’m not sure that any music could fit the game better. If anything, it might take away from what Superhot Team has put together. What’s here helps create an intimate and often times anxious mood. More indie games could take a note from the work of Superhot Team and try to use sound to create an atmosphere rather than shoehorn in whatever generic rock or techno music they could afford.
The main campaign is only 3-4 hours. What’s here is good, but that does make Superhot a little expensive for the amount of content you’re getting at the $24.99 asking price. There’s also an endless mode and a challenge mode that unlock after you beat the main campaign. Those might add another hour or two to your game time, but there’s no denying that Superhot is over far too quick. Still, you’re paying more for the memorable experience (which is great) than for dozens of hours of gameplay.
Reviewed by Chris Freiberg