Superhot review: A million Matrix moments…
Superhot is a game where you're dropped into over the top action set pieces and have to survive with your time slowing skills
In Superhot, you are in trouble. It doesn’t matter what kind (really it doesn’t) but the reality is you’ve just been dropped in the middle of some serious excrement. That might mean you’re squaring up to a cage full of bat-wielding psychos, trapped in an alleyway as a truck careens towards you or tumbling into the bowels of a chem lab filled with gun-toting goons.
How you got here is unimportant. What matters is what you’re going to do with those scant few seconds before your life is snatched away by bullet or bat or the boom of a shotgun.
Luckily you have one advantage, while the enemies are plentiful and well-armed, you can control the flow of time. Specifically, events only proceed while you yourself are moving.
Imagine the moment – a lift full of enemies, all with pistols loaded to bear. The foe on your left is already moving, the other two slower on the draw. You know he’ll be first to fire as you take a split second to survey the terrain.
With that in mind you dodge left and past him. A strike to the chest knocks him off balance while his gun flies into your grip. The same movement placed him in the line of fire for his friend so he’s out of the game. Two left.
Your first bullet claims the life of number two with a brainpan-shattering crash while the final enemy takes careful aim amid the carnage. There’s no time to retreat, no milliseconds left to reload so you toss the gun, gaining an extra inch of room as he’s distracted. You dart across the open space, clocking him once, twice, thrice and he’s out. And then the lift doors open…
This is pure action; the time slowing, detail catching descriptions of nail biting thriller novels and those effective killing machines who people them. Its a million Matrix moments all rolled up into one visceral experience, with a mix of urgency and strategy and frustration and maximum cool.
Developed by Superhot Team originally as part of a 7 day game jam, it’s the incredibly simple mechanic of Superhot which makes it so special. It’s just you and your weapon of choice in a stark white world with enemies in red hot and potentially lethal paraphernalia around.
There are no distractingly pretty graphics though the visuals have their own kind of beautiful brevity, complete with gorgeous particle effects as your glasslike enemies shatter in response to your carefully placed bullets. This is pure gaming, moment to moment survival and tactical shooterage of the highest order.
And while it may be simple Superhot has plenty to keep you enthralled. For example pistols have to reload between shots, something which requires time to move ahead. You’ll soon learn exactly how long that gap is and also the faster options, like throwing your weapon instead, picking another gun out of the air which can instantly fire.
It’s also more dynamic than it first appears – time isn’t a fully static thing, the arc of bullets continues even when you’ve stopped. You’re certain to be caught off guard by a round to the head while planning your next move, instantly reloading to do it all again.
The scenarios in Superhot are varied enough through the initial series of levels, with set pieces that could come out of a range of movies and games and a collection of weapons both automatic and double barrelled. The katana has to be our favourite, it’s an instant kill when thrown, but keep in mind any pickups can be weaponised, giving you time to close in for the kill.
An endless mode unlocks after you’ve gone through the main levels, tasking you with taking out as many enemies as possible and there are also challenges taking you back to the game with certain handicaps or requirements. You can do speedruns, limited weapons, melee only and more, forcing you to think carefully before you move and really adding to the difficulty level.
There’s a social aspect too, with Superhot’s own Killstagram where you can edit and upload your best replays. This wasn’t working perfectly pre-release but should be up now. And the team put plenty of thought into the interface for the game, based on the idea of hacking into a system with a crack and peppered with weird mini games, animations and text.
This hacking element is a big part of the story element of the game, which is by turns clever and a little self-involved. It hammers home a few familiar points on the way towards a predictable enough ending but there are some surprises along the way and some interesting digs at the nature of gaming and violence in media.
Superhot doesn’t have vast numbers of levels but that hardly matters as the experience is so enthralling. There’s a thrill to every successful attack, every mortal shattering and the blooming flower of fragments which accompanies it. You’ll be caught up in each scene as the bullets fly and find their targets, then sit back and bask in the full speed replay. See that beautiful carnage? You made that. Good dog.
Superhot is out now on PC.