The PC version of Superhot was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.
Superhot is quite straightforward on a surface level; the player (your avatar) is sitting in front of a DOS screen when prompted to download superhot.exe, given by another player.
Not all is as it seems, as the game soon crashes (within the game) and it soon becomes clear that superhot.exe is more sinister than what it originally was believed. There’s not much more to say without delving into serious story spoilers, but it’s fairly interesting on a meta level; fourth wall breaks and narrative breaking sequences are common throughout Superhot, and there’s some interesting theories that can be drawn away from Superhot, namely the use of VR and game immersion within gameplay. However the main story doesn’t explore much of these concepts and chooses to provide just enough to entertain the player, which given the short narrative, is perfectly fine.
Superhot is an incredibly unique looking title. One could describe the art style as Mirror’s Edge meets the opening credits to Mad Men. The red tinge of enemies contrast heavily to the environments, which are for the most part completely drenched in white, while usable weapons are black. It’s essential for Superhot’s rapid pace gameplay, as these contrasts allow for players to easily pick out what to use, who to kill and what to interact with. With the insanely high octane combat, the stripped down visuals work really, really well in Superhot.
It’s not an intensive game either, with fantastic particle effects and bullet trails that not only look good but directly reflect gameplay elements. Those bullet trails are necessary for the player in order for them to dodge incoming shots, and it helps that it looks good as well.
In terms of performance, the Unity engine is reliable on PC as usual. I noticed a little bit of slowdown in big levels which was a shame but otherwise the game runs very smoothly. It’s a simple game in terms of environments and enemies (a lot of repeated assets), the most intensive segments involve heavy particle effects (broken glass and bullet ricochets) and bullet trails.
Superhot is quite straightforward, but as an FPS it contains one crucial difference: time only moves when you do. When standing completely still, things move at a fraction of time, in a sort of super slow-mo Matrix like motion. Levels are stripped to bare minimum, and with a punishing difficulty (one hit one kill) it becomes more of a puzzle game than a FPS game, requiring the player to work out the perfect sequence of events to not only get through the level alive, but to get through with the most amount of style possible.
The odds are stacked against you, as you are essentially a one man army mowing down a legion of faceless goons. The time element is essential for survival and is an addictive part of the game; throwing a bottle at a gun toting enemy, picking up his gun, dodging bullet trails as you return fire before it’s all over before you know it, with the blaring rhythm of “SUPER. HOT” signals the end of a successful run.
It’s incredible looking back on the replays, where some levels would take a punshingly long time to get through with the time slow mechanic, and rewatching them in normal pace take a few seconds. Seeing the smoothness of your actions is something that is incredibly rewarding in Superhot, and I can’t think of a game that makes your actions look this good. Look to see a lot of uploaded videos on YouTube, and expect your jaw to drop as some inevitable insane runs will start to pop up.
The start/stop nature of Superhot makes it more akin to the Matrix but the fast paced (and slow?) gunplay and difficulty makes it more akin to Hotline Miami. Superhot’s story isn’t deep, but still wrangles some interesting ideas despite the fact that you and your enemies are essentially faceless, voiceless mooks throughout the game. Levels are quite varied; offices, alleyways, bars, parking lots, big spacious masnions, it’s basically a shortlist of greatest locations for a shootout to occur, and it really makes the nature of the game that much cooler.
The story is a painfully brief two hours, but luckily there are a couple of modes that unlock upon completion. Challenge mode is bound to extend the lifetime of the game, with hundreds of challenge levels that create new gameplay elements. There’s also a survival mode that pits you against an endless parade of enemies. Given the addictive nature of Superhot’s gameplay, these modes are a welcome addition. The mechanics of the game are simple, but fall under the ‘easy to learn, tough to master’. There’s a lot of content to be wringed out of Superhot if it manages to grab you, as the gameplay is just that addictive to learn and master.
It’s a tricky situation, as Superhot is currently being priced as roughly $25 AUD for a game that amounts to a couple of hours (excluding the extra modes). However, the extreme fast paced nature of Superhot means that not one moment of the game feels bloated or overlong. Every second in Superhot feels like it belongs there, and it’s refreshing that a game is able to strip down to the bare elements and come as far superior to the bloated masses of games that tend to shove too much in their games for the sake of extending gameplay.
However, it’s a high price to pay for what amounts to a small amount of gameplay. I do feel Superhot is a fantastic game, but it ultimately comes up to the player on whether they want to spend that amount.
From demo to Kickstarter to successful release, Superhot is a game that’s wonderful, addictive albeit painfully brief. The gameplay is simple yet solid, the presentation is smooth and raw and the story opens up some interesting themes that, while not explored in deep levels, still raises some new ideas.