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Superhot review

Time to die

I’d been burnt out on shooters for quite a while before I found out about the prototype that would eventually become Superhot. At about ten minutes long, the demo captured me with its fascinating “time moves only when you move,” mechanic. When I heard that the developers behind the mini-game were taking to Kickstarter in pursuit of a full release, I was intrigued, but skeptical that the ideas behind the game could be explored any further. Although the end result is admittedly short, developer Superhot Team takes its simple concept to its maximum extent with the game’s full release.

The star of the show in Superhot is its time-bending mechanic. Where most games focus on quick reactions to threats, time slowly crawls along in Superhot, allowing players to take in their surroundings before making a move—at which point, time moves along with the player. The deliberate pace makes the game feel more like a puzzler akin to Portal than a shooter. Levels usually place players into a situation that requires immediate action, whether that’s being surrounded by enemies pointing guns at your head, or being dropped in front of a moving truck. These situations usually lead to a quick death, but luckily, load times are extremely forgiving. And, once you get a handle on the situation, there’s nothing quite like assessing the threat of a bullet that’s trained on your head, halting it in midair by ceasing your movement, and changing directions to dodge it. When you’re eventually able to wrap your mind around the way the game wants you to play, smashing and snatching guns from enemies feels completely natural.

Videos play back at full speed following each level, revealing the ninja-like efficiency of your moves, but a voice and text box saying the words “Super Hot” repeatedly makes it difficult to enjoy your accomplishment. Luckily, the clips can be viewed without the overlay after a button press, but the way the game is constructed, you’ll hear the same repeated voiceover several dozen times during its approximately three-hour length—even if you’re mashing the next button at the end of each stage. The sensory overload does fit the game’s narrative, but after just a few levels, the sound transitions from haunting to downright annoying.

Superhot‘s minimal narrative is surprisingly effective despite its simplicity. The game starts from a DOS-style boot screen. You receive a message from a friend prompting you to try out this hacked game, Superhot.exe, but the program turns out to be much more than a toy. Saying anything more would spoil what makes Superhot‘s storytelling so great, but I can say that on my first playthrough (which was on PC,) I had to take a break at about the halfway point because I felt uneasy—as if I was being watched. Superhot doesn’t rely on tactics that you might find in a traditional horror title such as gore or jump scares, and it’s far from a “scary” game, but the way that it plays into the fears that come along with the modern age is chilling.

Having played through Superhot on PC prior to the Xbox One version, the console version betrays the claustrophobic feeling you get when you’re playing on a desktop. The comfort of sitting on the couch while playing on a big screen TV allows for a disconnect between the player and the game’s themes, which unfortunately detracts from its chilling atmosphere.

Superhot is admittedly very short, which isn’t inherently a problem. It’s that, at the exact moment you feel like you’ve mastered the game, that’s when the credits roll. The final level is one of the most interesting takes on a boss fight I’ve seen in any shooter, but when you’re finished, you’re left wanting something more to test your skills. Endless and challenge modes offer more ways to test your Superhot abilities, but the final stage was the only place where everything that I had learned was challenged beyond chasing a high score.

Superhot is the perfect remedy for anyone feeling burnt out from the experience expected from first-person shooters. If you’re looking for something to shake up your thoughts on what can be done in the genre, then Superhot was made specifically for you. If you’re satisfied with the status quo of current-gen shooters, then you’ll likely be disappointed by the game’s length, even by today’s standards. Superhot is a nearly flawless and extensive exploration of a novel idea, but doesn’t go far enough beyond that initial thought.

★★★★☆

Superhot executes the ideas at its core without flaw, but doesn't step very far outside of those bounds. If you're looking for something to shake up your view of what can be done in a shooter, this is the game for you.

Developer
Superhot Team
Publisher
Superhot Team
ESRB
T – Teen
Release Date
05.03.16
Superhot is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Superhot Team for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.

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