Superhot Review

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Posted February 26, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Video Games

Developed by: SUPERHOT Team

Published by: SUPERHOT Team

Available for: PC (reviewed), Mac, Xbox One

Price: $24.99

First person shooters were about the only games I played for a while.HaloCrysis, Far Cry, Bioshock and a bunch of others, until about two years ago, the genre lost me. Suddenly, it was adventure and strategy games that were really clicking with me. I will always maintain that there are great first person shooters, but I never thought that a new one would interest me.

When buzz started to pick up concerning SUPERHOT, I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical. It was coming out less than three weeks after XCOM 2, I knew I wouldn’t have gotten around to Firewatch yet – so I doubted I would ever play the game.

Clearly, I did end up playing it. Or maybe I didn’t, and this is all conjecture based on watching gameplay and trailers. Please don’t actually think I would review a video game without playing it first. I took a break from XCOM 2 to give SUPERHOT a shot, and I’m really glad I did. I don’t remember the last new first person shooter I loved this much. Far Cry 4? Though I don’t know that they’re equivalent – I love SUPERHOT for how it warps the traditional first person shooter formula.

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SUPERHOT is definitely not something that everyone will love. Traditional first person shooter fans may not be into it, considering that it throws up both middle fingers at the twitchy, fast paced gameplay of the genre. I guess you could play SUPERHOT like that way, but that completely defeats the point of the game. If you’re going to do that, just continue playing Call of Duty or Battlefield or whatever it is the kids are playing these days.

SUPERHOT encourages slow, methodical gameplay. In my experience (and maybe this is because I’m bad) missions took a good bit of time and multiple attempts to complete. Certainly, the fact that you can only take one bullet had something to do with this. But I learned from each of my deaths, and reloaded a mission ready to execute on what I had learned. I was given a scenario, but never perfect information. Over the course of multiple attempts, I gained information and as a result was able to develop a strategy. Some worked, some didn’t, but whether I was succeeding or taking a bullet as soon as I loaded into the mission, I knew it was always because of my own decisions.

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The point is that SUPERHOT gave me agency. I wasn’t tossed into an open world with a ton of guns, vehicles, and a massive skill tree. However, I felt that I was being encouraged to experiment. There’s no tutorial, and the game only gives the bare minimum in terms of information. Left click to shoot or hit people. Right click to throw your weapon. Left click to pick up objects. Get it? Better hope so. Oh, and time only advances while you’re moving. I should have mentioned this earlier in the review – I’m bad at this, what can I say? – but SUPERHOT’s gimmick is that, as long as you aren’t moving, time is virtually frozen.

Now, for practical purposes, this isn’t entirely true. Time is slowed to a snail’s pace, so you can’t sit in one place, not do anything, and hope to be Ok. However, these moments do provide some respite, time to get your bearings and plan. It also adds a unique dynamic to the game. You can’t shoot at enemies like in other shooters. You almost always have to approximate where an enemy will be, and make sure your bullet is thereto meet them. Otherwise, they’ll be able toevade it. Fortunately, the enemy AI isn’t quite capable of pulling off this feat. 

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SUPERHOT also contains a surprising amount of content. It is a $25 game, but there’s a full campaign plus Survival mode with a variety of maps. Obviously, the amount of time you spend in a game is a silly way of evaluating it, even though, you know, it’s something I just kind of did. I’m not entirely sure why, I guess I just want to make it clear to certain types of people that maybe this game isn’t for them. But really, that seems like a shame, because SUPERHOT is so unlike anything else out there right now, especially in the genre that it occupies. It’s a first person shooter that plays like… well, I honestly don’t know what a solid point of comparison would be.

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I really was not expecting the game to have much of a story, although perhaps it’s more of a surprise because it’s actually good. The first half hour feels like a tech demo, and I expected that to continue throughout the campaign. The game would introduce some new element, I would play around with that for a mission or two, then it would toss another new element my way, rinse, and repeat. The game does do that, but there’s a more there. Honestly, that would have been fine, but it’s definitely nice that there was clearly some effort put into the story.

It’s not breaking any new ground, really, and the twists are obvious if you’re paying attention. But it’s still a cool story, and unlike so many other first person shooters, it’s not blatantly offensive to play through. The story on its own wouldn’t have been enough for me to push through the game, but it helped. What’s more important is that the game was just pure fun for the time I spent with it. Like I said, I’m approaching the point of being done with it, but “being done” is probably “take a break for two months and then dive back in when I’m feeling in the mood.” It’s the sense of fun that really drives SUPERHOT.

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That’s definitely what SUPERHOT is. It’s fun, and it’s different. It has a super stylized art style that’s simplistic, but fits. It works in the context of the game, and the game looks great and runs well. I haven’t experienced any bugs – a few framerate drops are the only technical issues. It is key for this game to run well. If it didn’t, it would kind of be a disaster. When everything comes together, it feels great to watch unfold. I’d hate for that experience to be marred by technical problems.

On that note, there’s a replay of each mission once it’s been completed. I skipped them the first couple times, and I’m disappointed. They show the level with the time mechanic removed, so it looks like a traditional FPS. It makes me look like I’m much better at shooters than I actually am, which is rad. Maybe I just like that feature because it validates me.

SUPERHOT is a great game. It’s not perfect, but the time mechanic makes the experience incredibly fun, and gives it a very unique feel. It’s an experience, and one more than worth having at that. 


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.