Review: Superhot (Xbox One)
It starts with a friend sending you a crack of some really cool new VR game. SUPERHOT.EXE gets added to the command prompt in front of you. Once you boot it up you are greeted with violence. But… really slow violence and flashing text shouting commands at you. Time to kill.
When movement equals time, you start to look at the world differently. When you sit idle. Time almost stops in the game. I say almost stops because bullets still continue on their trajectory, just they have to battle through some really strong syrup to get there. Start moving and time progresses commensurately making small slow movements much more useful to staying alive. This sounds far too easy right? You exist outside of time, so kill everything and laugh at the enemies in bullet time? It is more complex than that. While you experience time outside of the normal spectrum, your movements, for the most part, exist within normal time. Recoil of a weapon takes time, as does recovery from swinging a weapon or sliding a shotgun shell home. Actions matter and sometimes it is better to throw a weapon at someone instead of waiting for recoil.
Actually throwing a weapon at someone is tactical and so very satisfying. A shotgun can block deadly projectiles from slicing through you before stunning your opponent, causing them to let go of their weapon. Which you can grab and shoot them with. One shot is enough to kill anyone, a single bullet turning your orange assailants into slow-motion cascades of glass, but a single hit means the end of you too. Victory means you get a video showcasing your escapades in real-time, your work for the last while reduced to a flurry of activity that is over in mere seconds. SUPER HOT. SUPER HOT. SUPER HOT. It takes over your screen, it shouts into your ears.
You feel like an action hero, slamming limbs, bottles and briefcases into people, stealing their guns and shooting them while dancing out of the line of fire of an assault rifle. The slow motion adds to that aesthetic and if you don’t feel like you are suddenly Jason Statham or some other gruff, tough action hero bloke you are probably about to die. One level, which starts in an elevator, shows how the game is part-puzzle, part action movie choreography. Outnumbered and outgunned and essentially cornered, it is a tough situation to escape. But once you do, you feel SUPER HOT.
Exploring the menus of the game is a reminder of my youth, a time spent messing around in MS-DOS looking for clues and hanging onto precious files related to my passions. The machine in front of you is no different. BBS boards, ASCII fan art, low-res rips of trailers for SUPERHOT, the machine is full of little Easter eggs and reminders of a time when GUI meant someone had added ### boxes around text to make menus. The machine also hints at the massive quantity of time the user has dedicated to SUPERHOT, which has pretty much taken over their life.
The game can do that too. Eventually you will unlock endless modes and challenges which really put your skills to the test. Imagine a killing room with you and four others inside, every time you kill enough people new guys with bigger weapons arrive. Eventually they will aim while moving, or strafe while shooting making it harder to aim at where they will be when they bullet arrives. If you can kill enough people you will unlock more arenas, where you can show off your scores in even cooler places. Come on, show off on Killstagram.
Challenges require tackling things in a different way too. My favourite one so far is katana only, where you can only kill opponents by slicing them or throwing your katana at them. To help you out you start with the weapon and you run a bit faster than normal, but the game’s levels stay the same beyond that. Some of them become a walk in the park, like a enclosed level about a fight ring, while others, with assault rifles everywhere, become rather tricky.
In the end, it is all just SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT.