SUPERHOT – Review
- Disclaimer and introduction to the review
- The review itself
I have only played the default version of SUPERHOT as I don’t own a VR device. Therefore, this review is exclusively made for the original game. Before I started writing this review, I’ve made sure to check out everything the game has to offer. The main game was 100% completed, all Endless arenas were unlocked and most challenges have at least been attempted. I’ve played the game on PC with mouse and keyboard. There’s no music to listen to this review as the game doesn’t really have a soundtrack.
SUPER. HOT. I’ve heard those two words quite a lot around the time SUPERHOT started to go viral. What did these words mean? What is the meaning of life? Beats me, but it was clear that SUPERHOT did something special. All I knew about the game before I started playing was its main mechanic: time only moves when you do. Honestly, that was enough to interest me in trying this game out but in the back of my mind, I knew there was more. Conveniently, the SUPERHOT team gave me the perfect excuse to try out the game because I would get the sequel, SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE, for free if I purchased the original before the sequel’s release date. So today, let’s take a look at SUPER. HOT.
SUPERHOT originates from the 2013 event ”7 Day FPS challenge”, a competition where developers were given a week to develop a full-working prototype for games. Director Piotr Iwanicki was inspired by two completely different sources of media: a flash game called Time4Cat which had the same time-freeze mechanics as SUPERHOT does, but also a music video by the Russian band Biting Elbows that featured a special agent escaping a hostage situation through gunplay and parkouring in a first-person perspective. The event prototype was eventually refined and released as a free browser game, to which it gained many followers. Eventually it led to be the fastest game to make it through Steam Greenlight at the time, and a succesfull kickstarter afterwards which also allowed them to create a VR version of the game. The reception for these two games have been extremely positive, with multiple awards given and SUPERHOT VR even being amongst the most played VR games on PC ever! The VR version has sold over 800.000 copies, even exceeding the original vanilla version’s sales. Due to its success, SUPERHOT was eventually able to be released for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, making it available on all modern platforms. There’s actually some trivia today that I can share! That’s been a while huh. Well frankly, there isn’t a lot of trivia, just a reason for the artstyle. It was initially done for development purposes during the ”7 Days FPS challenge”, but the art director eventually convinced Piotr Iwanicki to keep the artstyle due to its simplicity in telling people what their goals are, but also to make it seem like the game emerged from the early 1990’s. Also, the words SUPER and HOT represent the game being positive and intense, so now you know what to expect when people walk up to you and say SUPER. HOT.
So I figured it’s best to talk about the theme first which, yet again, is best to be experienced blind. Though unlike games that have a deeper meaning, it’s pretty clear from the get-go what SUPERHOT is trying to be. I’ll talk about what the exact theme is at the end of this segment with a spoiler tag but for now, let’s say that you’re put into the shoes of an illegal VR gamer who gets his hands on a crack of a game because that’s what the beginning of the game makes you believe. Unfortunately for him, SUPERHOT looks and plays like a game, but it isn’t really just a game. You get reminded pretty often by an unknown being that you should not be “playing” this game, but you can’t resist the addiction that is SUPER. HOT. Without going into spoilers, I feel the game does handle its theme pretty cleverly. Not only just through writing and visuals, but also the means of gameplay–which I’ll come back to later–compliments the theme very well. The same can be said for the main menu, which gives you the early 1990’s feel and has a surprising amount to do, including a pre-recorded chatroom. It gives you the feeling that you’re dissecting the game itself, trying to look at every file included with this illegal pirated copy of the game. The style is very important to the game since aside from the theme, you’re given no story; you got a gun, red is bad, end their day. Since there is no story- or tutorial in SUPERHOT itself, it is important that the in-game VR gamer knows what to do. Alright, time for the spoiler section and then I’ll move on to gameplay. So what the player assumes to be a game is more of a “system”, monitored by an unknown being who tells you in various ways to stop playing because you have no idea what you’re actually doing. A lot of threats are sent your way, even showing that you have no control over yourself. But as human as we are, of course we want to see what’s next. Taking control over messages, showing where the player lives; that’s weak hacker talk. But then, the game forces you to walk to your real-life location in-game, and hit yourself in the head which actually causes an injury. Now it’s very clear that SUPERHOT is more than just a game, but you still want to see more. The creator accepts your persistence and allows you to become one with the system. You won’t need your body anymore, as your mind is one with SUPERHOT. We are all SUPERHOT. You too, will be SUPERHOT. That wasn’t a proposal by the way, but the game encourages you to make more people one with the system soooo… join me I guess? I’m a bad recruiter huh.
Red Light, Green Light
After a chat with your buddy who gives you the game, you’re immediately thrown into the game and the first thing you see is a red man being shot in the head. The strange thing though, is that his dead body doesn’t move at all until you move. Without telling you how the game works, you immediately know that everything in the game moves when you do once you attempt something as simple as a walk- or look around. This is put to the test immediately in the next segment where you have to walk through a small corridor with two enemies at the end. There’s no cover to hide for their bullets but since time is stopped, you can avoid them when they’re coming at you by just slowly strafing to another side. You can even call it a puzzle game in that regard as your objective isn’t just to kill the enemies, but also finding a way to dance through the bullets without biting the dust. Immediately after taking care of the two red enemies and watching your replay in real-time as if you were playing without time stop, the next major mechanic is introduced: throwing whatever you’re carrying. Ammo isn’t endless, and it is often a very viable strategy to stun an enemy with throwing and grabbing their weapon which is frozen in the air thanks to the time stop. A few more mechanics are learned over the course of the game (like taking over an enemy’s body for example), but the most important base gameplay mechanics are taught to you immediately at the start. The gameplay itself doesn’t really evolve over the course of the game aside from a few new weapons but like puzzle games, it is satisfying enough to discover how to solve the stage in front of you. It’s not a lengthy game either which definitely helps in its favour, because I personally wouldn’t play something like SUPERHOT for hours on end. While the gameplay overall is good, it does get repetitive eventually.
The game only just started
There’s actually quite a lot to do outside of the main game, though it is still mostly the same so it won’t change your mind on the game as a whole. I’ve already mentioned the menu before with everything designed in an ASCII format and it’s fun to browse through all the game’s ”files”, but the main attraction here are the post-game modes. The endless- and endurance modes test your skills and see how long you’ll last, while the challenges let you replay stages with handicaps or a new filter. I didn’t bother too much with the challenges personally because they’re the exact same levels all over again, though they will be a replacement for the main campaign once I revisit this game in a distant future. What does suck is that all levels are unlocked chronologically though, so I constantly have to go through the exact same stages in order. That, and the enemies themselves don’t change, but just your restrictions. I would have loved to see a challenge where the levels changed or the enemies’ behaviour. I can throw katana’s, why can’t they throw them while carrying an unlimited supply? Though both the challenge mode and endless/endurance mode are where you’ll be spending most of your time if you’re not tired yet of SUPERHOT, it’s not like the main levels have become irrelevant now. All levels have a secret terminal inside of them which are mostly just fanservice, but most of them are hidden pretty well and I definitely encourage you to find them out yourself without looking at a guide. I enjoyed exploring those levels anyway without focussing on the goal, and the developers were clever enough to not only put the terminals there but also other props like a merry-go-round.
It’s very clear from that start that SUPERHOT is a game that’s very much self-aware in how it handles the story. It is handled pretty well through the ASCII design of the main menu, but also through the gameplay itself. Since this may-or-may-not be a ”game”, it is important that the player knows what to do right away, which is accomplished through the minimalistic design. That said, however: while the gameplay is solid, the game barely evolves past what it introduces to you at first. This isn’t an issue overall because the game has a perfect length for it, but it didn’t encourage me to try out the post-game content too much. Endless mode is fine on its own, but challenges only restrict the player without any changes made to the exact same levels of the campaign that you’re going through. I did have a good amount of fun with the main campaign, but I feel the magic of what made the game fun wasn’t able to shine in anything other than the main campaign.
Final Score: 8.0/10
I did really enjoy SUPERHOT, though I wouldn’t call it the most innovative/best shooter in years that the media has made it out to be. Meta games aren’t anything new, and so aren’t FPS games that try out something different. In my opinion, games shouldn’t really be praised for being innovative, but for executing that innovation well. The main campaign was certainly good, but I’m personally of the opinion that it didn’t have much to offer outside of that from a gameplay-perspective. Meta games also tend to lose their replayability, because you already know what’s going to happen in future playthroughs. So TL;DR: I think it’s a good game for sure, but not as good as the reason it boomed in popularity.
The next review is coming next week hopefully, which will also be the first review where I’m going to experiment with a completely different writing style for the review itself! Please look forward to it!
How important is innovation to you in the video game industry? Are you always looking forward to how a game- or console is able to come up with new ideas, or are you more on the side of just wanting to play a video game that uses old staples and gives them its own spin?
I’m personally more on the side of the latter. I definitely welcome innovation, but I also want to see current staples become more alike to what they ideally were meant to be. A great example of this is the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, which always brings interesting ideas to the table but unfortunately gets rid of them pretty quickly with new innovations.