Shooters aren’t normally a genre that is ripe with innovation. Ever since Call of Duty 4 set the standard for modern FPS games it’s largely been more of the same, with a bit of futuristic tech, or some other novelty to make it all feel worthwhile. In the meantime, indie games have exploded, offering gamers endless amounts of innovation, both in graphical styling and gameplay. However, these two camps never seemed to cross paths, with shooters trudging along, offering yearly entries that felt similar, if not outright the same, and indie games pushing the boundaries of gaming. Now the two have seemingly combined to form a wholly unique take on the well worn genre with Superhot.
Superhot began life as part of a seven day challenge to create a new FPS. These sorts of frantic game development scenarios routinely produce interesting twists, as devs have to come up with some type of mechanic that sets them apart from the pack. For Superhot, that mechanic was time manipulation. Specifically, time didn’t move unless you moved, at least not at a normal pace. This simple change takes the standard FPS formula and turns it on its head, essentially taking the fast paced action and making it into a puzzle-like experience.
As you progress through levels you get a sense that the designers understood and enhanced the elements that made that first try work so well. The final game features an assortment of escalatingly difficult scenarios, with the addition of a few mechanics that make the whole thing come together extremely nicely. But before you truly get how deep the game is, you have to break yourself of a lot of your FPS instincts.
Superhot is unlike any other FPS out there.
Superhot is unlike any other FPS out there. The aforementioned time mechanics change the gameplay in ways that can’t fully be understood until you try them. You can’t run and gun your way through the levels here, as the enemies are smart and will react to your actions before you even get a chance to respond. Instead it’s all about utilizing the time stoppage, or rather the time slowing as time doesn’t totally stop when you aren’t moving making it so you have to keep moving to avoid being shot.
Even looking around allows time to move forward at a more natural pace. You truly have to figure out every motion before making it once the game ramps up its difficulty. Once you figure out the patterns and pull off the necessary moves, everything feels excellent. It’s weird to say, but Superhot is the closest that most games get to making you really feel like an action hero.
For example, you run toward an enemy, dodge their shot, punch them, grab their gun out of the air, shoot them, turn, fire on a guy in the corner while dodging his shotgun blast, move toward a hallway, toss your gun at the guy coming around the corner, grab his gun out of the air, and fire at him to end the level. This all might play out slowly and with a lot of pausing, but somehow it actually makes you feel like you are Neo, John Wick, or some other non-Keanu Reeves action hero.
This is bolstered by the fact that enemies, weapons, and items are not randomly generated, and you can quickly and easily restart the level upon death, allowing you to figure out a plan of attack and implement it with relative ease. It all adds up to a shooter that plays like a puzzle game, with you trying over and over again, looking for the right pattern of movements and actions that will get you through, but its a puzzle game with action trappings that works surprisingly well when put together.
Unfortunately, there aren’t quite enough main story missions to keep you entertained for more than a few hours. What is here is expertly designed, and the way the game doles out new abilities and actions, keeps things feeling fresh right to the very end. But that end comes far too soon, and the unlocked modes that it unleashes, such as endless mode and various challenges, aren’t enough to totally rectify this. They are fun though, and if you are a completionist or a perfectionist then you’ll easily put dozens of hours into them. Most will likely give them a few tries before moving on though.
Surprisingly, Superhot also contains a well written and intriguing story. The game could easily rest on its gameplay innovations without feeling like a cop out, but the story here is quite engaging. Without getting into spoilers, you will find yourself feeling totally paranoid and end up immersed in the plot that is playing out in the game. Again though, the end comes too soon, feeling like it comes to a close just as things are heating up and becoming more than a standard shooter plot.
Superhot also has a fantastic presentation in all respects, enhancing and adding to the story and gameplay pieces quite a bit. The visuals are stunning despite their simplicity, creating a unique looking environment and world to explore. The audio presentation will suck you into the experience, with multiple pieces that will dig into your head for some time. The best part though is just how the game’s menus are presented. Looking like a very old school computer setup, players will get sucked into Superhot right from the outset thanks to the way it puts the player into the universe that it has created.
Superhot is easily one of the most innovative shooters of the last few years. Its core conceit could have come off as gimmicky, but instead it alters the gameplay of the entire genre to the point that it feels like something wholly new, yet ultimately familiar. The real joy though is just in how it makes you feel as a player. Plotting out your moves might take some time, but once it all comes together it truly puts you into the shoes of an action star. If only there was more meat to the game, letting that feeling last longer.
- Available On: Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
- Published By: Superhot Team
- Developed By: Superhot Team
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- US Release Date: February 25th, 2016
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Superhot is a fascinatingly unique take on the shooter genre. Its time manipulation mechanics truly alter the gameplay, making it feel more like a puzzle game than a standard shooter. Great visual and audio design push the game to even higher levels, but the experience might feel a bit short for those who aren't total completionists."