Video Game Review: ‘Superhot’ – Daily Bruin

(Courtesy of Superhot Team)
Watch a bullet fly by, and step out of the way.
“Superhot,” released Feb. 25, is a first-person shooter game in which time moves when the player does. Actually, time moves incredibly slowly even while standing still, like bullet time in “The Matrix.”
Move a little and time jumps forward, bullets fly by and shattered glass falls to the ground. Each level drops the player into the middle of a scene from a hypothetical action movie. Players run from a truck in an alley, are held at gunpoint in a subway station, fall from a skyscraper and then a kung fu fight breaks out until everyone else is dead. The levels are just unconnected points of fighting. Bullet points.
The people shooting are made out of red crystals that shatter into suspiciously blood-like shards when they die. Are they real people? The creepy antagonist text messages you at one point “‘Define’ real.”
The basic ways of interacting with the world of “Superhot” are all exciting action-movie moments. Punch a Red Dude and grab his gun. Dodge a bullet. Throw a gun or a sculpture. Combined with the slow-motion effect, players have some – but never enough – time to plan. It’s a game that lends itself to mastery.
Sometimes “Superhot” resembles a puzzle game in which it is just a matter of retrying the level until finding the right solution. Even there, the quick, measured shooting is a blast – the game combines twitchy, reflex-based speed with measured accuracy within seconds of each other.
There is not a wasted mechanic, a wasted moment or a wasted design in this game, it is lean and efficient.
At its best, “Superhot” is an improvisational feast, a game of reaction to uncertain circumstances that makes the player feel like the quick-reflexed action hero from a movie.
Back in 2013, when “Superhot” was a prototype built in seven days, it was a fun use of an inventive slow-motion mechanic, but was limited and ugly. There were only a few levels, the game had just a pistol as a weapon and it was trapped in a web browser. Now, it has emerged from a crowdfunded chrysalis.
Levels quickly grow in complexity from simple tutorials into beautifully orchestrated ballets of death. There are careful, tactical considerations running through the mind at every moment: If the player moves behind a pillar, a guy with a shotgun will miss him, which will give the player enough time to punch that other fellow, grab his pistol and kill the shotgun guy.
The game blares its name after every level while repeating a run-through in “real time.” Most levels take less than 30 seconds to finish in real, not slowed-down time.
“Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot,” the game says, in a pumping beat.
Between the contextless levels is a connecting story in the dingy disk operating system-style computer menu – a game called “superhot.exe” is the hottest new illicit file from an unknown source, and the owners would like the player to quit playing. The player-hacker is drawn into a web of control as the system moves from a remote game to a very real threat.
The game’s beautifully abstract art style, inherited from the prototype, is efficiently designed. The world is white; weapons and throwable objects are black. Bullets have a big, visible tail. The world is pleasingly shiny except for the buildings which are made entirely out of concrete.
The story is only a few hours long and each of the few dozen levels are fairly short. But after that an endless mode and challenging alternate play-styles more than make up for the short main game, like beating the game with only a katana or only killing the Red Dudes with thrown objects like bottles, billiard balls or small dog statuettes.
The endless mode in particular has a kind of one-more-try feel that’s charming enough to come back to, as enemies with baseball bats and shotguns assault a room from all sides until the player dies.
“Superhot” ordered me to say it’s one of the most innovative shooters I’ve played in years. Fortunately, that’s true.
– Joshua Greenberg
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