SUPERHOT (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 15.06.2016 1

Review for SUPERHOT on PC

Bullet time has never undergone any significant change in video games. For 15 years, action games have been re-implementing Max Payne's primary selling point with such ubiquity that it's practically a requirement of the genre. It's understandable; the ability to slow down time and singularly visualise a hectic combat scenario is a useful and exhilarating feature, but it seemed to be a mechanical dead end. That's finally changed in 2016, as SUPERHOT gives the concept a second wind. The bizarre meta-narrative wrapped around this revitalisation insists that the game be labelled "The most innovative shooter played in years," and astonishingly, that's actually true.

The central tenet of the gameplay is that time stands nearly still unless the player is moving, facilitating feats of superhuman reflexes against otherwise evenly matched opponents. The most direct application of this is dodging bullets, but it lays the foundation for several other abilities previously exclusive to cut-scenes and action movies. Disarming an enemy, grabbing his gun out of mid-air and then executing him with it in the span of a quarter-second is an immensely satisfying experience, partially because it's simply not normally possible while using a controller. Similarly, this version of bullet time allows you to block bullets with a katana…or even other bullets! The absurd influence of Hotline Miami is also apparent in the vital tactic of throwing spent firearms to stun enemies.

As for that previously mentioned meta-narrative, while more and more games feature their own development or consumption as subtext, SUPERHOT's allegory is for its own attempts at viral marketing. It seems to have the text-subtext relationship backwards, though. The literal explanation for the plot's events (the premise is simply that a character has been gifted a copy of superhot.exe, but oh boy, does it expand from there) is obscured behind optional data terminals, while the real-world significance of it all is painfully obvious by the end. It's not entirely cohesive - there are some scenes that don't seem to mean anything beyond, "Look how many ways to screw with you we've come up with" - but it's still a deceptively clever piece of fiction.

Screenshot for SUPERHOT on PC

Its strength is in its fusion of subtle and overt devices. The game's title is endlessly repeated during the real-time replay that caps off each level, and it's inarguably annoying but thematically brilliant, upon closer inspection. The phrase is an artificial meme, carefully deployed to leave its mark on players while spreading intrigue among the uninitiated - basically the game's plot in a nutshell. Elements like this and most of the dialogue demonstrate a keen understanding of the idiosyncrasies of geek culture, without the excessive pandering that usually implies. It is perhaps a little too committed to its game-within-a-game atmosphere, however; the menus are full of pointless ASCII junk, and much of the audio is intentional glitch mimicry that conveys nothing.

The lack of proper music is especially unfortunate given how much weight it could have added to certain story moments. Its oscillating soundscapes are highly complementary of the alternately serene and aggressive gameplay presentation, however. The enemies' crystalline bodies shattering against the monochrome backdrops provide a catharsis distinct from typical video game violence, and the thoughtful pace and required situational awareness adds a previously unseen hint of turn-based strategy to the shooter genre. There's also a puzzle game feel to SUPERHOT, although it's a bit of a double-edged sword. There's a certain code-cracking satisfaction to discovering a reproducible script for taking out multiple enemies, but if you can't figure out anything similar for the second half of a level, you will likely be repeating that script even after it stops being enjoyable.

This is a game that really needs some kind of "style point" system à la Devil May Cry. For one thing, many people's instinctive method of play will be to mix up their approach and string together as many cool actions as possible. Meanwhile, other players will inevitably gravitate towards one or two reliable techniques (most likely the late-game ability to switch bodies with an enemy, which is pretty unbalanced), which such a system would discourage. There is a huge variety of challenge modes available after completion of the main game, which could easily add up to dozens of hours of play time combined. Their inclusion is greatly appreciated, although the fact that they are merely different versions of existing features, rather than anything truly new is disappointing.

Screenshot for SUPERHOT on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The number of abilities successfully translated from "scripted sequences only" to organic gameplay is usually a solid metric of an action game's quality, and by that criteria, SUPERHOT excels. Its intense gameplay and layered narrative will delight fans of both the aggressive and the analytical simultaneously. While a lot of its innovation is clearly untested, its memetic presence is sure to be a talking point among indie fans for a long time to come.

Developer

SUPERHOT Team

Publisher

SUPERHOT Team

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's the most innovative shooter I've played in years!!

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