With the overabundance of first person shooters that add very little to the genre, SUPERHOT makes great strides to introduce a genuinely new play style.
In reality, you are intended to play through every level without any errors, but in practice players are forced to memorize spawn patterns and actively time enemies reactions so as to find the safest route to execute all opponents. But this is not the only element that SUPERHOT presents, almost all of the mechanics built to work fluidly with the engine, creating a bizarrely addictive murder simulator.
The main idea behind SUPERHOT is “Time only moves when you do.” I was a little bit thrown off at first because this is not entirely true, until you unlock a later mode. Time does continue to move incredibly slowly while you are still, which can make for some fun glass breaking effects to watch before inevitably being shot in the head, or most often the shoulder. Each level is set up to guide you down a path almost on a rail shooter kick, facing enemies one by one until you’ve cleared out whatever all white room you find yourself in. Combat is comprised of four main elements: melee, objects, guns, and swapping.
Melee is by far my favorite part of SUPERHOT, and while it is featured a good deal in the first few levels, I felt like there should have been a little more in the later bits. Guns very much took priority. The baseball bat has a great design, breaking off chunks each time you bash enemies, and headshotting them if you whomp just right. Of course, the katana is amazing, though it doesn’t break and can be a little over powered in arena settings. I had one run of endless mode with a katana and managed over a hundred kills by standing behind a wall and slashing away as the AI was forced down the hallway.
Objects litter most of the levels, everything from televisions to fire extinguishers to dog food bowls, all stark black against the surgical white of the areas, just asking to be tossed. Anything including guns and melee weapons can be thrown, each with relative arc physics. Throwing objects serves two purposes, to stun enemies and knock weapons out of their hands, and less commonly, converting objects to murder. There seems to be a decently small chance of headshotting enemies with objects, even tiny ones like test tubes. But the main aspect of throwing is to release weapons from your opponents, whacking a pursuer in the face with an empty gun lets you grab his katana out of his hands and chop him down before the broken shards of your gun even hit the floor. This is a fantastic addition to fluidity of gameplay, as reloading is not an option.
Sometimes bullet trails are your only evidence of an enemy's location.
Guns are a primary focus, and red line bullet trails skim by you as you try not to spend too much time turning. The gun combat is definitely well done, but takes a decent amount of time getting used to. You'll get tempted into firing where you think an enemy may be moving, only to find that your perception of slowed time has very different ideas about how fast bullets actually move. The assault rifle was one of the odder guns to control, almost more useful to run forward and trigger time passing so that your bullets are a little easier to manage in the burst fire mode. The time slow also does an interesting thing to the fire rate of guns, making you think about each individual shot, slowly backpedaling to refresh your fire, hopefully before any bullets cross your path.
Swapping is the last major element of combat, and doesn’t get introduced until much later in the main story. Players have the ability to jump into enemy bodies, allowing them to pass huge dangerous expanses filled with bullets in an instant. This kills the previous body and automatically breaks whatever weapon it was holding, preventing you from straight up stealing strong weapons and causing a bit of a mental reset every time you switch. Swapping becomes much more useful in arena and challenges, mostly remaining a story progression element in the main story.
All of these mechanics make for a very fresh feeling system, allowing you to solve problems in diverse ways each time you play a level. There are of course some odd glitches and instances that can occur: sometimes enemies won’t spawn if the player progresses too fast, sometimes they’ll just stand frozen. I had one enemy freeze in front of a spawn point, blocking the rest of the opponents meant to come through the door from existing. You can also unlock specific modes, each with intended limitations, though there were a few times where the mode prevented me from completing the level, because there were no weapons used, like Katana Only. There is a bonus way to kill enemies that doesn’t register like normal kills, which is jumping on their heads. The weight of your character can apparently create enough impact to crush an opponent. But overall as an out of the box release it works incredibly well, very rarely feeling like an indie release.
SUPERHOT is also graphically fantastic, trading any kind of realism for blocky single-color minimalism.
Levels are white, enemies are red, and objects are black. Everything has great destructibility. You can catch items in the air with shards of enemies and guns floating around you. Some of the alternate modes change the color scheme slightly, one adds adorable black sunglasses to all of the enemies. You also get to watch the run at full speed after you beat the level, which you can upload to “Killstagram,” a proprietary social media platform with randomly generated usernames applied to uploads. There are some pretty ridiculous tricks to be learned from watching these, though it can detract from the fluidity of play if you upload often. A background uploading option would be a very nice addition, but watching your run over and over again is a lot of fun. The sound design is pretty decent. There is no music, which is good considering how annoying it would be to hear the same three seconds of a song over and over on particularly frustrating levels. This leaves the player to insert their own soundtrack, I chose Black Metal and it worked quite well. Everything else is just crunching and breaking sounds, plus the inevitable slowdown noises. I won’t comment on the story, because the game asked me not to.
This is the most fun I’ve had killing nondescript polygonal bastards since Killer7, finding myself spending a great deal of time on single levels, just to see if I could pull off different combinations of mechanics. The only thing I cannot understand is why the game is called SUPERHOT and not Supershot, a facet that baffles me and makes me want to find out if there is any clue within the gameplay. I absolutely recommend you try this out, as it currently is sitting at the top of my indie shooter list, and is something I intend to keep trying to master, until I too am super hot.