SUPERHOT Review — Pretty Hot
SUPERHOT Team's first-person shooter proves to be an innovative success on PlayStation 4 over a year after its initial launch on other platforms.
If you’ve never played SUPERHOT, you probably know it as that shooter with red people everywhere that you didn’t play just because it wasn’t on a platform that you owned. At least, until recently, that’s how I knew SUPERHOT; since completing it, I’m beginning to understand the level of gamer culture that had nearly been lost on me.
SUPERHOT is a first-person shooter that originally launched back in 2016 for PC, and then on Xbox One shortly thereafter. Over a year later, the game has finally made its way to PlayStation 4. It’s time to find out if developer SUPERHOT Team’s unique FPS title has remained as timeless as its subject matter.
SUPERHOT‘s plot starts off simply enough. A virtual friend of yours has recommended a new video game in which you must outsmart and eliminate waves of “red dudes.” You do this by using every item and weapon at your disposal, not the least of which is your ability to watch time move at a fragment of its normal pace while your character remains stationary, then to speed it along when you move. This ability allows you to properly assess your opponents’ positions, precisely aim your (limited) shots, and of course, dodge bullets.
However, after you play a few levels of SUPERHOT, the story takes a much darker turn. You soon learn there is a secret faction who may not entirely appreciate your exploration of the SUPERHOT program, and it becomes apparent that SUPERHOT may not be a game at all, but a very real tool wielded by dangerous people. By the game’s end, you’ve been subjected to quotes and scenes that have been inside jokes for far too small a segment of the gaming population for far too long.
Where the plot runs into a little trouble is in how it almost completely ignores player agency. There are various occasions when you, the player, may attempt to do something that is in direct contradiction to what the in-game faction has asked of you. Instead of allowing your intended action to occur, the game acknowledges the alternative you have chosen and flatout denies you of it.
Arguably, it is within the plot’s scope for the player to have no choice except to do what they are told, but it’s also a little disappointing when you pull a trigger and nothing happens. To SUPERHOT‘s credit, the story still manages to tiptoe right up to the fourth wall without ever breaking it, a feat that is not unimpressive.
As for the gameplay’s core concept, it is simple and masterfully executed. Listening to a bullet whiz past the screen, seeing a red dude charge at you with a samurai sword or a blasting shotgun, all in slow-mo, is gratifying even after the hundredth time. Although the ability to control time may at first seem overpowered, further progress will prove that SUPERHOT is no pushover.
Each new stage you come to feels unique and offers its own challenges. If any of the red dudes land a blow on you, just once, you’re dead and you must start the stage from the top. In this way, SUPERHOT expects you to learn from your mistakes. You begin to grown an inner monologue — one that is so common for games like Hotline Miami: After killing this red dude, I should turn for the one spawning in the alcove behind me or I’m going to want to take out the red dude with the machine gun early. Every stage is also appropriately sized to feel manageable after each failed attempt. It never feels like an insurmountable task.
But if even greater difficulty is what you’re looking for, SUPERHOT won’t disappoint. Although the main campaign is rather short (my playthrough clocked-in at about two hours), the game offers a plethora of additional challenges, allowing you to play previous stages with new rules. The first you’ll unlock requires you to play through the game using only a katana, and further challenges vary greatly from there. Of course, if you’re just looking for a hopeless fight to the death, the game also includes an Endless Mode, promising a limitless degree of replayability.
Although SUPERHOT‘s gameplay is stellar, it’s not all good. It’s never clear where the player’s hitbox is located, which can cause some frustration in a game with nothing but one-hit deaths. Often, I found myself weaving between masses of approaching bullets, praying that they would land safely outside the peripheral of my screen rather than on me. Many times, it was the latter. Similarly, when trying to stun an enemy from behind cover, I found it difficult to surmise where thrown objects would land — the object would simply bounce off of a nearby wall rather than anywhere near my crosshairs’ destination.
Although SUPERHOT’s visuals are minimalist, they are no less stunning. The game’s backdrop of white supplies further detail to the gameplay, making it easier to detect the direction of your next hostile red dude. Not only that, but damaging the glass-surfaced dudes makes them shatter spectacularly, details that would have otherwise been lost had the game stuck to its original dim environments (see the 2013 Challenge Mode for a little more of what I mean).
The game’s sound is equally minimal, but not without its flaws. Keeping music out of much of the game was the right choice, as it would have been too distracting while trying to detect red dudes. Sadly, certain key sounds are occasionally still lost in the action. If you’re beating someone down for their weapon, the sound of a gunshot from the other side of the room is too easily muddled and lost. Since that unheard assailant with laser accuracy is far behind you, you’re likely to crumble to the ground without any inkling of what just happened.
With that said, the game’s sound excels at the end of each stage. Completing a stage and listening to “SUPER HOT” on repeat while watching a replay of your badassery never gets old.
SUPERHOT may be a little older than others in your list of recently released games on the PlayStation Store, but for those who have yet to experience it, this title remains a polished gem. The game has a few slight mechanical hiccups, but they pale in comparison to an otherwise solid and unique first-person shooter.
DualShockers review of SUPERHOT VR — the PlayStation VR version — will also go live today, July 26, at 12:30 PM Eastern. You can read that review here.