I played the original, game-jam prototype of SUPERHOT a while ago and was really impressed by it. After seeing it at GDC and playing a short demo of it on the expo floor, I decided to buy it from Steam. The released game is exactly what I wanted it to be - an even more in-depth exploration of the game’s clever central mechanic:
In SUPERHOT, the goal is to kill all the humanoid red enemies in the area. However, the world’s time only advances when you move. This means that all enemies, bullets and environmental objects only get to move when you move, giving you time to strategize your moves and pull off incredible stunts that you wouldn’t be able to do in real-time. In between your murder sprees, you’re brought to a stylized terminal called “piOS” where you’re given an intriguing backstory about hacking a mysterious company, and getting access to their videogame, “superhot.exe.” This framing device, coupled with mysterious text that flashes on-screen during the game, teases at a story with sinister, authoritarian themes. Overall, it’s extremely fun to play and very visually pleasing.
SUPERHOT reveals its story slowly, teasing you with cryptic clues along the way. The main medium for telling you the story is through chat messages that are interspersed throughout the FPS sections. In them, your hacker friend tells you about a stolen .exe file that lets you play a mysterious new shooting game. He sends you superhot.exe, which you launch on the game’s fake terminal screen to play the shooting sections. The “game within a game” meta-idea works really well here; it doesn’t come off as pretentious or overwrought, and ties in nicely to the nature of the shooter itself. The terminal interface might be a little confusing for non-computer geeks, but you spend very little time in it and you can almost always get away with mashing the Enter key. The story drags you in, getting more and more sinister; the game itself seems to talk to you, via the white overlaid text from the screenshot above. Eventually it starts mocking you, putting you in an inescapable cage under enemy fire, telling you “DANCE, DOG.” The game seems to know where you live, flashing images of a person on their computer through a window, and threatens to kill you if you continue playing SUPERHOT. I got as far as the section after you defy the message and continue to play SUPERHOT, and I’m excited to see where the rest of the story leads.
The main draw of SUPERHOT is the unique gameplay. Tying time to position opens up a bunch of interesting restrictions and ideas. First, it should be noted that time still crawls along even when the character isn’t moving, and goes a little bit faster if the character looks around. Thus, you begin to think of time as a “resource,” just as you would think of ammo or health as a resource in a regular FPS. You’ll have just enough time to turn around and punch the guy behind you before you have to move out of the way of a bullet, then you’ll grab a vase and throw it at a gunman before snatching his gun out of the air and finishing off your enemies.
I spent a long time finishing levels in the most interesting, funny ways I could, motivated by an online clip-sharing service integrated into the game called KILLSTAGRAM. (My “Killstagrams” are available here.)
The game leads you to discover its most interesting mechanics through cleverly designed levels. You might discover that you can lead your enemies to shoot each other if you’re positioned right, because the level was crammed tight with several enemies and didn’t start you with a gun, or you might discover that you can jump on enemies to kill them when the game starts you on a balcony above some hapless enemies. These mechanics all feel natural and logical, and lead to a wide variety of creative ways you can murder your enemies.
The game is actually fairly hard; since there is no worry about the “twitch” aspect of FPS, the game spawns countless enemies that attack you from all sides, and you have to constantly be watching your back or you’ll get hit by a bullet you didn't see coming. In conclusion, if you’re a fan of FPS games and want to try killing crystalline red people in creative, unexpected ways, you should buy SUPERHOT.
- Elliot F.