In Superhot, I have felt simultaneously powerful and completely out of my depth, and that is the entire point on the game. Behind it’s futurist, minimalist design is an incredibly satisfying combat simulation, where players are given the chance to take control of the some of the coolest fight sequences put to games. But hidden amongst that is some seriously dark, harrowing sections that make you think about what you are doing, and if you have any control in doing it.
Perhaps it’s the different nature of both aspects of Superhot that make them both so powerful to the player. During the standard section of the game, you are simply an avatar, tasked with defeating enemies in a variety of locations. The foes you’ll encounter look similar to the holograms in the Hunger Games films, gathered pixels that move in humanoid shape, only to shatter when killed. But killing these foes is what is so engaging.
In one level I was able to grab a crowbar, strike an enemy running for me, throw it at an enemy in the distance as he aimed a pistol. Grabbed that pistol out of the air as the enemy recoiled before putting a bullet through his skull, then rounding a corner to shoot an adversary waiting for me with a shotgun. In the next moment I threw my pistol at a distant rival while snatching the falling shotgun from the air and training on the stunned enemy.
You wouldn’t think it was possible to do all this action in one level, with nothing but a controller. Surely reflexes would make this near impossible outside the Matrix for a human, even if it’s just hand-to-eye coordination. But what makes the combat in Superhot so involving and interesting, is that time only moves when you do. Stand perfectly still and you’ll see you enemies ever so slowly groan forward, always moving to attack you. This gives you enough time to make each and every move very deliberate.
You’ll have to remember to adjust your assaults for the movements that haven’t happened yet. Throwing an empty pistol at an enemy might seem like the best strategy, but they might have moved by the time it gets there. At the end of each level you get to witness your replay in real time, as you weave between bullets and make instantaneous use of your surroundings. This is a game to have you fist pumping as you take out an elevator full of enemies in a flawless and violent dance.
But all of that is turned on its head when the game reminds you who is really in control. Superhot is a game that reminds you that you are nothing but a pawn in its terrifying universe. The action sequences are broken up by periods of short text. They start innocently enough, with a mysterious chat room occupant offering you a cracked version of the game Superhot. Things begin to take a turn when the game itself recognises you’re presence and begins to react to you.
Now I don’t live in an apartment block, but I fear for the player that does. These parts of the game are genuinely disturbing when you get drawn more and more into them. While the action of the game is so much fun, this darker shade of Superhot uses that against you. Without spoiling how the game twists against you, I’ll just say that it does make you uncomfortable and praying for the next section of random, stylish violence.
Unfortunately, after a certain point, when the game begins blending the extremes of the intense combat and unnerving storytelling, a new mechanic is introduced that take away some of the satisfaction of the game. While most of the game leaves you to survive various encounters without being able to take a hit, the latter gives you a way to survive. From half way through the game you are given the ability to possess enemies, launching your conscious away from impending death. Although it does add a nice dynamic to the game, as this is also the point they introduce of verticality in the levels, overall it takes away from the impressive nature of the fights.
Of course, Superhot is a really enjoyable game, the disconnect between the gameplay and narrative only serve to intensify both. But even on its own the action is so much fun to play. With near instant death and reloads me you can keep attempting the levels getting the perfect balance of style and completion. Once you’ve picked up the simple mechanics of time and spatial movement the world is your oyster. Well, when it’s not seizing control and forcing you to confront fears and feeling everyone in the gaming community has had once or twice.
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