SUPERHOT excited me for a number of reasons. First of all it’s an indie, and at the moment, while our currency slowly dissolves around us, indie gaming is a shining beacon of gaming hope for the average South African. Second, the game began life as a game jam project, and had a working prototype up and running within a week. Third, it’s heavily stylised, and despite the premise being all about shooting and killing opponents, there’s very little in the way of gore and violence. And finally, SUPERHOT excited me because it genuinely innovates the first-person shooter. As in actual innovation that completely changes the feel of the industry’s biggest genre.
That fact is, like the actual game, totally and utterly amazing.
In SUPERHOT, time only moves when you do. If you’ve been following the game at all, you will be completely clear about this already. It’s what makes SUPERHOT super-hot; it’s the hook that separates it from every other first-person shooter in the genre; it’s what guarantees you’ll have an inordinately difficult time putting the game down. It’s one thing to be told “time only moves when you do”, and to see a couple of YouTube videos showing the premise in action, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually PLAY the game and to mess around with this mechanic. In short: it feels awesome, and I use “awesome” in its literal sense and not the over-used, watered-down, “like a hot dog?” version that we all use today.
SUPERHOT is awesome. It’s even more awesome for those who have been playing first-person shooters since the year dot. If you were around and playing games when Wolfenstein 3D arrived on the scene, or when DOOM took over the video gaming world, or even when Half-Life 2 reinvigorated the genre with physics and simulated materials and gravity guns, then SUPERHOT will be like a hypodermic shot of military-grade caffeine straight into your eyeball. Which is a good thing. I think. Yes, mostly a good thing.
Some people might be put off by the game’s aesthetics. Everything is very minimalist, and you’re fighting low-poly red enemies that shatter like glass when killed. I personally had no issues with it, but there are bound to be people who find it underwhelming. The thing to remember is that SUPERHOT is really all about the gameplay.
The game plays out through 32 scenarios. It is entirely possible to finish the whole shebang in one sitting. I’m speaking from experience. I’m reluctant to call them levels because they’re not levels like in the traditional first-person shooter definition of levels. Some are very brief; it’s possible to finish them in seconds, but there are a few that require quite a bit of skill and planning to get through in one piece. Once you’ve eliminated all the enemies on a level, then you move on to the next one.
While it isn’t immediately apparent in any of the gameplay footage or trailers shown off to date, there is actually a storyline in the game. I don’t want to get into it because it was quite surprising and rather fun to experience without knowing anything about it. I can appreciate that the team was trying to wrap their innovative shooter with an innovative narrative bow, but it doesn’t really work all of the time. There are moments when the way the story is told is very clever, but there are also moments when the whole offering borders on self-indulgence on behalf of the developers. I frequently found myself getting a little irked by being pulled out of the game’s addictive-as-hell gameplay, to be fed a few more minutes of weird (but different and clever) narrative.
Once you’ve burned through the game’s 32 scenarios you can go back and play whichever one you want to, and you’ll want to do that if you hope to find the numerous secrets scattered across the game. Completing the game also unlocks Endless mode and Challenge mode. In Endless mode you’ll face off against waves of enemies in a fixed area to see how long you last. The Challenge mode sends you through the game’s 32 scenarios, but with specific requirements, such as only being able to use a katana.
For some, there might be an issue with the relatively limited content within SUPERHOT. You can essentially play through all 32 scenarios in about two to three hours – probably less. And for the asking price of R250, some people might think that’s a little lame. Bear in mind, however, that there are still Challenge modes and Endless modes to play with. Plus, SUPERHOT is one of those games that just FEELS fun to play, and so despite the fact that I’ve finished the game, I’ve gone back to replay heaps of scenarios because I just can’t get enough of destroying dozens of enemies in slow-motion, like a total freakin’ badass. Because at the end of the whole thing, SUPERHOT makes you feel like a total freakin’ badass. You are Neo from The Matrix, John Preston from Equilibrium, and whoever the hell that mutant was that Ryan Reynolds acted as in that one Wolverine movie. I think he was supposed to be Deadpool, only not as cool as current movie Deadpool.