Friday, February 26, 2016

PC Review #141: SuperHOT

Title: SuperHOT
Developer: SuperHOT Team
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $24.99
I have fond memories of the original SuperHOT prototype. The 7DFPS jam entry was short, but so unique and stylish, and just begged to be built upon. And now three years and one successful Kickstarter later, SuperHOT is back, bigger and more beautiful than ever before, but still retaining the elegant gameplay that made the concept so much fun.
SuperHOT revolves around a simple singular mechanic: time only moves when you move. (Actually that's false; time creeps past at a glacial pace when you're still). This one idea turns what, at full speed, is a furious first-person shooter with bullets and death closing in from every angle, into a strategic game of precision, planning, and action movie-tier feats.

In fact, SuperHOT is best compared to Hotline Miami. You die in one hit, combat is a mix of guns and melee, guns have limited ammo, and spent weapons become thrown items to stun enemies with. But while Hotline Miami was an exercise in excess, with its pounding synth, gruesome kills, and flurries of room-clearing violence, SuperHOT is its mirror opposite. It's a game of minimalism and restraint, more time spent side-stepping bullets and planning your next move than attacking. Those methodical minutes-long sequences of time-slowed action only last mere seconds in real time.
Methodical is the most apt word to describe SuperHOT's pacing. Every moment is one of careful movement, since every step by you means danger is one step closer. Every variable needs to be considered. How many bullets do you have left in your gun? Do you have time and space to evade the bullets headed your way? Can you stun that enemy and close the distance soon enough to grab his fallen weapon?

With all those elements in play and time at your control, the combat in SuperHOT becomes the stuff of Hollywood magic or scenes that are usually only reserved for scripted moments and set pieces, especially when viewed at full speed. You snatch a gun out of the air and spin around to kill the enemies approaching from behind. Point blank shots are negated by a katana slicing the bullet in half. Weaving between bullets with effortlessly ease. And it's all presented in a minimalist crystalline aesthetic, where enemies shatter upon impact and the red trails of gun shots hang in the air.
You fight enemies in back alleys and parking garages, in building lobbies and warehouses; each level is a vignette, dropping you into a scenario already in play. The ambush. The deal gone sideways. The bar brawl. At first, these levels seem unconnected and random, but soon a story emerges. SuperHOT's narrative is surprisingly intriguing, a cyberpunk tale told through chatrooms and an enigmatic computer interface, reminiscent of recent games like Pony Island.

Once you complete the main campaign in a few hours, a vast selection of additional content unlocks. The Endless arenas and Challenges are where the bulk of your SuperHOT time will be spent. Each Challenge modifies the gameplay in unique ways that force you adapt new tactics for every level. KatanaOnly restricts your arsenal to merely a sword. TimeStop makes time freeze completely when you don't move, but you can only fire each gun once. SpeedRun tests your efficiency at maximizing each action.

SuperHOT takes the time-stopping gameplay that so intrigued people three years ago and improves upon it in every way. You can purchase the game on Steam, Humble, GMG, and GOG. The developers have plans to add more content and experiment with new ideas and concepts in the future.

1 comment:

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