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Superhot (Xbox One) artwork

Superhot (Xbox One) review

"Superhot is the most innov- no, sorry, I won't do it."

Superhot is a puzzle game disguised as a shooter. Each stage plops you down in the middle of a hopeless-looking situation where you are outnumbered and outgunned, and from there you need to defeat every enemy in the area to clear the stage. Your one advantage is that time moves at a speed proportionate to your own movement. Enemies, objects, and bullets move at full speed when you run. Tilt the stick slightly to move slowly, though, and everything else follows suit. Avoid advancing at all and time will barely pass (it never stops completely, though).

Superhot forces you to learn its systems intimately, moreso than a typical shooter does. To master the game, you'll need to become familiar with everything from exact weapon fire rates, to bullet speeds, to the number of punches it takes to defeat an enemy (and what other enemies are able to do in the amount of time it takes to throw those punches). The nature of the game gives you plenty of time to assess your situation and come up with the most efficient way to proceed.

Bullets move slowly enough to be dodged from a sufficient distance. Guns have a finite amount of ammo and can't be reloaded, and you typically aren't carrying any when a stage begins. Enemies take one bullet to go down no matter where on their bodies they're hit, and the same goes for you. A typical run through a stage might involve disarming an enemy by punching them or throwing an object at them, grabbing their gun before it hits the ground, firing it at the stunned enemy and whoever is behind them, throwing the now-empty gun at a third enemy, and causing him to drop his own gun, which you can then grab to continue your assault until the remaining enemies are dead. Once you're successful, you'll see a full-speed replay of your run (with the game's title annoyingly and repeatedly spoken and flashing over the footage), showing that all of the action happened over just a few seconds in “real time.”

There are several different guns, each with different types of fire. The pistol fires one bullet at a time, the shotgun fires a spread, and the assault rifle unleashes bursts. Melee weapons lack range, of course, but can kill in one hit. The katana is especially fun, slicing enemies and even bullets in half. Any weapon and a number of random objects can be thrown to stun or kill enemies.

The meticulous nature of the gameplay makes good use of the simple and easy-to-read art style. Interactive objects such as weapons and throwable things are black. Enemies are red and polygonal (shattering like glass when defeated), and everything else is clean and white. Enemies glow bright red as they spawn, so even if you can't see the spawn point, there's a good chance you'll know they're coming if you glance in their general direction (this doesn't stop them from occasionally spawning right behind you and shooting you in the back, though). There's practically no music, but the sound of enemy guns firing can be useful for situational awareness, and the sound of enemies smashing into a million pieces doesn't ever get old. The same cannot be said for the dial-up modem noises that accompany load times.

The story of Superhot presents the fun part as a mysterious game-within-a-game, played on a retro computer. It's a bizarre story that is easy to spoil, and personally, I felt like it mostly just got in the way. It ends with a cynical marketing push disguised as a meme. If you've seen someone post or tweet “Superhot is the most innovative shooter I've played in years,” they've completed the game and bought into that.

Those people probably aren't wrong, though. There's nothing quite like Superhot, and while there aren't that many stages (the story can be completed in a couple of hours with lots of retries after countless failed attempts), the unlockable Challenge mode offers plenty of replay value. The challenges task you with playing through the standard levels with new restrictions. One mode only allows you to use the katana. Another makes time move more quickly when you move, effectively increasing the speed of the game.

Also available after clearing the story is the Endless mode. Survive as long as you can by killing enemies and stealing their weapons to kill more enemies. I personally had the most fun with this particular mode. It offers a pure score attack mechanic, with waves that spawn from different places and different weapons generating every time you play. Kill more and more enemies to unlock more stages in which to play. Endless mode is where the game systems really shine, showing that they work well not only in specifically designed situations, but procedurally generated ones, too.

While the general presentation leaves something to be desired, Superhot is a neat experiment that stays interesting for as long as you're willing to play and replay it. The game's scope is small but you have plenty of reason to keep with it. Weird in ways that are both good and bad, Superhot is well worth giving a go if you want an experience unlike any you've had before.

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (May 12, 2016)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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