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SUPERHOT

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: SUPERHOT Team
Developer: SUPERHOT Team
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Puzzle/ Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

In an age when itís assumed that first-person shooters need to be open-world and photo-realistic, itís nice to see a game like Superhot bucking the trend. Here youíll find only low-poly character models and tightly constrained environments that are almost entirely monochromatic. The elements of the game that matter Ė you, enemies, weapons, objects that can be used as weapons Ė glow a bright red or stand out in black against the gameís backdrop. Itís a supremely minimal design touch that keeps you focused and proves that a great idea and solid gameplay will always trump a warehouse full of fancy graphics.

Thereís no music to speak of here, and the sound is only to punctuate the wanton violence your character dishes out as he/she explores the world of SUPERHOT. Thereís a game-outside-the-game idea here, so when youíre not decimating roomfuls of enemies, youíre navigating what looks like ancient text-based menus and chatting on what feels like an ancient VAX/VMS system with... somebody. Friend or foe, trusted or untrusted, youíre getting pulled into something from the very beginning. The incidental sounds are minimal and, like the graphics, go a long way toward reinforcing the idea that youíre doing all this while connected to a dumb terminal. The riff at the end of each level ("SUPER-HOTE-SUPER-HOTE") will get in your head, much like the rest of the game.


Gameplay:

Without giving too much away, thereís a bit of a TRON vibe, and weíre not talking about the video game. Youíre playing a game, youíre inside the game, the line between game and real life gets blurrier and blurrierÖ Whatís really happening is teased out in a way that turns what would otherwise be a tech demo into something much greater than the sum of its parts. At a basic level, you progress through a series of levels where it appears that youíre beset by enemies who are moving. Very. Slowly. Turns out that only when you move do they move. Time isnít frozen, just slowed down to an extreme. SUPERHOT is built entirely on this basic premise, which may seem limiting, but then who would have thought that a game about teleporting through blue and orange circles would be a hit?

The many extensions of this basic idea are brilliant. Not only does your slow-time superpower make you feel amazing when you see the replays after a level, it produces a game that can appeal to many types of gamers. Strategy gamers will immediately see the value in standing and assessing the situation, then attacking, watching, then speeding up time and space to kick some serious butt. Action gamers will rely more on instincts and reaction time, turning, punching, throwing, and kicking. Thereís no right way to play, so even a scene where youíre standing in an elevator with three armed enemies feels loaded with potential. The story elements are intriguing, and there are plenty of challenge levels you can unlock to keep the fun going once you complete the main Campaign.


Difficulty:

SUPERHOT is hardly the easiest game. Itís not exactly a roguelike, but thereís an aspect of learning by dying that comes into play here. It rarely gets hair-pullingly frustrating, but the difficulty does increase steadily. Basic mechanics are taught early on and expanded on slowly but surely. Just when things seem to get imbalanced, youíll get something like the Hotswitch ability, where you can literally switch bodies with an enemy player. Itís a weird magic trick in a game that otherwise feels based on physics and a slightly drug-induced reality, but it balances out what would otherwise be an unfair level of difficulty.

The key to winning in SUPERHOT is always adaptation. Every level is different. In one, you may have to rely heavily on melee combat, instead of blasting enemies away with guns. In another level, you only have throwable items and your fists. A great example of the latter is a level set in what looks like a museum, full of valuable items that wonít retain much value after you use them to soften up enemies before you move in for the kill. Other times guns may be the only thing keeping you alive, as you rain fire upon enemies while dancing out of the way of their bullets. Each level is something different, more like a puzzle that rewards patience. As long as you don't treat SUPERHOT like a typical action game, youíll be fine.


Game Mechanics:

SUPERHOT wasnít planned around a console release, but the controls adapt really well to this format. After all, it follows the basic rules of any FPS: Run and gun. The differences are mainly in how you interact with objects in your environment. Normally, you pick things up and add them to your inventory, but thereís no concept of that here. Perhaps your character is naked, but you only have your two hands. Picking up a weapon - by pressing one trigger or the (A) button - allows you to fire off some shots before youíre out of ammo, at which time you can only throw the weapon at an enemy. There are some purely thrown objects like bottles, and some in-between items like bats, bars, and knives or swords. And always your fists, if everything else fails.

Enemies range in their toughness, but they arenít that hard to kill. Whatís hard is that youíre constantly overpowered and outgunned, so youíll have to plan each action with the same precision youíd deploy units in a RTS game or build a powerful hand in some deck-building game. Strategy gameplay with a powerful action wrapper, SUPERHOT defines a space for itself that is extremely original. Itís one of those ideas that only seems obvious after you play it, a testament to what developers can do when they arenít worried about imitating the latest hit title. Highly recommended.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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