SUPERHOT is an FPS in which time nominally moves only when you do, although even when you’re stood stock-still the bullets carve onward through the treacly air, pushing you to biff the next man in the face and take his gun. That’s the conceit that made it a genuine Flash phenomenon and saw it through Kickstarter to full release as an .exe. Is it as good an idea as they say? To help, I’ve brought in PCGamesN’s closet miserabilist, Tim.
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Tim: It’s a good idea, I’m just not convinced it’s a great idea, or that it’s executed particularly well. I really want it to be better than it is. My main problem is that from the gifs and videos that are flying around, you think it’s going to be a hard-boiled action game, but at its hardest, it’s an instant death bullet puzzle to be solved. And I hate puzzles.
Jeremy: I think it’s only once you see it in replay that you understand what it is. SUPERHOT is sometimes the sluggish Matrix sim I expected, when you’re sidestepping a specific stray shotgun pellet, but mostly it’s about moves and countermoves - maneuvering yourself just close enough to a bad so that your crosshair turns into a fist and you can knock him silly, grab his pistol out of the air and lob it at the chap on his right. There’s always a minimum of forward momentum, but it feels almost turn-based in that way. There are rules but no rulebook: you’re left to work out for yourself that it takes longer to pick up a katana than throw one, for instance.
Like you say, the scenarios are puzzles. Some I suspect have designer-intended solutions, and I felt like SUPERHOT only met its full improvisational potential toward the end of its story, as the red men began to spawn in from all sides.
Tim: Let’s be clear, almost all of my apathy comes from being angry at the lift level.
It’s not a normal shooter, so obviously the normal rules can’t apply, but I’m very surprised that some of the things that make good shooters have been ignored. For instance: more dynamic environments. Generally, the game is better when you have things around you that create new situations: lobbing pool balls or cocktail glasses at the baddies, for instance. I feel like they barely scratched the surface of what they could do with more interactive environments. Hate to be THAT GUY, but it’s a game crying out for a string of exploding barrels and possibly a chandelier you can shoot from the ceiling.
Jeremy: It’s certainly strange to borrow so much from John Woo but not go all the way in embracing his absurdity. I’m not asking for Tom Cruise on a Triumph doing a wheelie [Ed: I am. Always.], but I feel as if the primary emotion the Flash game tickled was glee. The SUPERHOT team have decided to push instead for hostility and malevolence. What did you make of the storytelling?
Tim: Ehhhhhh. I don’t know. Again, it’s ideas over execution. I like the idea that he’s logging into a server and suddenly the truth is revealed, but I felt the actual chats were a bit cringey. But I’m literally the worst person to ever ask about story because I feel most game storytelling is inherently cringey.
I think the segments of the game where you’re playing and discovering the truth were way more effective. There’s something deliciously creepy about stalking yourself.
Jeremy: This is why we had to let you be site leader - if you’d reviewed The Witcher it would have got a 3. I’m a big fan of the decision to make SUPERHOT a game about playing SUPERHOT - that appeals to the part of my brain that laughed in delight at Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis fight. The main menu is an ASCII black hole very simply but effectively anchored to the real world by the time in the top-right corner that matches your PC’s own internal clock. Once it becomes clear you’re being watched, it’s all the more unnerving for that connection.
I’m less keen on the tone in general. I’ve played Bioshock and Hotline Miami, so I already know that as a player I’m not in control and fundamentally a bit of a dick. I think it’s easy for games to be cold and unfriendly - just look at the sweat and dialogue that went into Firewatch’s warmth.
I’ve liked SUPERHOT more and more since detaching myself from the plot and delving into its challenge modes. There I’ve agonised over how to shave split-seconds from a boardroom bludgeoning and taken pride in smashing some of the par times. At its best, it’s a murderous Mirror’s Edge.
Tim: I have nothing further to add to this conversation. 6.8/10, basically.