SUPERHOT is a puzzle game with bullets, wrapped up in a 90’s style hacker movie. That’s a weird, beautiful mix that, when successfully completing a level, makes the player feel like one-part John Wick and one-part Stephen Hawking.
SUPERHOT has been out on other platforms for a while now, so I know most of you get the general idea of the game. For the uninitiated, each level is about a ten or fifteen second action scene that could have been ripped from one of your favorite movies. You start out unarmed, completely outnumbered and dead-to-rights. Luckily, all you need to do is pick up that wine bottle and chuck it at the guy with the baseball bat. When he’s distracted from the bottle to the face, punch him in the neck a couple of times and grab the bat from midair. Louisville Slugger in hand, bash the guy to your right over the head, and then toss said bat at the guy raising the shotgun at you. While his gun is flying through the air, punch him to death and then grab the shotgun before it hits the ground. Unload the two shells on the weird red guys behind the bar. No problem, except the three guys that are storming in all around you. This is SUPERHOT.
This bullet dance is made possible by SUPERHOT’s unique game mechanic of time standing (mostly) still when you’re not moving. That last paragraph’s worth of action takes no more than three or four seconds of real-time action, but will take you several minutes to complete, not including the many, many failed attempts. Jason Bourne may not need super slow motion, but I sure as hell do.
Each level ramps up the difficulty, but the core remains the same. The bad guys increase in number and the weapons they use become more devastating. The skill that will serve you best is your puzzle solving acumen, and that is what sets SUPERHOT apart from other shooters, and makes me want to qualify it as a puzzle game first and shooter second.
The games aesthetics and graphics are as unique as the gameplay. Each level is sterile white, like a doctor’s office in a fever dream. In contrast, the bad guys are completely red and faceless. Their gem like sheen reinforced as they shatter like glass when they die. The sights and sounds of the spraying glass shards offer a cool visual, but more importantly, an audible clue that one bad guy is down, and you are free to focus on the next string of the evil red-man-crew. Completing the simple but satisfying color palette, is the fact that anything that can be used as a weapon is black, including the guns in the red guy’s hands and the random projectiles lying about the level. Bullets are constantly flying. Thankfully, each deadly projectile is red and stands out against the white background.
The computer hacker story I alluded to is probably my least favorite aspect of the game, but it isn’t without its own merits. The story, told through an internet chat room between two online buddies, is this: One kid finds an illegal copy of a new game and shares it with his friend. After every couple of levels, the chat room returns, and the two buddies discuss their experiences. Eventually the chats, and the gameplay around it, begin to glitch, and the players start to wonder if the game is not exactly what it seems. Although the story becomes a bit tropey, it was possibly the only narrative they could have used to tie each seemingly separate level together. Depending on how quickly you adapt to the game’s mechanics, the story can be completed in as many as three to five hours.
The awesome VR version of SUPERHOT (don’t believe me? Check out our review of SUPERHOT VR here) will be available as a bundle with the standard version or separately. Playing through both versions is worth it, but if you own the PlayStation VR headset and only want to play one, I would go VR. But for those gamers stuck in flat space, the 2D version is a worthy title to add to your collection.
Although the gameplay never really advances, it such a unique experience that, for me, it never got old. In fact, never has a shooter made me feel so smart, and never has a puzzle game made me feel so badass. SUPERHOT and/or SUPERHOT VR should be experienced, period.
SUPERHOT PS4 Review
This bullet-dance is a joy to play. Like most things worthy of your time, it's tough to master, but feels damn near rapturous when you do. Whether you choose to play the flat version or the VR version, play this game.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.