Superhot impressions

I received a spur-of-the-moment invite to check out a near-final version of SUPERHOT last night, and you’d better goddamned believe I went to check it out.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably just come right out and tell you that I am very, very biased in favor of this game.  I was following the game even before the Kickstarter; I am a Kickstarter backer; and, completely unbeknownst to me beforehand, one of my friends was hired to punch up the story.  (You wouldn’t know it by looking at it – I certainly didn’t – but there is a narrative justification for all this madness.  I was shown just the faintest edges of this, but it’s there, and what I’ve seen looks very, very interesting indeed.)

I knew a bit about the game before last night’s demo, even if I’ve been trying to avoid learning too much.  (I’m one of those weirdos who’ll back a Kickstarter and then deliberately ignore the updates because I don’t want anything spoiled.)   I knew the game’s hook – where time only moves when you move – and I knew the super-minimalist art style (which is unmistakably distinctive).  Here is what I did not know until last night:

  • You can shoot bullets out of the air.
  • You can throw your empty gun at an enemy, stun them, grab their gun out of midair and then shoot them.  This is incredibly awesome and empowering to pull off.  Until you realize that enemies can also pick up the dropped weapons of their comrades out of thin air as well.
  • You won’t just be using guns, or your fists.  Any black object can be used to throw and stun your enemies, including bats, hammers, bottles, briefcases, billiard balls…
  • There’s also a bunch of hidden stuff in each level.  In order to find this stuff, you have to keep one enemy alive; each level ends as soon as the last enemy is killed.  Obviously, this makes searching for things a bit trickier.
  • Each level is very short and feels more like a puzzle than a firefight.  There will, however, be an endless mode (similar to Horde mode); I’m not sure if it will be unlocked from the beginning or not.
  • There are some very interesting gameplay differences between controller and mouse/keyboard inputs that can’t be ignored.  On the one hand, the mouse is far more precise than a controller in terms of aiming – and there won’t be any auto-assist aiming on the Xbox One version.  (Oh, yeah, there’s an Xbox One version coming soon-ish; no date was given, but it’s apparently undergoing certification as I write these words.)  The disadvantage of the keyboard, however, is that using WASD means you can’t adjust your movement speed.  Whereas with a controller, you have infinitely better control over your movement; you could conceivably finish an entire level in slow motion, which you simply can’t do using a keyboard.  It will be very, very interesting to see what people gravitate towards.
  • We’ll be able to see these things for ourselves as there will be some sort of Superhot “Killstagram” service, where people can upload their various moments of awesome.
  • Speed runners will get through the game in an hour, tops; people looking to find hidden stuff (of which there are bunches) will take 3-4.
  • I did see one mechanic that I am not allowed to reveal, but HOLY SHIT.

I am somewhat reluctant to compare this game to anything else, though any game with this sort of bullet-time mechanic will automatically trigger a Max Payne response, but it’s a completely different thing.  You could conceivably play through Max Payne without ever triggering bullet-time, whereas here in Superhot the game is bullet-time.   As noted above, each level feels like a puzzle rather than a prolonged firefight, and when you conquer each level through the acrobatic use of slow-motion agility and bad-assery, you feel like Neo at the end of the Matrix.  It’s positively euphoric.

Superhot will be released on PC on February 25th, and Xbox One soon thereafter.  (No official comment on a PS4 release.)

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