Mar 072016

Status: Story complete, all Endless modes unlocked

Most Intriguing Idea: Time stops moving when you do

Best Design Decision: The throwing / grabbing interactions

Worst Design Decision: Lack of embodiment


The elevator pitch is this: SuperHot is a first-person Hotline Miami spliced with Matrix-like slow-mo. Time moves quickly only when the player does, allowing for incredible precision of action. The game balances against this incredible power by making the player’s other resources very finite. Any gun the player picks up can only be fired a few times, most melee weapons break apart in a swing or two, enemies enter the map unexpectedly and with random loadouts. Consequently the player must constantly be checking every angle, dodging bullets, and throwing punches and breakable objects to disarm enemies. While some levels are as puzzle-like and almost calm as the setup suggests, most are a whirlwind of improvisational violence.

When this works well this is amazing, which is the only word that can describe a sequence where I smacked a dude in a face with a painting, snatched his katana out of the air, cut him in half with it, hurled it through a guy that was shooting at me, took over the body of the guy next to him, caught that same katana in midair and hurled it through another guy. When my attempts at those sequences don’t work out, well, at least the levels are very short and you can restart them almost instantly by tapping ‘R’ (another Hotline Miami-style touch).

I didn’t care for SuperHot‘s narrative, which leaned on flavors of cyber-paranoia and fourth-wall breaking I’ve started to find more tiresome than intriguing. I can’t deny, though, that the game goes the extra mile to build a coherent presentation around that idea, which ultimately ties everything from the menus to the techno-brutalist aesthetic into the story. The effort and execution are there, even if the core concept is lackluster.

The campaign is very short but for me the meat of SuperHot is in the Endless modes (and somewhat less so in the Challenges). It’s unfortunate that the first level in the list for Endless mode is the laboratory, which is either the worst or the second-worst one. The Endless levels are at their best when they are either small or large and have broken sight lines with one good post or wall to strafe around. The lab is precisely the wrong size to pace encounters nicely and it has too much unbroken space at gun level. The Challenges, equally, suffer from the fact that the levels aren’t really tuned for them. I can’t help but feel that the story-centric overall design of the game makes it harder to understand that these are the main body of the game and primes players to complain about the apparent brevity.

In gameplay terms, the one thing that really felt like it held SuperHot back was that I never had a sense of the body I was in. I never had a good grip on what nearby bullet would hit me, and of course the game has nothing like the balletic dodging of The Matrix. Also, I never really gained a solid feel for what jumps I could make or when I should leap. It’s a small thing, but it detracted from the physicality of the game.

Nonetheless, I think SuperHot is excellent and you should play it.

Verdict: Highly recommended

  2 Responses to “SuperHot”

  1. Here’s a question that the reviews I’ve read of the game haven’t made clear – when you beat a level, can you play it back at full speed, so you only see action, not the decision-making and planning pauses?

    • After every level the game automatically plays it back without the delays. It includes a rudimentary editor you can use to cut out a clip, and also lets you upload the game to a SuperHot-related service called “Killstagram”.

      EDIT: I should add that Killstagram seems Not Ready for Prime Time.

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