Superhot invokes the most iconic parts of The Matrix, namely the slow motion. From the lobby shootout to Neo’s enviable limbo maneuvers, innumerable directors and developers have since parodied both scenes. While Superhot leverages those set pieces as inspiration, its developers layer enough material around that bullet-time framework to keep the gameplay fresh. Superhot also adopts a light hacker motif, and the results brew an energetic, first-person thriller full of watercooler moments from the first level to the last.
Superhot chases the recent game-within-a-game trend, too. Pony Island feigns the role of an innocent equine platformer to rob players of their souls, but correcting the program’s in-game glitches will procure your escape. Calendula poses a different problem. What happens when a game does not want to be played? Calendula prompts viewers to scour the settings and other menus, analyzing each screen for codes or clues that justify the haunting imagery. I recommend either wholeheartedly.
I also recommend Superhot without hesitation, but selling somebody on the narrative is a tough task when it strays into meta-territory so cleverly. Every level ‒ such as alleys, a train station, or parking garage ‒ looks more pristine than an asylum, and your faceless assailants shatter into polygons when you exhaust their usefulness. “I didn’t get it at first, either,” a nameless friend declares. Superhot basks in the abstract, and spoiling the plot would defile your involvement as the character.
The ending proves largely surreal. I committed acts that made me second guess every action. When I was ordered not to continue, I declined. And yet I only feel safe in divulging Superhot’s setup. Although an apparent friend emails you a file called “superhot.exe,” little is right with the executable. Infiltrating a developer’s server allows hackers to butcher faceless bad guys, and a couple venues contain connective tissue. Why? I won’t say. Rather, the program professes the basics of combat, like stunning opponents to strip their guns, or that time primarily moves when you do.
And then another party intervenes, forcibly cutting your session short. Their intentions remain purposely vague, but if you heed the group’s advice to quit the game itself, you cannot continue until you revisit the previous level. Superhot understands immersion, always striking a superior balance of gameplay and story, never permitting one to fall to the wayside long enough that you get bored with the other.
Back in the real world, I was issued a debug copy of Superhot at first, one that allowed me to unlock all the content via in-game commands. But something broke. Before launch, a surprise update reset my progress, requiring a full restart to see stages I had not yet finished. As luck would have it, I became a better player for it. I translated the skills I’d picked up in less forgiving fights into a cinematic blend of broken glass, savage punches, and precise gunshots. Superhot expects its fans to think on their feet, always lending players sufficient tools to orchestrate their survival.
Superhot’s tutorial musings will mislead newcomers, then. “Time only moves when you move.” False … somewhat. Time progresses, though glacial in pace, when you’re inert. Threats prove constant, but the best hitmen approach each brawl as if it were a puzzle, recalling Superhot’s quirks. Guards lunge for guns within reach, firearms possess finite ammo, and grabbing items fast-forwards the clock by a few seconds. Can you snatch that bat before an incoming jab connects? One hit and it’s lights out for you.
The best part is that you can save and edit your jaw-dropping tricks with a built-in replay editor. During a particularly daring run through a museum, I split two dummies in half via katana, killed again when I flung the blade at a distant third, then executed the fourth and fifth after using a thrown ceramic dog to intercept their bullets. I altered the final cut as if the character acquired teleportation, closing gaps between victims before they could blink. As I said, Superhot channels The Matrix, minus the excessive Keanu.
The developers also bundle Superhot in a fake DOS interface that sealed the grin on my face. Text rolls over to the next line mid-word, colors bleed toward the edges of the emulated CRT monitor, and the deafening clacks of an aged keyboard trigger nostalgia for the computers that seeded my gaming passion. To converse with your anonymous chatroom friend, you input the keystrokes yourself, too. The responses have been predetermined, yet the story alludes to how much control you really have. Mum’s the word.
I regret that Superhot feels content in its two-hour length. The story carries a satisfying payoff once those hours fly by, though I hunger for more mental deception, more one-off set pieces. Superhot provides an endless mode and mods to appease long-term fanatics, but the larger environments and steady pouring on of adversaries highlight how terrible I am with prolonged engagements. The story spawns enemies in the same locations, letting players rehearse fights until their replays look the most badass.
And yet the mods (which may be exclusive to the version I played) temper the difficulty to your liking. A big head mode administers easier headshots, whereas fasttime.mod means time flows quicker when standing still. I did not unlock all the endless mode stages, however, and I barely dabbled in the challenges that strip daredevils of their restarts and time each playthrough. Take note, speedrunners.
Superhot is like a well-choreographed ballet. You examine enemy weapons and positions, then regurgitate that knowledge as gunshots, punches, or thrown objects. I want more, which surely sounds selfish to a team that spent three years nurturing its original game jam demo. Superhot douses players in a sea of slow motion and polygons, repeating its namesake until the phrase sticks.
“SUPER HOT,” the game remarks after I murder three guards in an elevator.
“SUPER HOT,” it utters as my shotgun obliterates the torso of an unarmed man.
“SUPER HOT,” I echo, indicating a job well done.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided.
Whether you dive into its meta narrative or rehearse the executions of eight ballroom guards for the sixteenth time, Superhot invents a tactical, first-person shooter genre to call its own. Please, Superhot team, I need more.