The first time I played SUPERHOT at a trade show, I immediately knew it was something special. While screenshots may make it look out to be a standard, yet very stylized, shooter, it doesn’t play anything like Call of Duty or its many contemporaries. Instead the game is founded on one simple principle: when you move, time moves. This governs everything from bullets to enemies, and creates a whole new dynamic.
Players quickly learn to take their time while playing, as trying to play the game like a normal first-person shooter will only result in frustration. Every movement should be planned and every corner checked, as a single bullet is all it takes for the player (and the enemies) to die. It creates a tense atmosphere that makes every successful level feel like a triumph.
Moving slowly through a level makes it possible for the player to dodge out of the way of oncoming bullets as if they were in The Matrix. It’s ridiculously cool to calmly move out of the way of an oncoming shotgun blast, throw a weapon at an enemy, watch them shatter into glass, and then pick up their weapon in one fell swoop. These sequences make up the majority of SUPERHOT and they never stop being cool.
It’s such a fresh experience mechanically that SUPERHOT would be a recommended title even if the levels were drab and uninspired. That’s thankfully not the case here, and it helps the shooter go from great to phenomenal. Every enemy has been placed with care, and finishing a level feels like solving a great puzzle.
The game also succeeds by putting the player into many completely insane scenarios. I got to jump out of a helicopter with a katana in hand, and then slice up a bunch of enemies. I also managed to get out of an elevator alive when there were three men aiming guns at my head. The time mechanic allows for the player to make every decision count, and they can do some spectacular things due to it.
SUPERHOT isn’t a one trick pony, though. New weapons and mechanics are constantly introduced during its story. Every time that I thought I had solved everything the game had to throw at me, it would change up the game, and I had another new challenge. This continues even after the player finishes the game as there are several challenge modes for those that can’t stop playing.
With such innovative gameplay, it can be easy to gloss over the story of SUPERHOT. That’s very unfortunate, as it features a narrative that is just as brilliant as its gunplay. The entire game is presented as if the player is accessing an old computer frontend, and those that don’t dig around the menus will really do themselves a disservice. There’s a lot of interesting layers to be unveiled by lurking in an IRC client, playing a hit mini-game called Tree Dude (it has the most jamming theme song), and looking into every nook & cranny.
The developers really went above and beyond in making sure that SUPERHOT was something special, and it all pays off in a grand way. As the main game progresses, it continually gets weirder. SUPERHOT starts to play around with the ideas of software, virtual reality, and if players are really in control of what they’re doing. If we play a game like a developer intends us to, do we really have any agency? It all culminates in one of the best endings I’ve been lucky enough to experience.
From the opening stages to its thrilling conclusion, every single moment within SUPERHOT is a memorable one. Even a year removed from its initial release, its innovations are unmatched. Even those that aren’t typically a fan of the genre owe it to themselves to check out one of the finest games released in years.
SUPERHOT PS4 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.