The first time we got to play SUPERHOT was back in the summer of 2014. While meeting with the people at Oculus, we got to try on the most recent version of the Rift and the first title we played was SUPERHOT. To this date, it’s one of the best virtual reality experiences we’ve had – and it’s all because of the game’s excellent and innovative mechanics.
Oculus Rift support didn’t make it into the release version of SUPERHOT (we’ll stop with the all caps now), but this is mainly due to Oculus’ tech having changed so much over the past 18 months – we’ll hopefully see it implemented soon after the release of the consumer version of the much discussed virtual reality headset. So how good is ‘one of the best virtual reality experiences’ without any virtual reality then? The answer… still pretty good.
The best way to describe Superhot is by looking at its core gameplay mechanic, which is simple, effective and brilliant at the same time. It’s a first person shooter at heart, but Superhot distinguishes itself from nearly every other shooter out there in a way that is central to the game: the world around you only moves when you move. That’s right… stand still and nothing happens, even when you’re right in front of an enemy. That might make very little sense, but the action takes place in a virtual environment (no, not THAT kind of virtual environment) where you invade a piece of software – and that’s just how it happens to work.
This dynamic is a real game-changer, and it comes into play in more and more tactical ways as the game progresses. At first, it’s relatively easy to take down enemies one by one. Anticipate their next move, aim and shoot. See their bullets frozen in mid-air, step out of the way, and watch the bullets fly by as you fire off a lethal shot of your own. At the end of every level, you’ll see the action play out in regular speed – making you look as though you’re putting most action movie heroes to shame.
The real complexity comes into play after about 20 minutes of play. Once you’re introduced to most of the game’s controls and dynamics, the scenarios become increasingly complex. Side-stepping in order to get out of the way of an oncoming bullet might mean stepping right into the crosshairs of another enemy – and suddenly time is no longer your friend. This is where tactical decision-making comes into play, and where Superhot stops being an action game and turns into a solution-oriented affair. What’s the best order in which to take down these guys? Which options do I have in order to out-flank those guards?
The experience is the same on Xbox One, though gamepad controls feel a tiny bit less immersive than the PC’s mouse and keyboard combination does. Still, this is most likely just a matter of personal preference. The Xbox One version plays every bit as smoothly and even though you’re restricted in terms of the resolution you can play at, the difference visually is almost non-existent. This is largely thanks to Superhot’s minimalistic design – which does a good job in making the game look like a computer simulation of actual combat scenes.
When we initially played Superhot, it was not much more than a tech demo or gameplay concept. Three short levels were available, and one of the big draws was virtual reality – you’d literally dodge out of the way of bullets and watch them fly by as you looked over your shoulder. Sadly – that aspect is gone (for now), but what was there before has now been fleshed out into a full game that is tied together with a techno-thriller type of story and plenty of diversity in its gameplay. That said though… the game is less than three hours long, and can be completed a lot quicker than that on a second playthrough.
Still, those two to three hours are some of the most original, clever and fun hours of first person shooting we’ve played in a long time, and it’s a thoroughly recommended game because of that. It’ll only get better when virtual reality support is added, and we’re hoping for a bit more content down the road as well – but we’re more than happy with how Superhot turned out!