[Review] SUPERHOT – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: SUPERHOT Team
  • Publisher: SUPERHOT Team
  • Release date: 19/8/2019
  • Price: £17.99 / $24.99
  • Review code provided by: SUPERHOT Team

Intro

When we think of violence in videogames, we tend to think of a protracted shootout or a lengthy brawl. The reality is that most real-life violence tends to be explosive, messy and over very quickly. A breathless struggle to inflict as much damage in as short a time as possible! SUPERHOT manages to capture the swift, brutal and messy nature of violence in a way many games don’t.

The game originally launched on PC, Mac and Linux in 2016, then PS4 and Xbox One before shadow dropping on Switch after the August 2019 Indie World Presentation. The game had been rumoured prior to the presentation, but nevertheless it stands as an exciting addition to the Switch library.

A brief history of violence

SUPERHOT initially looks like a simple, but highly stylised FPS. Visually the game is striking, with each of the levels made up of a stark white environment populated by shimmering red polygonal enemies. Once you get into the gameplay however, it shows itself to be something rather different to your run of the mill shooter!

The game controls like an FPS, with a unique twist in that when the player stands still gameplay moves in ultra-slow motion. Individual bullets can be tracked and the audio slows down to a groan as you slowly dodge incoming projectiles. These periods of calm allow the player to plan their next move and line up their next shot or punch.

You have access to a fairly small move set consisting of punches, melee weapons, guns and the odd environmental object to use against enemies. As well as shooting enemies with one hit kills, you can throw your empty gun at them to stun them, causing them to drop their own weapon and allowing you a moment of space to steal the loose gun before turning it against them. You can also throw any items you find laying around, including balls on a pool table, sculptures in a museum scene and even frying pans found laying in a kitchen.

Hot’s on offer?

The game initially starts with a story mode, where you play through a sequence of different scenarios. Each generally involves a small area, such as a bar or underground car park where the player is faced with a number or gun toting enemies and is left to figure out the best plan of attack to disarm and kill their foes.

This is where SUPERHOT starts to feel more like a puzzle game, as you succeed by trial and error in an attempt to survive the onslaught. My favourite scene started in an elevator with three enemies pointing guns in my face. I initially found that any movement would allow them to shoot me dead instantly. I eventually recognised that each of the three enemies were at a different stage of drawing their weapon. I then realised I had to focus on them in order of who presented the most immediate threat. The scenario quickly developed into a messy brawl with enemies and myself scrabbling around to catch the guns I had just punched from their grasp. Once I thought I had this section figured out the lift doors opened and two shotgun toting goons took me to a whole new world of hurt.

The satisfaction with SUPERHOT comes from unpicking each scenario a step at a time before breezing through for the final time in a ten second whirlwind of death. In this respect the game feels a bit like Hotline Miami. Upon successful completion of a level you are treated to a replay of your exploits with the slow-motion sections edited out. This usually looks like a breakneck ten second fight sequence from an action film and is extremely satisfying to watch back.

Despite the fairly simple polygonal graphics; strikes and bullet wounds result in enemies smashing into a haze of particles and chunks wherever they are hit. I found myself wincing as I smashed an enemy’s skull with a baseball bat. Their head shattered into chunky red shards in super slow motion and the remains of their body fell down a flight of stairs like a ragdoll.

The game plays like a dream and control is extremely smooth, allowing a combination of gyro control and aiming with the sticks. This makes lining up longer range shots extremely satisfying, especially when you manage to lead your target to account for the slow motion of the bullets when aiming at a moving enemy.

Hackers

The premise of SUPERHOT is that you play as a hacker who gains access to a corporation’s internal servers and is able to play a virtual reality game (SUPERHOT) remotely on their server. The story follows the conversations of your avatar and a friend via an old-school PC interface using DOS style commands. As the story develops you then start to draw the watchful eye of the corporation responsible for SUPERHOT and some tension between your character and the corporation starts to bubble to the surface.

The story touches on some interesting themes of control and compliance and gives off echoes the Milgram study, which any Psychology students will be familiar with.

The sound of silence

SUPERHOT is quite unique in that the game doesn’t include any music. This makes the combat sequences even more dramatic as moments of slow, groaning ambient noise are punctuated by the boom of a shotgun and the smash of an enemy’s head as it explodes with the sound of breaking glass.

This minimalist approach to the audio and visuals is really striking and makes the game stand out in a sea of identikit pixel art and chiptune indie games!

Upon completion of the story mode you can unlock some different modes which will be sure to please those with a penchant for chasing high scores. Various scenarios can also be unlocked, which present the game in a different light, including a cool ninja mode where your character moves faster and starts with a Katana.

The one thing missing from these modes is an online scoreboard, as the ability to compare your scores with friends would be ideal!

Virtual Virtual Reality

The whole premise of SUPERHOT is that of a game played in Virtual Reality. I couldn’t help but feel there was a missed opportunity in not integrating some Labo VR support. I would love to see this patched in at a later date, as happened with Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.

SUPERHOT VR has been released on other systems and I couldn’t help but feel that the game would work well despite the limitations of Labo VR. The graphics are highly stylised and quite simple. There wouldn’t be much fidelity lost if the game were to be played at a lower resolution as required when using Labo VR!

Final thoughts

SUPERHOT is extremely satisfying to play or to watch. Each of the action sequences play like something out of an action film, with players juggling their weapons and stealing guns off the enemies in a violent, improvisational ballet. The story is intriguing and kept me interested until the very end.

The game introduces new mechanics and different scenarios as it progresses, which keeps things interesting and stops the game feeling stale.

The additional unlockable modes provide a huge amount of replay value and present a number of different and interesting ways to play!

Pros

  • Eye popping visuals will keep you, and anyone around you, glued to the screen
  • Figuring out the solution to an area is extremely satisfying
  • Unlockable extras add real longevity

Cons

  • Unlockable modes reuse areas from story
  • No online leaderboard

Verdict

SUPERHOT provides a unique mash-up of FPS and puzzle gameplay in a supremely well-polished and eye-catching package. The combat manages to feel infinitely more violent than the hyper-realistic gorefests that populate modern consoles and will have players wincing!

4.5/5

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