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SUPERHOT Review: Maximum Effort!

Okay, so let me lay it on the line right here: If you have recently seen an action movie and said, "I would like a game that lets me do that," then SUPERHOT is the game for you. If you have ever seen a gunfight and wondered why first-person shooters don't give you the same ability to be a badass, this is the game for you. And, well, if you have recently seen Deadpool and want to turn literally everything within range into an instrument of murder, chances are SUPERHOT is your kind of game, too. 

But allow me to explain.

SUPERHOT is a bizarre abstract shooter that showed up first as a prototype for the 7-day FPS challenge way back in 2014.  The central concept is that time only moves when you do, allowing you to plot a couple of moves in advance and actually think about how to maneuver through the scene. This, combined with its incredibly simple controls (left click shoot, right click throw things, WSAD moves, space jumps. And that is literally all you need to know. And even then, jumping can be optional) puts me in mind of a slightly less difficult Hotline Miami, another game that involved incredibly simple controls and a byzantine plot to combine for an orgy of mad violence. 

The word "byzantine" is pretty much exactly the word to describe the plot. Without giving too much away, you (as yourself) are sent a cracked .exe file for a game called SUPERHOT. The game you are currently playing. As you enter each new level and mow down red guy after red guy, messages on screen appear, telling you essentially "MORE MORE FASTER FASTER" and encouraging you to waste guys. But then, around the time you get the first message of "YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE," things get...weird. The game takes an abrupt shift into a genre I wouldn't dare give away, and then plumbs its bizarre depths from there. Exactly what is going on or how much the game is aware of the fourth wall is in doubt, but it's clear that the creators are trying to make it so the usual sense of detachment no longer applies. 

The game's commitment to immersion is really cool. The menu screen is set up like an older-model CRT with text, offering you a variety of apps and programs, including a chat program where characters discuss their experiences with SUPERHOT, an old-school arcade game or two, older applications like Sand Simulator and Water Simulator, and even Conway's Game of Life. It really helps drive home the atmosphere of the game, that you've somehow stumbled upon this odd virtual reality interface and been drawn into a cyberpunk world full of bizarre concepts that are mostly spoilers I can't give away. 

The plot actually gives the game an odd contrast, a game that makes it seem bad to do this cool thing, while at the same time reinforcing how cool doing this thing is. The game is addictive, especially when it plays back an entire kill streak and you see yourself rush through a kinetic action movie-style setpiece, leaving a trail of red polygons and glass-shattering noises in your wake. SUPERHOT also contains several "challenge" modes and an "endless" mode that will basically satisfy your craving for wasting a ton of trichromatic polygons from now until doomsday. 

In terms of the plot doing that, I'm actually reminded of Harvester, another game that involved a game supporting violence, while at the same time being a game that took an anti-violence stance. I'm not sure how much SUPERHOT played it tongue-in-cheek, since the plot deliberately plays against the nature of the game or frames the actions of the player as being enthralled and controlled by the game, but either way, it's just interesting enough for me to keep going. 

In the end, this is the most innovative shooter I've played in a few years, and I thoroughly recommend buying it. I also recommend watching Killstagram if you have any further doubts about playing the game. It's well worth it, and is by far the most satisfying burst of violence since Hotline Miami.


Full disclosure: The reviewer received a copy of the full game in exchange for this review. 

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