We’re bent over backwards, holding a handgun sideways and taking aim at our next target’s head. Bullets are slowly fizzing through the air as another enemy recoils, as if through treacle, from the hammer we just threw at his head. We can’t imagine this looks particularly dignified. But inside Rift at this exact moment, we feel like Neo from The Matrix.
Superhot’s time-troubling gameplay – the world and your enemies only move when you do – sings in VR, and makes even the tense original game feel oddly muted by comparison. Here, rather than strafing, you must contort on the spot as Superhot’s ruby-coloured, crystalline aggressors move into position like guntoting glaciers, filling the air with projectiles. You can get away with moving your head – and you’ll have to do so in some rather compromising positions to get a clear picture of which threats should be your priority – but as soon as you open fire or move your arms, time will roll a little further forward and the distance between you and that volley of shotgun pellets will decrease.
Just like you, enemies expire from a single bullet or punch, no matter where it makes contact. The dazzling feats of murderous audacity you’re able to perform in pursuit of this goal will leave you grinning As you’re rooted to the spot, spooling time along requires you to duck about or move your hands. While this can create some amusing ‘dukes up’ moments, it can also feel a bit frustrating when you’re out of bullets like an idiot. In one section, we casually deflect enemy bullets with a frying pan while lining up shots. In another we take out three enemies with gracefully hurled snooker balls. Another trio of aggressors suffer the indignity of being executed with their own weapons after trying to make us dance on a podium.
In lieu of being able to move about, each chapter sees you switching between a number of positions within the same level. From each new vantage point you’ll often be able to see the shards of the foes that you felled from your previous position, and Superhot Team uses this mechanic to play with your expectations and crack a couple of jokes along the way. While the inter-body hotswitching of the original game doesn’t make an appearance here, you gain the ability to burst one enemy’s head by clenching your fists. The special attack takes a couple of seconds to charge, however, and time moves quickly while you’re using it, so it needs to be deployed strategically.
Though stripped back – the short campaign is over in a couple of hours, and there are no additional modes – the addition of VR, dual-wield Touch controls and full-body movement makes Superhot VR feel somehow more fleshed out than its predecessor. It still offers a short, sharp thrill, rather than anything more substantial. But its ideas cohere into a blaze of brilliant white heat while it burns itself out.