Inventive shooter turns ‘taking it slow’ into an art form
Time moves when you move. It’s an idea so simple you’ll curse yourself for not having thought of it first, but in practice Superhot’s hook is a variant on a well-worn technique: bullet time. The Matrix’s groundbreaking use of slo-mo has inspired a slew of games since, though none have quite captured the thrill of bobbing and weaving between incoming projectiles – you guessed it – until now. The two versions play out surprisingly differently. In non-VR Superhot, you move slowly with the left thumbstick, edging around corners, refining your aim until you’re perfectly lined up to pull the trigger. Across a series of vignettes – the kind of one-man-against-impossibleodds situations you’ll find in a Jason Statham action set-piece – you’re basically invited to kill everything that moves. Enemies the colour of cough candy and the texture of glass roam alabaster bars, lobbies, and alleyways. One shot is enough to kill them; the same applies to you.
Weapons are often within reach as the level starts, though it’s more fun when you need to grab them from your assailants. You can lob objects (ashtrays! Pool balls!) to stun them, prompting one to let go of their gun. Reach forward and you can catch it in mid-air and turn it on them. Or you might pick up a katana, slice one guy in half and throw it through a glass window to spear another. Since you’re inching your way to success, it mightn’t look as cool as it sounds. But when the last enemy has fallen, a replay shows your handiwork in real time, basically turning you into a polygonal John Wick.
Rather than make you look like a badass, the VR version makes you feel like one. Instead of moving through rooms you’ll stay in roughly the same spot, taking out smaller groups before being whisked to another area within the same scene. Here, time truly moves when you do, rather than your avatar. Crouching to avoid a volley of buckshot, before thrusting the left Move controller to thump a goon, reaching out with the right to grab his shotgun, and in the same graceful motion squeezing the trigger to blow away another attacker – it’s like living out an action movie fantasy, and it feels incredible. You’ll work up a sweat, too: the VR version certainly lives up to its name in that regard.
Sadly, in both cases, reality intrudes on the fantasy. The tracking isn’t consistent and throwing is a lottery in VR – which would be less of a problem if dying on the fifth and final section of a stage didn’t send you back to the start. It’s a trial-and-error kind of game, but the later stages of the regular version take that to extremes, trading creative scenarios for tedious volumes of enemies. At its best, Superhot is scorchingly good; what a shame it concludes in such tepid fashion.
“IN VR, IT’S LIKE LIVING OUT AN ACTION MOVIE FANTASY, AND IT FEELS INCREDIBLE.”
Wonky tech and punishing challenges will leave you cold, but with or without VR, this has moments of brilliance that are worth the price of admission alone. Chris Schilling
The thought-provoking story examines our relationship with digital violence.
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