How pos­ing and play­ing with time in Superhot makes your dreams of be­com­ing an ac­tion hero come true

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Alex Spencer

“You’re a bul­let-spew­ing Road Run­ner with the re­ac­tions of Peter Parker catch­ing a lunch tray”

The dream of shoot­ing games is that you get to be the ac­tion star in your own pri­vate John Woo movie. John McClane in your own Die Hard. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger in ba­si­cally any­thing he’s in. But not all of us are good enough with a thumb­stick to make these fan­tasies a re­al­ity.

A con­fes­sion: I’m talk­ing about my­self here. The ac­tual point­ing and shoot­ing part of FPS games has never been one of my strengths, so I fall con­sis­tently short of my cin­e­matic am­bi­tions. Luck­ily, Superhot of­fers a so­lu­tion. It’s a shooter where time only moves when you do – mean­ing you can stand still, with an en­emy frozen in your sights, and con­sider your next move. You can grad­u­ally line up your next shot, as bul­lets crawl to­wards you like they’ve been fired into honey.

It’s like be­ing able to see the Ma­trix. With a lit­tle prac­tice, you can string to­gether a per­fect se­quence of head­shots, danc­ing be­tween the bul­lets and not even look­ing back to check your op­po­nents have fallen. But from the in­side, when you’re just nudg­ing the thumb­stick to ad­vance time a cou­ple of frames per sec­ond, it doesn’t feel all that im­pres­sive.

The ge­nius of Superhot is that, each time you com­plete a mis­sion, it of­fers up a re­play. The last few min­utes of high­speed ul­tra­vi­o­lence, com­pressed into per­haps 15 sec­onds of real-time. And laid out like that, with all the long pauses edited out, those feats look Her­culean. Nay, pos­i­tively John Wick­ean.

I watch my­self, un­armed, fac­ing down one of the red polyg­o­nal man­nequins that serve as Superhot’s bad­dies. I wrench the pis­tol out of his hand, snatch it from the air as it tum­bles to­wards me, and turn it on him. His head ex­plodes into crys­talline shards, as I turn and empty the re­main­ing rounds into two more bad­dies. In the re­play, all of this takes just over one sec­ond.

When you edit the re­plays, grab­bing the finest frag­ments of ac­tion to share on­line, Superhot goes un­usu­ally quiet. The loop­ing shouts of “SU­PER! HOT! SU­PER! HOT!”, the screech­ing sounds of a dial-up mo­dem be­ing tor­tured, it all fades away, leav­ing just a sub­tle buzz of white noise. It feels like the game is sit­ting back and ad­mir­ing the chaos with you.

Red, dead

Even in the quiet though, you move so blind­ingly fast – a bul­let-spray­ing Road Run­ner with the re­ac­tions of Peter Parker catch­ing a lunch tray – that it can be hard to keep track of what’s go­ing on. Superhot off­sets this by us­ing a re­mark­ably sim­ple vis­ual lan­guage. En­e­mies are red. Any­thing that can be used as a weapon is black. Ev­ery­thing else is plain white, like the de­vel­op­ers for­got to ap­ply tex­tures to their level wire­frames. This not only cre­ates a dis­tinc­tive aes­thetic, it makes the ac­tion much eas­ier to read. It’d be im­pos­si­ble to fol­low a re­al­is­tic ac­tion game mov­ing at the same clip, but your eyes can quickly scan be­tween the only two things that mat­ter: the per­son-shaped ob­sta­cles, and the tools be­ing used to knock them down. That’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant when the game gets harder and starts throw­ing more and more ob­sta­cles in your path.

Be­cause the player lives in a state of con­stant bul­let time, Superhot is able to stack the odds against you tremen­dously. You’re con­stantly out­num­bered and fre­quently out­gunned – but , se­ri­ously, what kind of ac­tion hero would you be if that wasn’t the case?

Be­sides, when it comes to the re­plays, there’s some­thing else in your favour: they only show af­ter the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of a mis­sion. By that time, if you’re any­thing like me, you’ve likely fum­bled through a dozen times, and learned where and when each new en­emy en­ters the level.

So you end up with an im­pos­si­bly fast su­per­cut, eras­ing all the mis­takes you made on ear­lier at­tempts. It’s a nice lit­tle re­ward for suc­ceed­ing, and much more per­son­alised and mean­ing­ful than any un­lock­able McGuf­fin. But vi­tally, it also changes the way you play the game – or at least, the way I do.

Watch­ing re­plays in­tro­duces a sec­ondary ob­jec­tive: don’t just pass the level, but do it in style. Sure, you could hold onto this pis­tol and go for the easy shots, but wouldn’t it be cooler to throw it aside and make a dash for that katana, so you can slice bad­dies in half? Of course it would. There’s a sim­ple test I use in these sit­u­a­tions, with the en­e­mies frozen in front of me: I just ask my­self, “WWKD?” What Would Keanu Do?

Pub­lisher SUPERHOT TEAM / De­vel­oper SUPERHOT TEAM / for­mat xbox one / re­lease date may 2016right With its strik­ing red, white and black art, Superhot is one of the most dis­tinc­tive FPSs.

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