Bullet time has always remained a fascinating visual gimmick, and with good reason. Ever since the striking imagery of The Matrix and slick gameplay of Max Payne propelled it into the public spotlight, it has become a visual staple. It’s a way to add an extra dimension to otherwise very direct fight scenes, but a hard one to truly get right. Overexposure and mishandling of it in every medium has given it a stigmata, but Superhot reminds audiences just why this was such a cool concept to begin with. That and just what the right developer can do when they are given a single core mechanic to work with.
The idea here is simple: Time only moves as fast as you do. Remain still and it's at a snail's pace, turn slightly and it will inch forwards, run and it's at normal speed. Through this power, you gain the ability to tactically plan out moves, react to foes and emerge victorious from seemingly impossible fights. Not only can you accurately pinpoint the paths of oncoming bullets and avoid them, but you can shoot them out of the air, intercept them with thrown weapons, deck a man and grab his gun while it's falling and nail three foes round a corner. In game time this takes seconds, but from your warped perspective minutes of analysis, prediction and planning can play out.
Superhot is effectively an interactive puzzle envisioned via First Person Shooter, and every element of the game respects this. The environments are relatively Spartan; save for foes and anything that can be used as a weapon, the crux of its content lies in its challenges. As the story mode is a mere two hours long the vast library of challenges are where the real meat can be found and where the bulk of the development obviously went into. Ranging from killing a dozen foes to timed attacks, the challenges, specifications and variety increases with every level. Yet, in spite of this, the game never loses the feeling of being a truly engaging FPS thanks to its tight controls and intelligent foes.
Unfortunately, while it might use it well, the game's lone concept does begin to wear thin after a few hours. Even expertly handled as it is, you begin to notice a few limitations within the game such as the limited roster of only five weapons and the self-contained nature of the challenges can make them repetitive. There's not much of a sense of evolution, and while a lack of unnecessary features is to be praised, by the end you'll feel as if there could have been so much more to this one.
While it has its flaws and it still seems like a proof of concept above all else, Superhot remains an engaging and extremely tactical shooter. You'll easily drop a good ten hours on this one before tiring of it, and if its core mechanic interests you at all, it's well worth grabbing early on.
SUPERHOT / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: SUPERHOT TEAM / PLATFORM: PC, OS X, LINUX, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW