Superhot review – is an independently developed first-person shooter video game, created by Superhot Team. Though the game follows traditional first-person shooter gameplay mechanics, with the player attempting to take out enemy targets using guns and other weapons, time within the game only progresses at a real time pace when the player moves; this creates the opportunity for the player to assess their situation and respond appropriately, making the gameplay similar to strategy-based games. The game is presented in a minimalist art style, with enemies in red in contrast to white and grey backgrounds.
The game originated as an entry in the 2013 7 Day FPS Challenge, which Superhot Team expanded into a browser-based demonstration in September 2013. Widespread attention from the demonstration prompted the team to develop out the full game, using Kickstarter to secure funding to complete the title. Superhot was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux on 25 February 2016. An Xbox One version was released on 3 May 2016. A virtual reality version Superhot will be released for the Oculus Rift by the end of 2016. The game was met with positive reception, with reviewers considering the title to be an innovative take on the first-person shooter genre.
Superhot sets the player in a minimalistic environment, taking out hostile attackers that are trying to kill them. Weapons picked up by the player have limited ammunition, requiring the player to rely on defeating enemies to get more ammo, or making melee kills. Taking a single hit from an enemy bullet kills the player, requiring them to restart the level. Though the game mechanics are typical of most shooters, the distinguishing feature is that time only moves forward at normal speed when the player performs an action like moving or firing a gun, otherwise time moves very slowly; this is described in the game’s tagline “Time Moves Only When You Move”. This gives the player the opportunity to alter their actions as to avoid the path of bullets or to better assess their current situation.
The game, as originally created, was a three-level demonstration project playable in a web browser. In expanding to the full game, Superhot Team crafted a campaign mode across approximately thirty levels, estimated to be as long as Portal. The full game includes additional weapons, including explosives, melee weapons, and improvised weapons like billiard balls that can be thrown at enemies, and introduces computer-controlled opponents that have similar awareness as the player and can dodge the player’s bullets. One significant change from the earlier prototype is that the player does not automatically pick up a weapon when they pass over it but must enact a specific control to do so, enabling the player to selectively choose and use weapons, or grab weapons as they fall out of opponent’s hands. The full version the game also enables the player to jump and as long as the jump button or key is held, the player can slow down time to plan out and perform actions, enabling aerial gunplay.
In the last portion of the campaign, the player also becomes able to “hotswitch” into an enemy’s body; this moves the player’s perspective permanently into the target, and kills the previous body. The manoeuvre allows the player to escape projectiles that are too close to dodge, but has a cooldown timer that prevents repeated use, and the new body also drops its weapons upon switching.
In addition to the campaign mode, the full release of Superhot includes an “endless” mode where the player survives as long as they can against an endless stream of enemies. A “challenge” mode allows players to replay the campaign mode levels but under specific restrictions or requirements, such as completing the level within a limited amount of time or only using a specific type of weapon. The final game also includes replay editor to allow users to prepare video clips to share on social media websites.
The Superhot narrative works in several metanarrative levels: the player plays a fictionalized version of themselves sitting in front of their DOS prompt, getting a message from their friend who offers them a new game called superhot.exe, claiming that the only way to access it is with a crack. Launching the game allows the player to engage enemies for several levels, after which the game glitches out and disconnects. Playing on, it becomes apparent that the player’s presence in the game is known and monitored by whoever is responsible for the code: the player’s messages to their friend are altered once they’re entered, and the system not only addresses the player directly, but shows that the player is in fact an entity inside of Superhot. The system warns that the player is unaware of the consequences of their actions, and makes the player promise never to start the game again. When doing so, the system chides the player and leads them to the player’s entity—a figure wearing VR headgear—and forces the player to hit themselves on the head. Upon doing so, the “game” glitches out again, and the player insists in the chat that their head hurts. The system warns the player once again to stop using Superhot, and forces the player to quit the game entirely. When starting it again, the system concedes to the player’s insistence to keep playing, and takes over the player’s mind, and they’re tasked with connecting and uploading their mind into the system’s core. Once done, the player becomes part of the core, and shoots their original entity, finally becoming one with Superhot.
Superhot was originally developed for the 2013 7 Day FPS Challenge, held that August, in which teams of programmers were given a week to develop complete, functional prototypes for games. Piotr Iwanicki, Superhot’s director, was inspired by a Flash game, “Time4Cat”, in which the player controls a cat trying to collect food on a busy road intersection; time only moves when the player moves the cat. They also considered the music video for the 2013 song “Bad Motherfucker” by the Russian band Biting Elbows, which shows, from a first-person perspective, a special agent escaping from a hostage situation through parkour and gunplay. They combined these ideas for the Challenge prototype. The name itself is based on considering the two words “super” and “hot”, alone, are “positive” and “intense” and made for a good mantra within the game.
The Challenge prototype only featured three levels across three computers, which to meet the deadline the team strung together in 3 separate applications and called the game episodic. They since refined the game and released it as a free browser game in September 2013, upon where it received a great deal of attention from players, along with placing the game on the Steam Greenlight process. Within a week, the game had been successfully approved for later distribution by Valve, and was the fastest game to be processed through the Greenlight system at the time. Iwanicki stated that the positive reaction to the web demonstration was a result of players looking for any variation in the standard formula of first-person shooters, which had not really changed since the development of Doom. Iwanicki commented that while some have called Superhot a puzzle game, he feels it remains an action game. Unlike a puzzle game where there is typically only one solution and one is rewarded for that, Iwanicki considers Superhot to be about having the time to adjust to one’s instincts and improvise a strategy for completing a challenge.
In May 2014, the development team launched a Kickstarter campaign to make Superhot a full release, including improvement of the art design, new levels and challenges, and support for the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. They had planned on starting a Kickstarter drive to fund publication after their success on getting through Steam Greenlight, but wanted to give the game more polish before offering the crowdfunding opportunity. This included tuning some of the gameplay, such as adding a katana that could be used to cut oncoming bullets in half. When they went to start the Kickstarter, they ran into problems being from Poland, a country not supported by Kickstarter at the time. This gave the team more time to improve the game while the issues were resolved, allowing them to continue to build up the art assets for the Kickstarter promotion. The Kickstarter met its goal within the first day of going live, allowing the Superhot team to identify additional stretch goals including improved animations and replay mode. Luke Spierewka, a programmer on the team, believed the success of their Kickstarter was in part due to the availability of the browser-enabled demonstration that allowed potential funders to experience the game’s concept hands-on. The campaign ended with more than $230,000 in pledged funding, allowing the team to add in New Game Plus mode. Cliff Bleszinski has designed a level for the game because he pledged for the Kickstarter tier that lets a backer to co-design an arena stage.
The art style of Superhot is minimalistic by design, according to art director Marcin Surma. It uses three principle colors: white for the environment, black for objects the player can interact with, and red for enemies. This choice was made during the creation of the demonstration primarily to allow the team to focus on the gameplay aspects for the 7-day FPS Challenge. Surma, who had not been able to participate in the Challenge but brought on after their decision to expand the game, kept with this approach, as it made it clear to the player what they had to focus on, distilling out the common distractions that would be used for first-person shooters. Iwanicki considered that these choices made any part of the game immediately “readable” to the player to plan out their strategy, while still providing enough detail to allow the player to imagine other facets of the game’s world. Surma also came on the idea of presenting the game as something that might have emerged from the 1990s during the period of MS-DOS and Amiga computer systems; this created the metagame interface fashioned similarly to Norton Commander, after Surma was able to convince Iwanicki to use that style. Surma considered how this approach continued the theme of contrast that the game presented: as the enemies stand out in stark contrast to the environment, the 3D game stands out similarly from the character-based menu screens.
At Gamescom 2014, Microsoft announced that Superhot would be available on Xbox One via ID@Xbox. Superhot was released on Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux on 25 February 2016, while the Xbox One version will follow on 3 May 2016. Physical copies of the game are published and distributed by IMGN.PRO.
Free downloadable content in the form of new levels, including a new gameplay feature, is expected to be released for all versions in 2016.
Virtual reality version
An early prototype of the game using Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) support was shown during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014. The Rift-enabled version included the added gameplay feature of allowing the player to lean the character to side by leaning their bodies, and rotating the character’s view separate from their bodies motion. Many journalists that played this demonstration compared the experience to being like the characters of Neo or Morpheus from the film The Matrix, exemplifying the game’s use of the Rift as innovative compared to other Rift-enabled games.
After completing the Kickstarter with sufficient funds for the VR-enabled version, the Superhot team realized that they needed to rebuild the game from scratch to provide the best VR experience for Superhot. The team is working to assure the gameplay is focused on the VR experience, including tighter integration of the game’s story. Developer Tomasz Kaczmarczyk said that compared to the standard version of the game, the VR-enabled one requires the player to act out all the motions to complete a game level, making the player “feel 100 percent engaged” in the experience. The Oculus Rift VR version of Superhot, which will require the Oculus Touch motion-sensing controllers, is expected to be released by the end of 2016. The Superhot team is also looking to develop a version for the HTC Vive.
The web demonstration proved popular, drawing attention to the game and aiding in the success of its Kickstarter. The game has been compared thematically to The Matrix film franchise and the Max Payne video game series, and with environments described by Wired UK’s Philippa Warr as playing “through Quentin Tarantino’s version of the Mad Men opening credits”. The “time moves only when you do” mechanic, as described by its creators, has been called the “Braid of first-person shooters”, in which the time mechanic makes the shooter more like a strategy game than a shooter.
On its full release, Superhot received positive reviews; it currently has an aggregated Metacritic score of 82/100 for PC, based on 93 reviews, and one of 81/100 for Xbox One, based on 11 reviews. Kyle Orland of Ars Technica believed the game had a “short but sweet running time” for its campaign mode with plenty of additional playtime available through the challenge and endless game modes to keep the game interesting. Eurogamer’s Christian Donlan considered both the gameplay and the narrative around it working well together to form “that rare piece of charmingly curated violence that dares to provoke difficult thought”. Chris Plante of The Verge found that while the narrative was passable, the gameplay and design choices that drive the title away from being a simple first-person shooter, such as the inclusion of a red trail to show the path of bullets that subtly allow the player to identify their source, made Superhot “something wholly original in a genre that has become bereft of originality”. Christopher Byrd for the Washington Post called the game a “soulful, artistic shooter”, using its metafiction to ” its understanding of the discourse around video games”.
Superhot was listed as an honorable mention for the Nuovo Award for the 2014 Independent Games Festival Awards, while its full release was nominated for the 2016 Seumus McNally Grand Prize and for Excellence in Design awards.
Landfall Games, the developers of Clustertruck which requires the player to jump and leap between numerous trucks in motion, created a short playable modification of their game for April Fools’ Day in 2016 called Super Truck, taking their game’s concern with Superhot’s time-motion mechanic and art style.