After debuting on PC in February, how well does Superhot work on console?
Unlike many first-person shooters, Superhot oozes with style and personality. The developers know this and remind you with cheeky comments about being “the most innovative shooters in years” throughout the experience. While it’s nothing more than meta-marketing within the game, the developers are right. Superhot has taken the homogenized, mass-appeal shooter genre and flipped it on its head with fantastic time mechanics and a 4th wall shattering narrative.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in Superhot is the core of the experience. Time only moves when you do. On console, if you lay off the left stick, enemies freeze in place. As you look around with the right stick, bullets in motion slowly move towards their target. This mechanic often slows down the action and gives the player breathing room, but I had moments of claustrophobia if I stopped time just before impact knowing the second I move in any direction, I would be hit. Each of the levels create fantastic power fantasies, but the game’s narrative butts in periodically to never let you forget you’re little more than a dog being pushed along a linear path by the game’s creators.
And that’s what makes the game feel smart. Sure, you feel good beating an especially difficult level, but when the game points out that the only reason you keep going forward in a shooter is because the developers funnel you through it, you realize how truly powerless you are in a standard first-person shooter. In Superhot, though, the developers toss enough tools and abilities your way to make you feel like you’ve got some control. Still, just like every shooter that came before it, the developers have a single ending that they’re pushing you towards by the end of the short two-hour story.
Length is ultimately my chief complaint with the game. Levels are diverse and challenging, but I couldn’t help but feel like the experience was cut short. Once you beat the short campaign, there are a myriad of challenge modes such as beating the level only using the Katana or time challenges, but you’re still retreading the same ground. Once you’ve beaten a level once in Superhot, your second time around is much easier. You know all the quirks and tricks.
I also found Superhot a bit more challenging on console because of controls. It’s clear after playing both the PC and Xbox versions of the game that Superhot is definitely optimized for play on desktop. The game demands extreme accuracy to kill and stay alive, and it feels like the precision one has on PC is nonexistent on console. It felt like the stick controls on the Xbox gamepad were way too touchy making precious moments of stopped time frustrating as I would wiggle the stick ever-so-slightly to try to hit a stationary enemy. This isn’t to say the game is unplayable on console, — it’s still a great deal of fun — I’m just not sure there’s a reason to play it on Xbox if you have a PC that can run the game.
Speaking of running the game, Superhot’s graphical performance was top notch. Edges look smooth and environments feel full despite the limited color palette. Frame rate did dip in a few places, but nothing to ever distract from the addicting gameplay. The gorgeous white environments feel reminiscent of 2008’s Mirror Edge, and the kill effects on enemies are gorgeous low-poly red explosions. Each frame of Superhot is screenshot worthy, and it’s likely the game wouldn’t be nearly as memorable without the gorgeous simple design.
Superhot offers addicting, unique gameplay and an original narrative that challenges traditional first-person storytelling. Many of the levels are thrilling, but I can’t help but feel like there could have been a little more meat on the bone when it comes to game length. If you’re the type to replay levels and challenges to beat scores and win achievements, there’s plenty to love in Superhot. If you’re someone who wants to play levels once then put the game down, you might want to wait for a sale.
Superhot was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of the Superhot Team and Evolve PR.
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