WARNING: this is yet another writeup in the series of "holy shit, waverider37 is playing another video game three or so years too late and it hasn't been written up yet, so here it is". As a result, there are spoilers ahead. Not quite as bad as my previous writeups (for a few reasons), but there's still spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Repeat after me: Mind is software. Bodies are disposable. The system will set me free...
From Polish developers Superhot Team, Superhot is a 2016 first-person shooter game with the gimmick that "time only moves when you move". Set on a backdrop of black, white, and red, you are a lone figure trying to punch and shoot their way out of sticky one-versus-many situations involving "Red Dudes" trying to kill you. Time moves at an incredibly slow pace when you are not moving, but taking any kind of action - walking, jumping, throwing, shooting, punching, swinging a katana - will speed up time for that brief moment. The game is still classed as an FPS but has added the ability for you to think tactically about the position(s) you're in. In terms of the storyline, you are a person who is sitting in front of a DOS command prompt chatting with your friend, who has sent you a link to a cracked game called superhot.exe. As you play through, the "system" that engineers the game first tries to discourage you, then assimilate you. The game was originally a Steam game, but has been ported to the major eighth generation consoles as well as VR using a specially created version with different levels. A standalone expansion pack called Superhot: Mind Control Delete has also been released on Steam, with a slightly expanded toolset and new levels.
I say there's a storyline, but... there kinda isn't. 95% of the game isn't about the plot, it's about completing the challenges after the plot is complete - kind of an inversion of Portal. Complete each level as fast as possible, with katanas only, with only one life, and so on. And believe me, despite the idea that time doesn't move unless you do, these challenges are not easy. The campaign levels themselves need a high degree of spatial awareness to begin with, not to mention tactical decision-making - a lot of elements of FPS gaming are no longer in play, such as crouching, tactical or otherwise. Somewhat advantageously, bullets from guns are very predictable aside from a semi-random shotgun scatter pattern, and there is literally nothing in the game environment aside from enemies (red human-shape dummies), weapons and projectiles (black), and objects that usually form part of the backdrop (white). This isn't changed much in Mind Control Delete - the only changes made are that the game has a small (okay, not-so-small) dungeon-crawl feel to it.
After all that, the plot is... pretty weak. The notion is that you've been sent a new game (using your 1980s-era computer, whereas the game-within-the-game decidedly is not) which you play way too much. Eventually, the game itself tries to stop you from playing, going so far as to hack your chat with the friend who sent it to you. You refuse and keep playing, and the system decides instead to use you as a tool to achieve its ends, whatever the hell they are. You eventually "hack" the Core, which turns you into One Of Us. It's, uh, overdone to begin with and badly done in this game. Worse, the campaign took me all of about two hours to complete. So, basically, don't play it for the plot - play it for the tactical challenge of almost literally everything else in the game. Somewhat sadly, one needs to play through the campaign to unlock the rest of the game, so I suggest treating the campaign as a two-hour-long tutorial (trust me, it's not nearly as grindy as I make it sound).
Speaking of everything else in the game: I'm playing this game three years after its release, but it's still a nice, refreshing twist on the genre. You have a limited toolset to work with - namely pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, throwable objects with pointy bits, throwable objects without pointy bits, and your fists - so the skill floor is pretty low. The skill ceiling, on the other hand, is surprisingly high, which in my opinion makes for a rather good video game - as long as there's replayability (and there is). Because of its minimalistic nature, the game emphasises pure tactics and decision-making and shows that games need not be complicated to be good or challenging. Mind Control Delete adds a bit of a new flavour to it by introducing "hacks" such as faster movement and deflection of bullets from guns fired by Red Dudes, as well as other roguelike elements. (Though the plot is still weak in the latter.)
I have to say, as much as this game is classed as an FPS and as much as the game's creator Piotr Iwanicki stresses that it's an FPS, I still can't help but think of it as a puzzle game. It's, uh, like Portal. There's all kinds of different levels and you have to think carefully and tactically in order to achieve your goal, which is (at least in the base game) killing all of the Red Dudes and staying alive. Sure, there's multiple ways to do it, but puzzles need not necessarily have just one solution. That's largely what kept me playing - how can I think a little outside the box and come up with ways of killing besides the classic run 'n' gun? It's also got the minimalistic feel of a puzzle game - although Portal prided itself on looking pretty, especially in its sequel, other puzzle games like Antichamber and Cipher are based on the same ideas - the setting, score, and HUD are as minimalistic as possible so as to allow you to focus on the objective and not the distractions.
Let's see. The physics engine is good. The one-shot one-kill thing feels a bit jarring for veteran FPS players. The multiple challenges are a great innovation. The satisfaction one gets when one hears the words "SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT." effectively ad infinitum to denote the end of a level is j-u-s-t right, although somewhat jarring the first few times you hear it. The flashy text can also get a bit jarring but given that it's part of the plot it's a thing that I can accept. The little mini side-things (games, visuals, simulations like Conway's Game Of Life, etc.) that the game seems to pride itself on are cute, but probably could have been released as a separate suite. The (Steam) achievements are on a good difficulty curve and are actually based on achievements, for the most part, rather than "here, have an Achievement for turning on the game, picking your first Pokémon, and reaching certain points in the storyline".
- Graphics: 7/10 It's a minimalistic setting, so it's not "pretty", but it's not been done badly.
- Sound: 7/10 Very little soundtrack and initially jarring bot-voices make it feel a bit creepy, though not spoopy.
- Playability: 9/10 Controls are fairly easy if you're used to FPS games. Console gamers are at a slight disadvantage, as usual.
- Lastability: 8/10 The campaign is almost frustratingly and definitely unsatisfyingly short, but the postgame has plenty of value.
- Plot: 4/10 Don't play it for the plot. It's using tired sci-fi and cyberpunk tropes in its writing. I wasn't particularly gripped.
- Overall: 35/50 = 7/10 The overall gimmick of the game is an unusual way of... erm, I mean:
Superhot is the most innovative shooter I've played in years!