Superhot is one of the most innovative shooters I’ve played in years.
Have you ever played a game and felt exactly like James Bond? Perhaps you pulled off some fantastic stunt in a first-person shooter and swelled with an immense pride? I’m actually really happy for you, but sadly, I rarely feel this way. That is, I didn’t until I picked up Superhot: a phenomenal indie FPS with low-poly graphics, released in 2016. I wish I had played it sooner.
As I’ve discussed before, I’m downright terrible at aiming in video games. It’s atrocious to watch, and frankly, it’s a tad embarrassing. This is partially due to my skewed depth perception—I can barely tell the difference between cut and uncut grass while mowing the lawn. I suck at judging distances and seeing in real life, so it only makes sense that my vision translates poorly to gaming.
In addition, my reflexes are abysmal. In Overwatch, I constantly scramble to hide from enemy abilities, in some frantic attempt to locate where the attack is even coming from. More often than not, I’ll misread the opponent’s position and walk right into their trap. This means that even when I can aim correctly, it takes just a fraction longer for me to line up the shot, and I’ll probably miss because I didn’t react to the enemy’s movement.
Yet somehow, I come crawling back for more. I keep playing first-person shooters like a dolt. Every time, it ends in the same despair as the last. But no more. Superhot has changed that.
While Superhot can certainly seem like a normal FPS single-player campaign at a certain speed, it’s anything but. Time moves only when you move: as long as you stay perfectly still, your enemies will too. You’ve got to double- nay, triple think every shot and every footstep. If you don’t, you’ll be gunned down by the enemy’s deadly accurate aim. Each move is a commitment, because just one slip up could mean death.
This is much more my speed. Superhot is a first-person shooter in name only, as it plays like a puzzle game with guns and melee weapons. It involves tactical thinking, problem solving, and meticulous planning. The fantastic polygonal shooter is a game of chess in disguise.
I can’t explain how perfect it feels to have a fight go according to plan: to nab a pistol, carefully aim each bullet to coincide with an enemy’s trajectory, throw the empty gun at a nearby goon, and snatch his shotgun midair. I can’t convey how fun it is to beat up one dude, only to take his katana and sling it at a henchman at the far end of the room. Moreover, I can’t describe what a relief it is to feel competent at an action game.
It can be hard to imagine what it feels like to be James Bond, but I like to believe that Superhot is as close as I’ll get. With it, any scenario is possible. I feel entirely confident that I could take out entire swaths of foes without getting a single scratch. Perhaps that’s why I already hold the experience near and dear to my heart: I finally feel great at shooting and reacting.
But Superhot opens a whole new door for the industry. A rise in shooting games based less on aiming, more on thinking would be fantastic; they would let new, eager, inexperienced players to join in on the fun. Imagine an adventure that still provided the satisfaction of a high-paced action game, but revolved around tactics and critical thinking. The argument could be made that real-time strategy and puzzle games provide this feeling, but even then, these titles don’t always deliver on the “power fantasy.”
Until then, Superhot provides a nice alternative for me. It’s a quiet space in which I can hone my skills and sharpen my thoughts. It’s a poignant world built with beautifully modest polygons, and allows me to rejoice in its art and simplicity. If nothing else, Superhot is the perfect training ground until I can jump back into a regular FPS—if I can ever bring myself to leave.