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It seems like the video game medium, specifically first person shooters, have gone as far as they can creatively. Sure, there’s a clever twist here and there, but it’s the same shoot, kill, rinse, and repeat.

SH Standoff

But every once in a while there’s a game that marches to its own beat, especially if it’s from the independent scene. And while I have played plenty of FPS games and even a few FPS games with time elements, such as TIMESHIFT, I can’t say I’ve had an experience like

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I suppose the best way to describe it is either TRON with monochromatic cubism or THE MATRIX if Neo had plugged into a Sega Saturn. Video game-wise, SUPERHOT reminds me in both gameplay (despite being FPS), story, and aesthetic of PORTAL. And its quirky, enigmatic storytelling and one hit kill or be killed is even reminiscent of HOTLINE MIAMI.

SH Machine Gun

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The gameplay is pretty easy to grasp. It’s you in an empty computer world up against a bunch of red polygon dudes. Time comes to a standstill as long as you stay perfectly put and will speed back up once you move (that includes shooting). It’s one hit kill for everybody and you can use a variety of ways, from guns to swords to even throwing vases, to disarm and/or kill your opponents.

Despite its simplicity, SUPERHOT can be super tough at times, though never impossible for FPS veterans. In fact, while it is a first person shooter, it’s in many ways a puzzle game. And figuring out how to deal with your enemies is where the real fun begins. It’s  completely up to you on how to do make it past the level, whether you want to grab the vase, throw it at the nearest enemy, take his pistol, and blast him while dodging a hailstorm of bullets from everyone else; or grab the katana, slice him in half, and throw the katana through the two other guys heading your way.

SH Katana

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The story is also a unique take that’s not either an army or underground resistance story that’s been done a million times.

Like I’ve said before, it’s reminiscent of TRON and even a bit of THE MATRIX, with the protagonist doing an unauthorized jacking into a virtual reality game, only to find that there might be more to it as a mysterious AI tries to stop him/her.

And while the themes of AI, autonomy, control, and the self have already been done brilliantly before with PORTAL and even elements of THE STANLEY PARABLE, SUPERHOT has its own unique spin on it.

While there have been countless games such as METAL GEAR SOLID 2 which have incorporated elements of meta into both  story and even gameplay, SUPERHOT goes balls to the wall with being self-aware without having to do any comedic fourth wall breaking. I can’t really explain it without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that everything, from the gameplay to the menu itself, is meta. Which may annoy some but I find it amusing.

SH Message

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The presentation and aesthetics, like both gameplay and story, use minimalism beautifully. Rather than bombast the player with orchestral music, portrait landscapes where you can see every blade of grass, and a wide palate of either apocalyptic browns or cyberpunk blues, SUPERHOT puts you in a white room with red baddies, black weapons, and no music except for room atmosphere.

But what little they do have is presented flawlessly. Sound is spot on as bullets slowly whiz by and shatter the glass behind you. Objects are beautifully lit. And your enemies smash into a million polygons never, ever gets tiring.

SH Shotgun

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I’d declare it the best game of the year instantly but unfortunately, SUPERHOT is super short. Under two hours for the campaign to be exact. And that was my first playthrough, trial and error.

And yes, there’s plenty of challenges and bonus content, but most of those are just stages rehashed while forcing you to use a particular weapon/method. Which takes away the excitement of having a million ways to slice, dice, and shoot your enemies.

Look, I have no problem with short games. In fact, if anything, I feel like a lot of modern games, even astonishing gems like WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT, are becoming too bloated. But still, you’ll be able to breeze through SUPERHOT quickly, especially if you’re an FPS vet. And it felt like it got cut, both gameplay and story, when things were getting really interesting.

SH Bar

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I try not to say things like “game of the year” or “one of the year’s best” until I get through the year and can look back more objectively. But every once in a while I’m confident enough to make a bold proclamation. And SUPERHOT is going to be in my top ten games of 2015 and maybe even in my top five if the rest of the crop are uninspired. And while its short length keeps me from prematurely declaring it game of the year, it’s a well worth buy. Especially if you’ve been yearning for an FPS that rewrites the rules.

RELEASE DATE: February 25th, 2016
PUBLISHER: Superhot Team, IMGN. PRO
DEVELOPER: Superhot Team
ESRB: N/A (Teen)