Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Review: SUPERHOT [2016]

I normally don't do indie games. I have nothing against them, they play a very important part of the gaming ecosystem but sadly the efforts of individuals or small teams on a shoe-string budget are unlikely to grab my attention away from my Overproduced Famous Franchise Offering VI because basically I'm a snob and I have a goal of trying to find the end to my AAA infested backlog before 2035.

I can't imagine a scenario where I'd actually buy any indie game, but thankfully Tim Sweeney is under the delusion that offering free games every week will make everyone want to buy from his Epic Games Store. Newsflash: The vast majority aren't. Also naturally while some of the free games are AAA titles that people want - the overwhelming majority are indies that most wouldn't bother with... even for free. There are a few exceptions however and one was SUPERHOT.

SUPERHOT is an FPS what was created as part of a 7-day game jam, funded by Kickstarter and finally officially released a couple of years later by the independent development team. It has two draws over most traditional FPS, it's art style is exceedingly minimal, all environments are white with grey shadowing for depth, all enemies are a red/orange palette and all weapons are black. The second draw is that your enemies move in very slow motion, even less than Max Payne bullet time but when you move - they move in real time. Needless to say it take a bit of getting used to but is a pretty unique way of playing a genre that hasn't changed much in 30 years.

The concept is that you're some sort of office worker or something and a colleague communicating using a quaint DOS like interface gives you access to a game on the corporate servers. You play its levels and report back on how great the game is. I dislike this concept because it encourages time wasting when someone should be diligently working and being paid for work, not misusing company resources. But in the end it's part of the game so I just continued, I didn't progress any story beyond that point.

In the FPS game environment you navigate, though well I say navigate but I only saw maybe three rooms per level and they're occupied by your red enemies which you need to kill. In some situations you start with a pistol that unrealistically has about 4 shots but you can acquire weapons from fallen foes. Guns, base ball bats, bottles and even pool table balls. You don't have any sort of HUD, you don't need a health bar - if you're shot you die in one hit, but so do your enemies who splinter into shards of red glass when killed.

The gameplay loop is that you kill everyone in the room(s) which automatically completes the level and displays a trippy replay of your actions in the level and allows you to upload your sequence to a server for sharing with everyone. Difficulty increased slightly with each iteration and by the time I was about 6 levels deep I had enough; partly due to the fact there was really no reason to continue but mostly I was already reaching the point of my skill level and would likely only have been annoyed with it from that point on.

Final Verdict: An interesting and unique take on the tired FPS genre and I'm reminded that while indies don't offer photorealism or cinema quality cinematics, they are capable of delivering a game to have a little bit of fun which sadly needs to be short lived as my AAA titles forever call to me.

SUPERHOT is available from Steam or GOG for €22.99. Review copy provided FREE from EGS in Sep 2019.

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