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One hell of a time: SUPERHOT VR review

You’re probably familiar with SUPERHOT in some capacity – it’s already been released on consoles and is one of this month’s coming Games with Gold. If you’re not, there’s just one simple concept to keep in mind – time only moves when you do.

Rooted to the spot, the game tosses insurmountable odds your way, leaving you unarmed against crimson crystalline enemies with cold black weaponry. If it was in normal time, there’s no way you’d make it out alive, but as you stand still, time freezes, giving you the sensation of having John Wick style reflexes. Ducking and weaving to avoid enemy fire, grabbing guns out of the air, uppercutting someone into oblivion – it all happens in seconds, but the core mechanic gives you all the time in the world. This makes SUPERHOT a singular combination of strategy and stylish violence, fast and manic on the surface, cerebral beneath it. All it takes is one hit to shatter an enemy, but that goes for you too, and failure will send you right back to the start of the sequence of combat.

This can seem frustrating, but it allows you to polish your reactions down to a fine art, which makes those repeated encounters beautiful moments of fluid action. Something you once clumsily succeeded at becomes a trained, perfectly executed maneuvre – stab the guy in front of you, grab his shotgun out of the air, duck beneath the submachine gun fire before blowing the charging gunmen apart. As soon as the last Red Dude falls, you’re moved onto the next challenge with little preamble, sometimes with weapons and throwables in easy reach, sometimes completely unarmed and alone against a bunch of dudes trying to ruin your day. It all works surprisingly well in a small VR space considering the amount of physical dodging you have to do – leading your aim and anticipating where your enemies are going to fire at next lets you control the flow of the encounters to some extent, which lets you play without having to move too much. Just a few steps back and forth from time to time, and, of course, a bit of room to crouch.

Weaving beneath bullets before returning fire is intense and demands both physical and mental awareness.

There’s a beautiful sense of power to it all. Having the ability to calmly reflect on your next move with a hail of bullets frozen before your eyes does make you feel a bit like a god, lending itself to an equal amount of “oh f**k” moments when you turn to see a bullet inches from your face. With so much going on it’s easy to start trying to do it all too quickly but until you’ve mastered your superhuman reflexes it’s better to freeze on the spot and figure out your next move. Eventually you’ll be able to clear rooms in seconds, firing weapons into the air where assailants are yet to be whilst being long gone from the position they were gunning for. The initial allure is the time mechanic, and there’s no incentive for skillshots or feats besides the occasional achievement, but what’ll really keep you coming back are the glorious moments where you just don’t need the slowdown anymore. There are moments where the Touch controls stumble – throwing is a little janky dependant on your arm movements, and shots that definitely should have missed will clip the very edge of your head’s hitbox, but for the majority of the game it all works beautifully. Challenging and fair, usually failure is your own fault entirely.

Like the original, it’s all linked together by a meta story, this time chucking you out of VR into a small, grubby room with a headset dangling above you and a series of floppy disks containing the game files. It’s a real contrast to the game’s striking aesthetic, the small breaks definitely help you appreciate how well it works. Enemies are red, the environment is white, and weapons are black, making it obvious what you can wield, and who you need to be wielding it at. Dying enemies hurl guns at you to pluck from midair and empty into their comrades, creating a vicious dance where you’ll often need to improvise to succeed. There are many surprising moments where something you thought was going to work fails entirely and you need to let that shotgun-happy Red Dude come dangerously close so you can arm yourself again.

It doesn’t take a lot of force behind a strike to shatter your enemies into lots of pleasing shards, making them least threatening when up close. Surviving that long is another story entirely.

It’s comfortable to play – as I mentioned before it works well with a small space but would definitely benefit from some extra flail room if you can stretch to it, and I didn’t experience any VR sickness (unless you count a paralysing moment of fear when I realised there was a bullet between my eyes that was certainly going to kill me the second time moved forward). It walks an odd line between comfortable and intense, and you don’t want to be worrying about the TV that might be in the way of that flying ashtray you so desperately need. You also need adequate space to lunge and swipe forwards to disarm or clobber close-up foes, so if you’re playing in front of your gaming setup make sure your VR is positioned further back.  Dodging is infinitely easier with some space either side but you can manage without a ton of room.

SUPERHOT VR genuinely makes you feel like an action hero. It can take a little while to click, and you’re not going to clear everything on the first attempt, but when you finally clear a challenging sequence it’s like you’ve physically achieved something. This is where VR pulls ahead of traditional games. When you land a headshot, it was your aim, not a crosshair, and when you survive a hail of gunfire, it’s because you moved out of the way in time. SUPERHOT exemplifies that sense of power and achievement like nothing else. By the time you’ve shattered your last Red Dude, you’ll be fully convinced that this is the future.

SUPER. HOT.

THE TL;DR:

  • The best use of bullet time in history, translating with ease to one of the freshest shooters you can buy.
  • Standout design marries crisp graphics to deliver rich and distinctive visuals.
  • Throwing objects is a little rough around the edges at times which can throw off your groove.
  • You can clear it in about two hours, but it’s worth every penny.
  • An exceptionally well-crafted game with plenty of replay value and a hundred different ways to kill with style.

95%

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