Superhot review: a first-person shooter in which time only moves when you do

Steve Hogarty
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Enemies appear as glossy red mannequins and shatter into ruby shards when shot.

★★★★★ | Platform: PC, Mac, SBO

Superhot is a first-person shooter in which time only moves when you do. Stand still and your enemies become rooted to the spot, their frozen bullets hanging in the air like hot black conkers. You’re free to look around while time is stopped, surveying the room for anything that might kill you in the next millisecond or two, but take a step in any direction and the scene suddenly, and often fatally, re-animates around you.

Bullets continue along their trajectories, windows shatter, doors are kicked open and enemies make opportunistic lunges for weapons dropped by their fallen allies. Take your fingers off the keys and, just as quickly as it all started, the cacophony stops and the world reverts to a strange, static art piece. Slow-motion is old hat. Instead Superhot is a stop-motion shooter. It’s Wallace and Gromit meets John Woo. It’s Morph meets Morpheus.

You move in very brief temporal snapshots, quickly pausing and unpausing the world while predicting what might happen in the next half-second, and using your godlike prescience to side-step incoming bullets while firing off shots of your own. The ability to quickly restart and try again turns Superhot into a puzzler rather than a straight-up action game, as you remember which doors enemies will spill from and how they’ll be armed.

Each level is a brief vignette, an action film sequence taken out of time and context, presented in bleak white surroundings and acted out by glassy red mannequins who explode into ruby shards when shot. You’ll be dropped into the middle of a bar brawl, a break in, an out of control truck careering down an alleyway – each standalone scene is just seconds long and, besides a few title cards flashing up on screen, free of any kind of narrative.

A radical and original first-person shooter that does something entirely different, Superhot takes a simple time-warping idea and plays about with it for exactly as long as it’s entertaining to do so. It also manages to be effortlessly stylish: super-minimalist Superhot thinks it’s super-cool. And luckily for Superhot, it super is.

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