Hands up (in bullet time please!) if you remember Stranglehold or Enter the Matrix on PS3 and Xbox 360?
Both of these games promised visions of playing within an action movie, with abilities to bend time to your advantage, using athleticism to enhance gameplay with your character becoming its very own weapon. Not to mention the ability to shoot people in the face in really cool ways!
To some extent this niche genre was successful but the bullet time bubble quickly burst and the love affair with slo-mo gun ballet wavered …well, until now...
Superhot was originally released to high acclaim back in 2016 on the PC and Xbox 360 after a very successful Kickstarter campaign. This was a new type of FPS with a new aesthetic and gaming mechanic that differentiated it from it’s predecessors.
Now a year in the developers at Superhot have brought the indie darling over to the PlayStation VR, finally giving good reason to dust off Sony's virtual reality headset of wonder.
The game at its core is closer to a good old fashioned light gun game than a FPS, like a duck shot at the funfair - but with bright red menacing agents replacing yellow painted waterfowl as the target.
The clean white, minimal Scandi-style ascetic which makes up the games backdrop adds to it’s ascetically pleasing no-nonsense gameplay. Although don’t let the clean lines fool you, the semiautomatic wielding enemy will happily attack in a no-holds-barred onslaught given half the chance.
Which leads to it’s USP of how to actually stop the enemy. Accomplished by the player physically moving left or right to avoid shots fired. The main game mechanic is so beautifully simple but amazingly well executed that it elevates it beyond a simple shooter to an interactive, immersive environmental puzzle with some physical effort required - but not enough to be off-putting.
Time is in motion when you move; so only when moving your head, arms or firing a bullet. Presented in front of you can be four or more bad guys in various states of menace and this is when you need the foresight to plan your counter-attack.
All items visible can be interacted with; be it an ashtray, throwing star or a gun. Remaining still bides you time to quickly distinguish between whats trying to kill you and what you can use to fight back.
Do you grab the ashtray with one hand and use it to shield yourself against a bullet that’s about to leave the chamber of the gun that’s been drawn towards you? Or instead contemplate the merits of reaching for a gun sat illustriously on the table? Remembering at all-times that each little movement progresses time forward with the enemies trigger being squeezed slowly, an attack always imminent.
Instead you perhaps opt into using the ashtray to disarm the gunman? Throwing it towards him in hope your aim is true and that he’ll drop his weapon ready for you to grab mid-air (which is a kick-ass, smile inducing all-powerful moment if executed correctly, I can tell you!)
Using his gun to then shoot the other assailants who were moving ever closer forward with every passing moment of your previous assault, all whilst continuing to contemplate further the cause and effect of your actions.
Superhot - as with most titles on the VR - is a game that you must experience first hand to fully appreciate its genius. Simply reading articles or watching trailers on YouTube can never do it justice.
The exciting, revisited but technologically advanced slo-mo action genre can only be fully appreciated when you're in control ...and you're bending time for yourself.