The first ten minutes I spent with Superhot VR went something like this. I punched a lad in the face, caught the bottle he dropped, dodged three bullets from a guy to my right, tossed said bottle into his face, nabbed in mid-air the gun that fell out of his grasp, and then used it to blast a hole in the third chap who was coming around the corner with a shotgun. In case that opening mess of words didn’t convince; Superhot VR doesn’t just make you feel wonderfully badass, it also happens to be one of the most amibitious and best games on PSVR, too.
I brought a bottle to a gunfight and it was glorious
Perhaps the most important thing to emphasise at the very beginning, is that Superhot VR is an utterly different beast from its non-VR counterpart, Superhot. Rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of PSVR’s motion tracking in lieu of a traditional control system, Superhot VR boasts all-new levels, different mechanics and a fresh story but still keeps, at its core, Superhot’s time manipulating, puzzle FPS gameplay at the forefront of the experience.
Oh, and for those of you who have yet to stump up the necessary paper to buy a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, Superhot VR is now your new reason to do so, as the game simply cannot be played using the old trusty DualShock 4 controller (for that, you’ll need to play the very different, non-VR version of the game). Likewise, more than perhaps any other PSVR title so far, Superhot demands that your play space has been adequately considered, as the game works best with a standing player who has sufficient room to turn and move their arms.
As to the narrative setup for Superhot VR, it casts the player as an apartment dwelling loner who aside for a penchant for crappy décor, has a thing for playing super immersive, pirated games through their VR headset. As events unfold however, it soon becomes clear that the creators of the game have something else in mind for the folks who decide to step into their digital realm. To be honest, the plot of Superhot VR is thin enough that it often feels quite superfluous (and far less sophisticated than the plot of the non-VR version of the game); a token accessory to the action which is fine in one respect, simply because the action in question is absolutely mesmerising.
Though it might not seem that way at first, Superhot VR is essentially a puzzle game that has been threaded through some very clever FPS mechanics to create something very, very different. Rather than a set of ongoing levels, Superhot VR instead thrusts the player into a series of isolated miniature, flat-shaded virtual scenarios where they must dispose of the aggressive ‘Red Men’ by whatever means necessary. The big twist here is that time only moves when you do, and as you can well imagine, this provides the developer with substantial creative latitude to create some truly interesting and unique situations.
Rather than being allowed to freely walk around the environments (as you can do in the standard, non-VR version of Superhot) Superhot VR has been reconfigured and totally rebuilt from the ground up with VR in mind, using head tracking to allow the player to evade incoming attacks but not over complicating matters by permitting any sort of movement. Though such design might seem restrictive, it’s the opposite which bears out in practice and nowhere is this deceptively liberal design more obvious than in how you are always a threat to the enemy. Whether that’s because you have a round left in the chamber of your firearm, a cocktail glass that’s just in reach, or because when all else fails you can just blast a fool with a knuckle sandwich to the face, you’ll never be powerless in any given situation.
Superhot VR makes you feel brave in a way that no other game really does. It encourages, no, pleads with you to bring a knife (or a glass, ashtray, vase, bottle etc.) to a gunfight and sufficiently trains you to such a standard that you’ll come out on top more than 90% of the time. Remarkably, few games trade on player empowerment quite as successfully as Superhot VR does, and for this fact alone, it should be loudly commended and championed. At times, playing Superhot VR makes you feel like you’re in The Matrix; with time slowing down to a crawl as a hail of bullets slowly soar over your head and you throw away the empty guns you have in each hand, only to pick up another two and continue the firefight.
And this is where PSVR proves to be the difference maker; instead of something like Call of Duty where mowing down lines of identikit military goons provides only a sliver of empowerment, in Superhot VR, because you are physically performing these acts yourself, the feeling of satisfaction is that much greater. After even a short amount of time with Superhot VR, you begin to unconsciously develop a swagger of sorts; a nonchalant flick of the wrist discarding the current weapon for a new one as you lightly bounce on the balls of your feet; dancing, ducking, bobbing and weaving around the incoming barrage of bullets, knives and fists that soon fill up your vision.
At times, the whole experience can feel nothing short of revolutionary. Indeed, it doesn’t take a whole lot of play before you begin to realise that Superhot VR is a game that provides a true validation of VR as a gaming platform, such is the unique level of engagement it offers the player with its series of virtual worlds. Relatedly, Superhot VR is also the perfect introduction to the possibilities afforded by PSVR, too. Hand the headset and the Move Controllers over to a complete VR novice and within seconds of picking up that virtual gun and shooting their virtual foe they get it; they immediately get it.
A big part of the reason why Superhot VR engenders such appeal to VR rookies and savants alike, is because the functional parameters of Superhot VR’s world are similar to our own. See someone coming towards you? Just reach down, grab the nearest solid object you can find and then literally volley it at them to nullify the threat. By tapping into our natural survival instincts, it feels intuitive, it feels natural and it meaningfully separates Superhot VR from just about every other PSVR title available on the market today.
As grand as Superhot VR is and as reliably as it excels in the majority of its grandly ambitious endeavour, there are still a couple of niggles which hold it back ever so slightly. The first and most serious of these is are in regards to how non-firearm special abilities are handled. Executed by performing a seemingly simple double handed gesture, whilst holding a couple of buttons down on each Move Controller, it can often seem hit and miss as to whether or not you’ll pull one of these unusual attacks off – hardly something you want to rely on when the bullets start flying.
The other issue is that, quite simply, Superhot VR needs to be longer. Though to be honest, there are worse problems to have as a developer than critics such as myself wanting more of your game, rather than pointing out any other sort of truly egregious fault.
Combining the traditional FPS with puzzle solving elements and then wrapping it all up in the most sophisticated and ambitious use of PSVR seen to date, Superhot VR is undoubtedly the next must have title for Sony’s rapidly maturing VR headset. More than that, Superhot VR empowers the player in a way that very few, if any, games have been able to achieve.
The conclusion of each session of Superhot VR tends to manifest similarly; a sense of breathlessness threatening to overcome you as you remove the headset, accompanied by the very-real quantities of adrenaline still pumping through your veins and the pouring sweat from your brow, reminding you that a break was long overdue. I can’t think of another game that has made me feel that way recently.
I just wish there was more of it.