Superhot VR Review (PlayStation 4)
Super. Hot. Two words that will be ingrained in your brain just moments into playing Superhot VR. The mantra is one of victory and success in beating another set of challenges in Superhot VR, and seeing and hearing those words repeated lifts a weight off your shoulders. Superhot VR is a little late to the party on PlayStation VR, but its summer arrival is as welcome as any game to the platform. It's just a shame PlayStation's headset isn't quite up to the task.
Rebuilt from the ground up for virtual reality, Superhot VR takes all the elements of the original game that made it such a cult and critical hit, and immerses players in the stark white world with little explanation. Red men want to kill you, and you obviously don't want your demise to be on their terms. In order to prevent your passing, you've got to act quickly but also methodically. Superhot is unlike any other first-person shooter in that the world only passes time when you move. If you stand still, so does everything else in motion, including bullets and enemies. If you move just an inch, time advances a second or two, putting you one increment closer to your ultimate fate.
At your disposal, you'll have your fists, and a healthy assortment of melee and throwable objects, as well as guns, and later, Scanners powers. Timing the throwing of a shuriken or beer bottle takes some practice, but so does learning how to line up your shots with a gun. You never know which way an enemy is going to move, so you've got to account for variables like that, distance and gravity. There's a surprising amount of thought you'll have to put into solving these violent puzzles, though blowing enemy heads off with the strange psychic power doesn't require much thinking. It's limited use does make it more of a last resort than a go-to strategy though.
The great thing about seeing the world for what it is, in all its Neo-in-the-Matrix glory, is you can use your movements to dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge anything and everything trying to kill you. Sure slipping a fist coming at you is a lot easier than sidestepping through a hail of buckshot, but you can do both if you've got the will to survive. The PlayStation VR headset and accompanying Move controllers do a serviceable job recreating your movements in-game, particularly in the earlier levels. Once Superhot VR starts cranking up the number of enemies on screen and the number of bullets you've got to avoid, things start to get a bit hairy.
As strong a consumer-level headset as the PlayStation VR is, it doesn't quite have the fidelity with the existing PlayStation Camera to give you the precision you'll need as you advance through Superhot's numerous challenges. There'll be times when you could swear you moved out of the way in time, but it didn't register. Worse, there'll be times you stayed as still as possible, but the headset took your breathing too heavily as a major move. Suddenly time will have advanced at a rapid pace, killing you before you even know what direction your death came from that time.
The camera's inability to keep your Move controllers straight is another hindrance to what is an otherwise exciting FPS. For the most part, keeping your hands in front of you will prevent any mistakes with the camera trying to place where your hands are in-game. There are numerous stages in Superhot that require you to bend or lean over to pick up an item or weapon, which causes the camera to lose track of the controllers more often than it should. It compensates by throwing your in-game hands wherever, thus causing the world to pass time, and enemies to gain the upper hand.
Disappointing as those elements may be, they don't ruin the overall experience. Most of Superhot VR's stages are quick challenges, and you won't lament having to restart them due to technical errors. The biggest struggle is having to repeat entire collections of stages from the start every time you die regardless of whether it was a mistake or not. Superhot VR's stages are broken down into smaller bits as you progress through a given area like a cemetery or shopping mall. Dying on any one portion sends you back to the start of that entire chain, which is a major drag on motivation.
At first we were more than willing to keep fighting through the same few portions over and over to progress, but Superhot VR uses so much of your body, it gets tiring to relive parts of the game you've conquered already over and over. A simpler checkpoint system would have been appreciated, but it isn't there, so you just have to deal with it the best you can. It does get easier to clear stages as you return to them repeatedly, but it doesn't make them any more fun to revisit when you're eager to solve the problem of one later in that particular area.
Superhot doesn't have a story or narrative per se, but each little chapter of the game does kick you back out to a lonely apartment filled with computers and notes. Many of these are hints at achievements you can earn in-game, while the computers seem to indicate your virtual persona is merely testing for some kind of elite squad. Maybe? It's not 100% clear, but it also doesn't have to be spelled out for you. Superhot VR didn't need any of this extra content between levels, but that it's included does give the game more personality and depth to what it all means. There's even a speaker in the room with a continually running commentary from the development staff that's fun to stop and listen to when you need a break.
Still in its infancy, PlayStation VR is waiting for its killer game. Superhot VR is a solid contender, but one that falls short of the mark due to the hardware's imprecision. It's a puzzling game that rewards you for patience and thoughtful approaches to difficult situations, but those tracking limitations spoil the fun more often than not. All that considered, the challenge is addictive, and the implementation of virtual reality into the world of Superhot makes the game nearly as enjoyable as its original release.
This review was completed using a download of Superhot VR provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.