gamescom 2015: Superhot’s Slick Look Belies its Strategic Challenge

Of all the ID@Xbox titles coming out this year, perhaps none can claim a look as striking as Superhot, the part-first-person-shooter, part-puzzle-strategy title from Polish indie developer Superhot Team. Ultra-minimalistic, monochrome, almost wire-framed settings put the player in the midst of a very tough day at the office: Bad guys are coming in from all sides, and it’s up to you – an unnamed agent – to take them out.

You do so with a combination of guns and melee strikes (weapons range from basic bludgeons to fancy katana), but the key gameplay hook in Superhot is that time only moves when you do. That is, unless you’re pushing a button or a thumbstick, the action in the game is at a near-standstill. This gives you time to plan your way through challenges and enemy-filled rooms. Enemies fire shots or take swipes at you, but you can carefully plan your every step, then unleash chaos as you put your plan into action. If you find yourself surrounded and with no way out, you can back things up to the beginning, and try a different set of movements to put yourself in better position.

While everything in Superhot controls like an FPS – you aim with the right stick and move with the left, for example – the actual challenge has little to do with your aiming skills or your reflexes. Instead, it’s about your ability to plan, react, and understand the long-term consequences of your choices. So, for all its killer style, Superhot has more in common with games like Portal than it does with, say, Call of Duty.

Now, that’s not to say that Superhot doesn’t bring the… er, heat. Especially in the later levels, the action can be fast and furious – even in fits and starts, as you choose to move sparingly. All of this is tremendous fun, and tremendously impressive for an indie title. This was originally a browser game, and to see it being progressively fleshed out through ID@Xbox is a testament to the ability of the program to help indie developers bring their titles to complete fruition on Xbox One. More enemies, more dynamic gameplay (such as the ability to grab dead enemies’ guns out of the air), and more levels – lots more levels – mean that Superhot is set to bring a unique brand of excitement to Xbox One gamers.