Make a move.
Countless games try to make you feel like a John Wick-style action hero, a whirlwind of bullets and fists against a horde of thugs that would quickly overwhelm a mere mortal. Superhot VR is one of a very few to pull it off in a believable way. By slowing time in the world around you until you move or shoot, it creates an awesome illusion that you’re thinking and reacting at superhuman speeds.
Over a few short hours, Superhot VR’s campaign puts you through a rapid-fire sequence of quick battles where you stand more or less in one spot as bright-red enemies charge you with guns, knives, and fists. If time were moving normally you wouldn’t stand a chance – they come at you from every direction, moving quickly. Even though they stand out clearly against the stark-white, untextured backgrounds, it only takes one hit to kill you, and you’d have to be an actual action hero to avoid them. But as long as you hold still, you have all the time in the world to decide how to handle the situation. It’s not until you move – raising an arm to aim, ducking your head, picking up an object, or firing a gun – that they spring into full-speed motion. That feeling of control is empowering.
Shooting, stabbing, punching, or even shattering bad guys with your mind feels great, and watching them shatter at my feet as I sidestep their bullets like Neo from the Matrix or block them with my own guns, snatch the weapons out of their hands when they get close enough, and deal out precise double-fisted pain is about as rewarding as an action game gets. The fact that a dying enemy will effectively throw his gun at you so you can catch it out of the air and use it against his friends is a very smart way to keep you from having to move too far (which is great if you have a limited VR space), and also feels like you’ve pulled off an amazing move.
I love watching them shatter at my feet as I sidestep their bullets like Neo.
The one aspect of the controls that doesn’t feel smooth and intuitive is throwing weapons and random objects within reach at enemies. Timing the release is awkward and tricky to get the hang of, and I’ve had the most success by basically shoving things at enemies instead of the natural throwing motion. But when they connect, it’s awesome to beat a guy with a shotgun by tossing a bottle at his head, or getting one last kill out of an empty pistol by chucking it at someone.
Some scenarios are easy, letting you show off by, for example, punching two guys at once as they charge you from opposite sides, or reaching into their chest, making a fist, and yanking out a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A few have surprising environmental hazards, like a speeding truck you have to avoid. But others are no joke: you’re just as fragile as these glass enemies, which means some levels are pretty tough because even one grazing hit from a bullet will end your run and send you back to the start of a sequence of fights. Unless you’re being extremely meticulous about watching for threats and moving only the bare minimum, you’ll probably catch some bullets you didn’t see coming – it can be especially difficult to see a bullet coming at you straight on, since the red contrail effect behind the tiny black projectile isn’t visible from that angle. Sure, it’s frustrating when you repeatedly die near the end and have to kill the same five guys over and over to get to the trouble spot, Groundhog Day-style, but the quick respawns make it as painless as possible.
Even minimal movement tests the limits of the PSVR’s single camera.
Superhot VR is a standing game that usually doesn’t require you to move your feet more than a step in any direction or turn more than 45 degrees right or left – though if you have a room-scale setup, it’ll let you make use of it. However, even minimal movement tests the limits of the PSVR’s single camera, which doesn’t cover a huge area and is difficult to set up in a way that allows you to reach the floor and aim a gun upward at a target on a balcony above you. The bigger issue is the flaky hand tracking of the Move controllers, which led to some unfair deaths. Remember, this is a game where time moves when you do, and if it thinks you’re moving when you’re not, you’re probably going to get shot in the face very quickly. Superhot VR also looks significantly sharper on the Oculus Rift or Vive than on the PSVR, but that’s not terribly important in a game with such a low-detail art style.
The short campaign is tied together by a charmingly weird VR-within-VR story that flashes perplexingly cryptic messages at you, posing questions like who’s really in control here and why it chants “super… hot… super… hot” at you when you finish a stage. It never answers any of them, but it’s certainly a unique approach to a campaign that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While each of the stages takes place in a different location, their textureless look makes it easy to miss and difficult to figure out what they’re actually supposed to be unless there’s a major distinguishing feature (such as one fight that takes place on among the passenger seats of an airliner).
When you’re done with the story mode, there’s an infinite survival mode in which to test your Superhot skills and rack up as many kills as you can. Smashing your way through endless waves of bad guys until you get cocky and make a mistake is a great way to keep on enjoying this amazing use of virtual reality.