Superhot is one of the most empowering FPSes ever

2016 GOTY Awards

Along with our group-selected 2016 Game of the Year Awards, each member of the PC Gamer staff has independently chosen one game to commend as a personal favorite of the year. We'll continue to post new Staff Picks throughout the rest of 2016.

Superhot reminds me of hacking platformer Gunpoint in how utterly free of filler it is. This first-person game places you in the middle of a whole bunch of set pieces with no context. There could be guys surrounding you in all directions about to punch you, or men with guns charging down a corridor—you've got to puzzle your way out of them. Time is pretty much frozen as you stand still. When you start moving or performing actions, time moves forwards at the speed that you do. 

Surviving each level of Superhot requires decent coordination, daring and ingenuity. In its three-hour running time, as you sprint, dodge, throw, punch and shoot through this array of combat scenarios, the designers concisely explore (almost) every possibility that the premise of the game allows. By the time it's over, it feels like you've played a game of a perfect length.

That might sound like a weird thing to praise in Superhot, but for this particular game, it makes so much more sense than having double the amount of levels where repetition will invariably creep in. In some ways it's a risky decision—three hours of game for $25, minus secrets and speedrunning, is a steep ask, and predictably a number of Steam user reviews take umbrage with this—but it's worth it, and recent Steam sales have made Superhot easy to find for up to 40% off. There's an endless mode for people who need more, but I really didn't feel like I did when I completed it.

When you beat a level and the action is played back, it's like watching a superhero or Neo at work.

Superhot is extremely empowering. It's maybe the second most cathartic FPS of 2016 to the Doom reboot, and a lot of that comes in the replay at the end of each level. During these clips, all of your actions are played back in real time as a voiceover repeats "SUPER HOT" again and again. While you're playing a level, you're cautiously making decisions based on what you've learned about the layout and sequence of events from failed attempts: you know who's got a gun and when they're going to pull the trigger. You know who's running down the stairs and how many seconds you have until they're within punching range. All of this knowledge accumulates until you've perfectly knocked a level down—it's a bit like Hotline Miami in that sense.

When you beat a level and the action is played back, it's like watching a superhero or Neo at work. Swords flying at enemies, careful evasion of shotgun fire, rapid fire melee beatdowns—a validating display of everything you accomplished during the level. It's a wonderful addition that demonstrates how Superhot is able to function as both clever puzzle game and spectacle-driven FPS. 

There was nothing else quite like it in 2016. While Superhot might be a game of a perfect length, it's been about six months since I finished it, and I'm ready for some DLC that maybe throws a few new weapons and level layouts into the fray. If you can grab it in this winter's Steam sale, you'll be happy you did.

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.