Superhot: Mind Control Delete Review: Action, Distilled.

Superhot, as I’m sure you have heard, is the most innovative shooter anyone had played in years. It rules, that much is certain. I consistently dipped into Superhot time and time again, due to the simplicity, arcade feel, and extensive ‘endless’ mode, I definitely got my £8’s worth. I’ll go into what is so great about Superhot throughout this review, don’t worry. Imagine my surprise then, when a sequel was announced, not just a new mode, but a full-blown sequel, and, its free. That’s right – if you bought the original title and supported the developer with your money, they give you this usual £20 title for free.

This might be the time where I say how I got a free code, or review copy of the game, for full disclosure and to sound like a big shot in the industry. That isn’t the case, it is just because the developers are awesome. Needless to say, if you bought the original, check your download list, you should find it in there.

I am also going to challenge myself. Whenever I describe this game to friends, and throughout many reviews that I have seen online, they all refer to John Wick. As much as I adore those movies, I ain’t no sheep, so I will try my best to complete this entire review without referencing Keanu Reeves.

The Lowdown.exe

Superhot is a monochrome FPS, whereby the gimmick is that time moves only when you move. A simple elevator pitch, right? This means that firefights can be much more tactical as you weave around incoming bullets, fire one back, throw your gun at another foe, pick up a plant pot and smash it over some else’s head – all of this in a moment of real time gameplay stretched out over 10 to 15 seconds. It is the kind of gameplay which suits me down to the ground, lacking the twitch reflexes necessary to pull something this ludicrous off in something like Call of Duty. Best of all though, after each level, your actions are replayed in real-time, similar to Super Meat Boy I guess, this leads to your self-admiration of “yeah, I am a badass”. When a section goes by as smooth as butter, to see your graceful killing spree over the span of a few seconds, yeah, you feel like Jo-, you feel like Jason Bourne.

In any other game, a system which requires the throwing of multiple items, enemies pouring in from all sides would be a visual and audio nightmare to decode, Superhot does not have this problem. Everything is coloured in one of three colours. This allows for situations to be read at a moments notice and whilst it might look visually bland at face value, this is integral to the experience. How to decode a screenshot of Superhot is as follows:

White designates elements which block your path, whether this is walls, a parked car, sculpture or whatever. White cannot be interacted with in any way either, thereby, if something is white, you don’t need to worry about what function the parked care might have, you already know.

Black is a colour reserved for interactable elements (and yourself). When an object is coloured in this way, you can pick it up, this ranges from a baseball bat, a shuriken, a cocktail glass, to of course, the guns. When these are picked up you can throw them at an enemy who will then drop the item they have equipped – an essential manoeuvre as you will soon learn.

Red is simple. Red is danger. Bullets, enemies, proximity mines, they are all bright red, which pops so starkly against the bright, clinical backgrounds, there is no room for misinterpretation. If you get punched by the glowing red dude, that’s on you.

This is probably how Neo from The Matrix Domonic Toretto from Fast & Furious sees the world. Only things which can be used as a weapon should occupy his brain, what are the threats, what are the means available in the moment? Superhot cuts out all of the visual noise and distils action down into it’s purest form – kill the red guys.

Power-up.jpeg

Superhot: MCD differs from it’s predecessor by being a more rogue-like experience. Levels are set out into distinct nodes, as a nod to the “hacker” backdrop of the story, it is all still flavoured with that ‘.exe’ vibe. Each node contains several stages which you must complete before proceeding. Whereas each level in the original was entirely scripted, in the sequel, levels are pre-created, but randomly selected. Clear all of the levels in each node and you unlock more.

After so many red guys have been killed in each level, you are then awarded a new perk to power up you character for that run. These “hacks” range from reduced shot time, starting each level with a katana and more. This helps each run feel fresh and as the hacks begin to stack up and synergise, you can feel like an unstoppable killing machine. Not unlike…. Erm… That guy from The Equalizer?

This set up, not only feels fresh for those who had played the original, but also strikes the balance to not be too alienating either. If you liked what you played in the first one, this just gives you more, perhaps a little too much sometimes. Despite this change in structure, your classic endless mode is still here and this is where I dip into the majority of the times I play. New to the series are varied enemy types, some of these explode in a hail of bullets when killed, some are only vulnerable on certain limbs and some have weapons which cannot be stolen. Learning how to deal with an onslaught of unique foes is part of where the challenge comes from in MCD. This is amplified with the inclusion of boss-like enemies later on in the campaign which announce their presence with a haunting soundbite. It is without a doubt, much tougher than the original in this regard.

There are also a range of new weapons to play with, my favourites being the new throwing knives which can be retrieved from recent victims, or the devastating harpoon gun which has the potential to blast through multiple foes. There is enough new here to keep even the most keen Superhot fans entertained.   

Gameplay > story

On the whole, the gameplay mirrors the first, with a sprinkling of new features to keep it fresh. The entire experience is still so much fun and remains a unique take on the first-person genre, even to this day. Much like Cuphead, if someone was to try and reuse this idea, it would be so transparent in it’s influence it might even harm the success of that title.

From a story perspective, there isn’t too much to dive into here though. I have no doubts that there are points which could be dissected, and when playing it is clear that Superhot continues to strive to be a meta experience. Maybe I am just bored of this concept now, but I didn’t feel the need to find out what was going on, I was just having fun shooting red guys. Yes, I get it, liking the violence is exactly the point – don’t make it so fun then.

All of this praise being said, MCD is not without it’s hiccups. There are some long initial loading sequences when booting up the title which often made me question whether it had crashed, the inclusion of some kind of loading progress image might have helped alleviate this worry. I also encountered several instances of frame skips, which was definitely unnerving given the entire premise of the game revolves around making every frame count. I was never quite sure what triggered these skips, but they were frequent enough for me to make a note in this review. Lastly, there was one instance where my entire progress through a level was lost, this resulted in 15 consecutive shoot outs being lost as I was completing the final gauntlets of the game. Needless to say I was gutted and packed it in for the night. If you start this title, do not use the “hot switch” (body swap) on an enemy who is just entering the arena, you get booted out, without warning and have to start all over again.

Final thoughts.hack

Pulling together an overall verdict for Superhot: Mind Control Delete is a little tricky, as I say, I received it for free after supporting the initial release. However, this does not mean that it is worth any less of your time. The game certainly succeeds in offering more of what fans loved about the original and the concept remains as novel as ever. Whilst it might get a little lengthy as you try and knock out the final few nodes, it never fails to make you feel like a badass. Is it worth the price of admission? I would say so, if you haven’t played the original though, I would suggest starting there, it is a much more trimmed down version of MCD. If you like what you play there, I would not hesitate to pick this one up. It continues to offer more and more, whilst also making me feel like John Wick on a consistent basis. Dammit.  

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