I’m standing in my living room, completely drenched in sweat. I’ve knocked my microphone off my table at least three times and full-on punched my TV in a failed attempt to smash a polygonal man’s fragile skull. My dog is completely confused, at least I imagine (since I can’t see shit). Most importantly, I’m several hours in and still in awe about how Superhot VR is the single coolest video game experience I’ve encountered on a PS4 or anywhere else.
This VR experience is the same as its console counterpart: an FPS where time moves only when you do. Each level has you placed in a room with blocky red men attempting to kill you. Some will punch, some will shoot, and some will throw items, but all of them will die with one hit…as will you if they get to you first. To counter your foes (who always outnumber you), you can plan your route piece by piece—analyze their initial attack, plot your escape over to a gun on the counter, grab the gun and fire some shots, duck out of the way of their incoming bullet trails etc.. It’s a fun formula that works very well and makes for many exhilarating situations, which you can then re-watch in real time, making you feel like a Matrix-style action hero from the safety of your couch.
The added strategic elements make Superhot feel like a puzzle game with an FPS influence, something that hasn’t really been done before. Superhot VR takes this formula and throws you directly into the driver seat.
The game is the same, more or less—same environments, same enemies, same concept—but the added dynamism of being able to experience the game all around you makes for a completely new experience. You have to physically duck and dodge to escape death, and to punch, you swing your actual arms (or flail them frantically in front of you). You’re given a whole range of motion to interact with the environment that the game places you in. Even with the limitations of PSVR, there’s a surprising amount of room you’re able to cover in your home, both to the game’s success and detriment.
The main point is that you’re at the center of the game, and to solve these puzzles, you have to physically maneuver your body to do so. Whereas most VR games will justify their physics by putting you on a track, forcing you to teleport or be constrained to a ship, Superhot VR doesn’t need to justify its physics. It’s one of the only VR experiences that allows you to use your body outside of a confined space, especially on PSVR, and that makes the game feel new and exciting. You are limited to the camera’s field of view and the hardware itself has a tendency to gradually move your tracking across the room, but the game manages to toe the line, giving you just enough autonomy for an immersive shot of action.
While you do have extended freedom of movement, Superhot VR’s actual tracking can be kind of buggy. For the most part I was playing in an open space, with all my furniture pushed out of the way of the camera, but several times I found the game telling me that I was outside the play area, and many times, my gunfire would be pretty inaccurate. This is particularly frustrating with the throwing mechanic, which prompts you to hold a button and release it when you would like the object to leave your hand. This is all well and fine, except the object almost never goes anywhere near where you’d like it to or with the trajectory you’d expect. Since there are many high stakes situations that rely on you throwing things as your opening move, this quickly grew to be a huge source of frustration.
Play Your Way
Faulty physics aside, Superhot VR is an excellent game that easily supersedes its flaws. The missions are quick and respawns are instant, making the game very hard to put down. The total run time is around two hours but since you can play the levels as you like, it’s always an exciting experience to decide whether you want to murder someone with a coffee mug or dodge fire until you can grab their gun from their hand and pump out some bullets. Sure, it sucks dying thirty times in a row, but the sheer satisfaction of living out an intense action sequence totally overrides that. There is the inconvenience of having to play levels in five section chunks, so even though you finally made it through four segments, one misstep in the last segment will force you to do the whole block again.
Superhot VR also succeeds due to the piecemeal pacing and the one-shot-kill nature of the gameplay. While other shooters want you to duck and dive with the VR helmet and cables attached, it can be very exhausting and claustrophobic. Superhot VR avoids that feeling by allowing you to take it at your own pace. Sweat is unavoidable and you could definitely sell Superhot VR as a work out method, but the pauses in between moves and the lightning nature of the gameplay balance the physical exertion well.
In terms of story, Superhot never had much of any narrative outside of a thin sci-fi framing device, and Superhot VR follows that model. It’s best as a fast, agile game, where you move from level to level, having something more in-depth would weigh the whole thing down. Especially, when the games art is polygonal faceless people and places, a story could likely feel forced or out of place. The few brief moments where the game addresses you in several fourth wall breaking sections are arresting and happily kept to shorter amounts, especially as one for example is turning the gun on yourself and pulling the trigger.
Superhot VR is fast, action-filled, and addictive. It’s one of the few VR games that truly makes you feel a part of the action, and while the aiming mechanics can be poor at times, the game more than makes up for it in fun and flair. If you liked Superhot or are looking for the pinnacle of where VR games are at at the moment, Superhot VR won’t let you down.