Superhot VR is a slow motion power fantasy. This is also true of the original Superhot, but Superhot VR’s application to the virtual world transforms vicarious pride into primary euphoria. Abstraction is erased; you’re there, performing inside a cloud of action sequences that borrow pages from Hong Kong and Hollywood’s best playbooks.
For its style, content, and thesis, Superhot VR is a lateral move from Superhot. The original premise—time only moves when you move—still holds true. You’re a singular entity bent on eliminating all of the fiendish red dudes from the white hell in which you all reside. You’re deposited in situations that seem impossible in action but powerfully under your control when organized into a gorgeous gun puzzle. Superhot VR looks the same and, generally, acts the same as Superhot.
While Superhot VR operates in parallel, it is not a repeat. There are close to twenty new levels built from the ground up. Movement is now entirely restricted to head and arm motions. This seems like a compromise until it feels like a revelation. Bullets are whizzing by your skull and you have the option of either tilting your head to avoid them or tilting the limits of PlayStation VR and enacting advanced level yoga poses to dodge incoming fire. Stopping time, and then rotating your head ninety degree to watch the bullet go by feels surreal.
You can practically pluck incoming fire out of thin air. If you procure a knife you can literally slice a bullet in half. For whatever reason (probably because it’s cool) any gun also acts as a shield. This will not save you from shotgun blast—blocking is motion and motion moves time—but it’s good in a pinch. The two or three hours it took to process through Superhot VR is the most I’ve ever sweat in a VR game. It’s currently 98 degrees in the middle of summer, sure, but you’re moving and holding obtuse poses more than your average sit-down VR experience.
Each level is split into four or five smaller sequences. They all take place in the same area—if you blast a guy off a balcony in the first sequence, expect to see him crashing down in the second—and enact a rough theme. Shooting your way out of a plane, getting into a fight at a bar, holding up some kind of helicopter fight, and battling your way across an active construction zone are all featured in Superhot VR’s ultra clean world.
Strategy works its way in not only through the passage of time, but the limitation of ammunition. The handgun has four bullets, the uzi has three bursts of three, and the shotgun has two blasts of five. These, along with one-time weapons like throwing stars, bottles, and axes, are your tools, and they’re almost never far away. Despite the abundance of weapons, however, you only have time to reach for one or two before you’re rushed and point-blanked by a maniacal red dude. Superhot VR knows where you’ll be looking next and is adept at deploying a red guy from the opposite direction.
Rooms are fixed in the number of red guys that require murdering but slightly open when it comes to their patterns. They react to your own actions—did you take the handgun next to you or reach into the overhead compartment and grab that slightly-hidden shotgun—and differ slightly in fire and movement patterns. If your own actions are identical, however, you can essentially see the future. If you think firing a bullet ahead of your enemy and watching them run right into pinnacle of satisfaction, wait until you do it to every red guy in the room.
Spontaneity and improvisation can reap their own rewards. Bullets can run into each other and ruin (or enhance!) the best laid plans. Sometimes you’ll find taking cover to be a viable option, as is pulling some insane maneuver where you’re crossing arms and firing dual uzis into opposing aggressors. After a particularly earned victory, and before moving to the next level, I took up the habit of smashing my guns into the ground and watching them explode. It somehow enhanced the feeling of nonchalant gratification and simultaneously showed my audience of no one that this stuff was easy.
It all just feels so designed to reward and empower the player. Shooting a guy at the right time will eject his gun from his hand and send it soaring toward yours. Punching people in the face is an option, as is reaching out and snatching the gun right out of their fingertips. Guys explode at the point of impact when they’re hit, which communicates and enhances victory. Even the weird tangent, where Superhot VR introduces a telepathy mechanic that is completely impractical, feels powerful in its stupidity.
Superhot’s weird meta-story is present in its virtual reality iteration. This is kind of ironic, the first game had a sublime VR twist, but just as effective. I don’t remember any other VR game requiring you to shoot yourself in the head (or mouth) in order to advance progress, and while this could be viewed as an adolescent edge lord maneuver I think it’s closer to a, “hey wouldn’t this be fucked up haha” kind of lark. It’s fine.
While Superhot VR’s set of levels should only consume three hours of your time, there are a few ways to extend the experience. Endless mode repeats enemy load-outs, tuning each level for survival. Time trials, headshots-only, a hard mode, and one-hit-reset mode are also available if you can finagle the disks into the virtual computer. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the drive to precision like I did with regular Superhot because the PlayStation VR hardware didn’t seem up to the task.
I would be willing to bet Superhot VR performed better under Vive and Oculus (where Steven reviewed it for us earlier last year) hardware. While PlayStation VR’s object tracking never failed as badly as it did with Arizona Sunshine, Superhot VR has its own share of buggy issues. Sometimes, when I reached for a gun, my virtual hand would disappear. This would result in me getting shot, which would send me back to the beginning of five levels, which is annoying. More importantly, pulling off headshots (or throwing objects) with any sort of reliability is near impossible. Skilled Superhot VR play demands precision PlayStation VR isn’t prepared to provide.
Thankfully, adequately passing through Superhot VR doesn’t require you to act like John Wick in order to feel like John Wick. Alongside Rez Infinite and Resident Evil 7, Superhot VR is some of the most fun I’ve had with the platform. Virtual reality overwrites actual reality, allowing functional instincts to develop and progress inside of a closed system. Superhot VR aspires for more than the traditional model of a shooting gallery, soaring past Rush of Blood, Arizona Sunshine, and even Farpoint. It’s not the next level, but it’s an important step past the current generation.
Superhot VR is a license to perform inside of a bullet ballet without any of the implicit horror of gun violence. Its hook—time only moves when you do—makes room for strategy and action in equal measure, and its stationary operation neatly accommodates and conceals the limitations of virtual reality. All that’s left is to imagine is the caliber of Superhot VR’s performance outside of Sony’s finicky hardware.