I’ve been dreading this review since the day I started playing SUPERHOT VR because I knew that words nor video can possibly convey just how epically amazing this game is. This is singlehandedly reason enough to invest $200 into a set of Oculus Touch controllers. What? You need more?
For those of you who missed our 5-star reviews for both the Xbox One and the PC versions of the game here is another; this time for PC/VR on the Oculus Rift specifically redesigned by the SUPERHOT team in collaboration with the Oculus Touch team to create the perfect synergy between hardware and video game. Unlike any other VR experience on the Rift, SUPERHOT VR will totally immerse you in its sterile white world not unlike the Matrix, and naturally that means you play the part of the god-like Neo.
In this virtual world you have complete control over time. If you don’t move, neither does the world. While this was a fairly cool concept in prior versions of the game using a controller, now any movement, flinch, head turn, wrist motion, or untimely sneeze sets the world in motion. It’s just as cool as it sounds as you are placed in one encounter after another, facing off against faceless, textureless, red mannequin henchmen coming at you with guns, knives, machetes, and clubs, but the trick is they are only coming after you when you are going after them.
This leads to some of the most inventive “use your body as a controller” gameplay I’ve ever experienced. When each level starts you must quickly scan your surroundings, noting the locations of any enemies and any weapons, but you must do so with an economy of movement to slow their advance. You may start off with weapons at your feet or you may need to let the first wave of guys approach and disarm them, using their own weapons against them or the next wave. Everything from pistols to shotguns to machine guns, ninja throwing stars, knives, machetes, clubs, and even bottles, cups and an Oddjob throwable hat are all fair game, and that’s before you get the Jedi-like Force powers that just cause guys to explode.
The real excitement and feelings of badassery are most prevalent when you start taking out multiple henchmen in stylish combos that are part desperation, part intuition, and totally awesome. In one sequence I started without any weapons, a bottle on a table before me. I grabbed the bottle and threw it at the sword-wielding henchmen to my right who shattered into tiny red polygons as his sword arced toward me. I grabbed the sword in midair and spun around swinging to perfectly slice two more guys in half at the waist, one of which tossed up an Uzi. As I slowly turned to face forward incoming bullets were streaking toward me from two separate shooters. I was able to duck just in time to avoid the bullets from one while holding my gun out in front of me to deflect the bullets from the other then opened fire to take them both out.
As cool as that all sounds it took me three tries to execute that perfectly choreographed sequence as written. There is a LOT of trial and error in SUPERHOT VR and the nature of the game design has you repeating numerous levels when you die so you get really good at earlier levels in the sequence by the time you reach the checkpoint. Each encounter is relatively short, lasting only seconds in real-time but drawn out to a snail’s crawl when you minimize your movement to advance the action frame by frame. There can be several encounters before a checkpoint and if you die on the last one you play all of them over again. This can lead to a bit of repetitive frustration, but for me it was easy to overlook because I felt like a total badass replaying encounters with smooth precision combos and maybe trying something slightly new. Enemies always appear in the same place at the same time, so it becomes a puzzle game of memorization and choreography, almost like stuntman training.
The Oculus Touch is perfectly implemented for this game with realistic hand tracking and fist/grip controls using the intuitive button design. Snatching a weapon from midair feels so natural and perfectly tracked in virtual space. There is even good use of room-scale to track your entire body, allowing you to dive behind a cabinet or railing to dodge a stream of bullets or spin sideways as bullets inch by in slow motion. Since henchmen will always target your current location you can often draw their fire by intentionally moving to a certain space, let them fire, then quickly move into empty space for the kill.
SUPERHOT VR is easily my favorite game currently available for the Oculus Touch and one of my top five games for any of the big three VR platforms at this time. It offers a quick pick-up and play design with an average 15-20 minutes between checkpoints. It’s purely instinctual gameplay with no worries of ammo or health. It’s one-shot kill for everyone and when you’re out of ammo you simply get a new weapon or start punching. Every game feels like a workout, and both you and your headset will need a towel when you finally return to reality, but when you do you will most definitely feel like the biggest and most dangerous badass in the room…if not the world.