I'm in an elevator. Surrounding me are three hostile red figures, each holding a gun and preparing to fire. The words "ELEVATOR PITCH" flash momentarily on the screen. I punch the guy to my left, disarming him. As I turn to pluck his now discarded gun from midair, I'm killed—shot point blank by one of my other attackers. I press R to reload and try again.
I punch the guy to my to left. I'm killed. I press R. I punch the guy to my left as I move towards him, dodging a bullet. I grab his gun and turn. Killed. R. I punch and move, then—ignoring the gun—turn and punch the second guy, and the third. A few more punches and two guys are down for good. I back up and grab a gun from the floor, turn towards the final man and fire. I hear a shotgun blast. The elevator's doors have opened, and more men are waiting outside. I turn, but it's too late. Killed. R.
The elevator sequence is Superhot at its most compact, most distilled, but it's a microcosm of any of the game's 30-or-so levels. Or rather, not levels—that implies something larger. Superhot has scenarios. Each is its own elevator pitch—a standalone vignette taking place at that moment in an action film when the shit hits the fan. The deal went bad. The bartender is reaching for his gun. The goons have tracked you down. There's surprisingly little filler here. Most scenarios are memorable, and effortlessly cool in their setup and delivery.
The plot is also helped along considerably by Superhot's gameplay conceit, which drew so much praise from the original demo. Superhot is a first-person shooter, but time in the game crawls forward. Each second is stretched out, giving you freedom to think about your next move carefully — right up until the exact moments when you move or act, at which point things speed up until you're no longer moving.
In between those movements, you can dodge bullets, carefully position yourself and determine perfect lines through each level to maximize your killing potential.
I struggled to wrap my head around this for the first level or two, but things clicked into place soon after. Superhot felt great once I developed a sense of how to approach situations in the game. Since a single bullet or punch from an enemy kills your character,
I died a lot in my playthrough. But the levels are so short, and getting a run right is so satisfying, that I don't recall a single moment of frustration.