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SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete seeks to provide more of what made the original great. It’s a running theme throughout the entirety of its campaign. It’s even evident in the naming convention of its Steam achievements. MORE. MORE and MORE. MORE power. MORE story. MORE punching. Do you get the idea yet?
SUPERHOT received near universal acclaim upon its release in 2016. Critics and fans lauded the game’s core concept: a first-person shooter where time only moves when you do. The minimalist art style — red silhouettes with solid black weapons on a stark white background — made the game distinct, whilst the action let players feel like they were John Wick on his birthday.
One criticism that was regularly levelled at SUPERHOT was its length. At just over three hours long, the game was a bitesize chunk of perfectly polished adrenaline-in-a-shot-glass. The shot was so good though, that it left fans wanting for a pint.
Developer SUPERHOT Team were listening. With the release of SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete, the fact it is “more SUPERHOT” is both its best strength and worst flaw.
All of the classic elements remain intact. Pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and katanas are your primary weapon in white-washed offices and street blocks, as waves of red silhouettes attempt to take you down. Time still only moves when you move. The high octane, heart-thumping combat feels as good as ever, with every second being one hairbreadth move away from victory or disaster.
There is an addictive loop to the gameplay. Disarm the weapon from one crimson goon. Use it to shoot off the head of the one next to him before it can pull the trigger on its own shotgun. Toss the pistol into the waiting face of a third assailant to disarm them too — after all, it’s a couple seconds faster than reloading it.
SUPERHOT could be accused of being more puzzle game than shooter, each level a mind-twisting scenario of precision timing, accuracy, spatial awareness, and problem solving. Defeating its endless hordes is a mind-teaser — do you risk firing a shot at the enemy on the balcony, knowing that will fast-forward time enough for the closer one to fire off its own bullet? Or do you throw your empty weapon at that one first to disable it? If you do, how do you resolve the lack of weapon for the foe on the balcony? Okay, perhaps you can grab that stapler and throw that at them before they have a chance to react.
Mind Control Delete maintains this feeling but has a handful of new tricks up its sleeve. The most obvious addition is that players can now unlock abilities (known as hacks) which completely change the approach to combat. One such ability causes bullets to pierce through enemies, allowing you to set up combo shots by lining up foes before firing. Another turns any thrown object into an exploding grenade of bullet shrapnel. My personal favorite is killreload.hack, which gives you an instant weapon reload upon killing an enemy. It sounds simple, but the result of having no reload times between shots is a room-clearing whirlwind of precision murder.
Other noteworthy hacks are those that gain or refill lives. Unlike SUPERHOT, in Mind Control Delete you can take a number of hits before defeat, represented by the vintage heart icon at the top of the screen. You know the one. The result is slightly less failure through making a single mistake, crucial given the game’s new structure.
Health icons are persistent across a gauntlet of randomly selected levels, and completing a series of maps without dying unlocks the next node on this web. Yes, SUPERHOT has gone rogue-lite.
Hacks are persistent progress items chosen mid-run during a node, whilst Cores act as a single modifier chosen only at the start of the run. You select just one Core from a growing list, which include buffs such as an extra health heart to start with, or even the ability to switch bodies with enemies in the room.
The mission structure in Mind Control Delete is relatively forgiving when compared to other games in the rogue-lite genre. Defeat only pushes you back to the beginning of the current node, rather than forcing you back to the beginning of the game. You lose nothing when you die, other than your time. This gives the game a rough campaign structure, as progression through the nodes leads to more challenging maps.
Difficulty doesn’t increase through changes to the maps themselves though, which quickly become a tired routine of a handful of areas you’ll ultimately see a hundred times each. The Disco level is the most notable, as it adds a bass-heavy synth soundtrack to the otherwise silent affairs. The result is that this highlights the missed potential of what a soundtrack could add to the game. There is something cathartic about slicing up faceless foes whilst electronica thrums to your every movement.
Changes to enemy types are the key to how Mind Control Delete handles increasing challenge. The usual stoic assailants join new, more powerful counterparts. Some carry red weapons, which cannot be disarmed or used by the player. Others have white body parts which are immune to damage. Spiky enemies explode in a hail of bullets, and there are some unkillable boss characters that spawn at random and can be quite a fright on their first unexpected appearance.
The story has been stripped right back. SUPERHOT told an often-disturbing meta-narrative about video gaming, putting the player playing the game in the role of a player playing the game. Mind Control Delete continues this theme, asking the question: why does a player want “more” when they’ve already won?
This story and theme are minimal and infrequent, conveyed only in flickering text logs and a persistent return to a single unexceptional corridor. It feels like Mind Control Delete has nothing left to say that its prequels (including the headset-only SUPERHOT VR) haven’t already covered, leaving its focus squarely on the gameplay.
You won’t be thinking about the narrative structure when you’re killing an entire office of ruby shadows with a single credit card, though. You won’t be worrying about the lack of characterization when you’re looking around in desperation for a weapon and resorting to smashing a wall clock over someone’s head in a hot pinch.
At around 8-10 hours of game time, Mind Control Delete begins to feel repetitive, its unique ideas worn out in the first half. It’s likely better played in a prolonged series of small sessions than a marathoned campaign. This is definitely, for better or worse, more SUPERHOT. It’s proud of that point to a fault. The decision of SUPERHOT Team to offer Mind Control Delete completely free to all owners of SUPERHOT seems curious at first glance, but that offer just reinforces what this sequel is all about. It’s an extension on the original game for those who loved it, a standalone expansion rather than a full-blown sequel.
Don’t expect anything revolutionary then, but if you are simply looking for another shot of SUPERHOT, or have never played that seminal work at all, then Mind Control Delete comfortably fits that role, with a few unique ideas of its own along the way.
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I have had a passion for writing almost as long as my passion for video games. Which came first, the controller or the pen?
My earliest memories include stapling A4 papers together to make books to write on, and playing Super Mario on the NES with my brother. Now I play a huge variety of game genres, platforms and styles, from indie to AAA, from 2 hour experiences to 50 hour marathons, from RTS to FPS to RPG and every three letter acronym in-between.