Way back in 2016, Superhot managed to cash in on a rather wonderful mechanic. Playing around with time in FPS titles is a concept as old as FPS themselves but the way in which it did that felt so fresh and rewarding. Now, 4 years later, that freshness has worn off and the genre needs a little something extra to stay relevant. Luckily, MIND CONTROL DELETE delivers just that.
Superhot employed an interesting and wonderfully simple mechanic in its time systems. Everything in the world only moves when you do: the weapons, bullets, enemies and even music. You make your way through levels by killing robotic red guys who are out to stop you. It has a wonderful synergy to it as you throw empty guns to disarm attackers and use their weapons against them. It becomes more complicated as you introduce bigger levels and more weapons like a samurai sword capable of hitting bullets back at the original source. This, added to the meta and self-aware narrative, managed to carry you through the original game but MIND CONTROL DELETE does more to flip this on its head.
The story is esoteric by design, hidden through its use of conspiracies, hacks and non-linear storytelling. Superhot could have no real story to it and it would be hard to decipher otherwise. Death of the author and all that. To me, it represented a meta-commentary on the nature of sequels and consumerism but this could be entirely wrong. It talks to you, as the player, very often and is very fond of mentioning the fact you are repeating actions made in the best and indulging in what amounts to mindless violence. The characters inability to stop replicates your own as you make your way through levels, sometimes repeating entire sections again. In a less interesting system, this might be boring but Superhot’s great gameplay loop could have you repeat the same levels over and over again with just as much enjoyment.
This commentary finds its way into the new gameplay systems well. It starts off in this style before flipping the original game’s ideas in interesting ways. As you play, it starts to implement ideas of choice or at least the illusion of it. MIND CONTROL DELETE does not have set levels and challenges in the traditional sense. It instead takes inspiration from rogue-likes in ways. Levels appear to be randomly generated and after every few levels, you can pick an upgrade that stays until you finish the current run of levels, usually 5-10. These systems also implement a health upgrade. You start off with 2 or 3 hearts that deplete with each hit you take. You must finish all levels in a set with those hearts in order to continue. The upgrades can do things like give an extra heart, more ammo, or more experimental ideas such as exploding items or a hail of shurikens every time you take damage.
This gives a great sense of replayability as each run feels somewhat distinct. Not all upgrades are balanced but you have a limited choice between two every time you upgrade which makes runs far more interesting. Your downfall could be down to poor luck or you could have a great run and just stumble at the end. There are good and bad qualities to this change of design. The original Superhot feels like a much more curated experience but MIND CONTROL DELETE has much better value as it has greater replayability. Ultimately, what you think to this design change can be decided from just witnessing it.
Where it also learns from rogue-like design is the way each level starts. As well as upgrades that can be earned to add to your general pool of choices, there are buffs chosen before levels called cores. Generally, the easiest adds an extra heart to your health pool but it can also affect things such as the characters general speed. In this sense, it can influence the way you deal with the challenges in front of you. Superhot definitely can be a challenge at points. In an effort to deal with the upgrades you could get given regularly, new enemies types show their head as levels progress. There are bad guys that can only take damage in certain body parts and others that explode in shrapnel as they’re killed. This teaches you to be a lot more thoughtful than the previous title. You are no longer rewarded through rushing levels, You must use cover tactically and plan out your steps.
It’s fair to say this is true of the whole experience. Whilst MIND CONTROL DELETE is not quite as brilliantly unique as its predecessor due to the nature of sequels, it is a very thoughtful addition to the series. Its narrative is intriguing and its balancing systems work well. Whilst the repetition of levels can occasionally become grating, the end result is polished, interesting and a great value.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.