On paper, SUPERHOT VR is probably the coolest game ever made; in practice, the first-person shooter is merely a very good PlayStation VR release. The homicidal hit assigns you the detached digits of an assassin in a whitewash computer simulation where time only moves when you do. Your objective? To annihilate a band of polygonal villains hell-bent on ending your breathing by any means necessary.

It feels a little bit like being trapped inside the Freak on a Leash music video – or The Matrix, if you’re after a better pop culture reference. Bullets whisk by, and you need to bend your body like a contortionist in order to weave your way around them. It’s extremely physical and can only played with PlayStation Move controllers, so don’t be surprised if you get a sweat on.

But it’s perfect for virtual reality. Stereoscopic 3D means that bullets appear frightening as they hurtle towards your previously unblemished bonce, but ducking beneath them and watching them whiz past your face feels fantastic. Of course, turning the tables is even more satisfying: disarming enemies and using their firearms against them is some of the most fun you’ll find on the PlayStation 4.

There are an array of scenarios in the game, ranging from restaurants to rec rooms. And each comprises several  combat encounters that you’ll need to improvise escape routes in. Your tactics may involve tossing a bottle at an oncoming attacker, catching his gun as he falls to the floor, firing off a few shots at an antagonist peering over a staircase, and then lobbing your empty gun at the final foe.

But the awesome thing is that you can take any approach you like: imagination is your most powerful weapon here. The artificial intelligence will alter its approach depending on how things have played out, nabbing a stray shotgun here or shuriken there. It means that, while there are some general tactics you’ll need to employ, you really do have to think on your feet in each sequence.

Unfortunately, you’ll be playing some more than others. In order to progress through the title’s 19 or so environments, you’ll need to cleanly get through each stage’s half-dozen or so scenarios, and if there’s one bit (usually towards the end) that you’re stuck on, you’ll be taken straight back to the beginning to do everything again. The repetition does pad the two to three hour running time, but grates.

There are also some irritating mechanics, namely the Mindwave which we had a ‘mare trying to initiate. Put this down to user error if you like, but the powerful ranged magic attack is unintuitive at best and borderline broken at worst. In fact, we opted only to use it on the few occasions the game demanded we had to – a shame because if it was less finicky it would be a decent tool.

And perhaps that’s the biggest disappointment with SUPERHOT VR: it’s agonisingly close to being an unmitigated masterpiece, but it just falls short. For example, the developer can’t be held accountable for PlayStation VR’s technical shortcomings, but the title demands such precision and speed that any inconsistencies with the motion tracking are infuriating – and they sadly do occur.

But you shouldn’t let that deter you. This game is laced with amazing moments – it even pushes the boundaries of virtual reality “comfort” by tasking you with quitting menus by essentially committing suicide – and when it works it feels like you’re the star of some kind of brutal avant-garde ballet. It’s pricey for the amount of content you get, but you do unlock speedruns and other modes upon completion.

Conclusion

SUPERHOT VR is one of the most inventive first-person shooters you’ll find on any gaming system – let alone PlayStation VR. The title leverages the fledgling peripheral to intensely satisfying effect, but a reliance on repetition to pad its short running time and some unintuitive systems prevent it from being a bonafide classic. By pushing Sony’s virtual reality headset to its very limits it does hit a few technical snags, but when the (throwing) stars align this is the very definition of a killer app. Quite literally.