HROT was in development for some time before hitting early access a couple of years ago, and now as of May 16th, fully released. Built on the developers own propriety engine for an authentic looking 90’s shooter experience through an 80’s Czechoslovakia, does HROT do enough to stand out in the crowded retro shooter genre? Lets take a look.
HROT takes place in Czechoslovakia following an unspecified disaster of 1986. The protagonist gears up with a trusty vz. 52 pistol and leaves the civil defence shelter under Kosmonautů station to fight strange intruders that have attacked the country, finding the cause of the disaster may be the only way to save Czechoslovakia from the jeopardy it faces.
There isn’t really an on-the-nose narrative to follow in the journey through Czechoslovakia, but there is more to the story that you’ll learn as you get further into the game. This comes in the form of 3 episodes of about 25 levels or so for you to blast through that’ll take several hours. Actually you may wanna take a breather every now and again to explore, you’ll find plenty of soviet easter eggs and interactive aspects to goof around with.
Most of the ‘boomer shooter’ I’ve played tend to follow the Doom/Duke Nukem model, but HROT veers off in another direction and looks inspired by Quake with its fully 3D environments & models. Even with its retro visuals the game manages to pack in a lot of bleak atmosphere, most areas are even based on real locations, so there’s plenty of eerie and foreboding places to blast through as long as you don’t mind brown. Audio backs up the bleakness too as there’s no pounding soundtrack to back up the action for the most part, just low key music with enemy noises and weapons fire.
As expected performance is a nothing-burger. It was quite easy to hit 4K/120 on my system (R7 5800X/32GB/RTX 3090) with only 5-10% GPU usage showing in performance metrics. Absolutely nothing to worry about and should run on a toaster. The game does also have a GL_HROT mode that offers hardware acceleration, adds some texture filtering etc, which can change the look of the game a tad but is preferable unless you prefer the raw software rendering.
Even if the game does have some atmospheric leanings, just like the ol’ Quake, that doesn’t mean gunplay is gonna suffer. The skirmishes here are fast & slick and you’ll be chewing through ammo, and environmental hazards such as barrels etc, like there’s no tomorrow. Luckily these skirmishes don’t yield keys to the next area like most boomer shooters, you usually find them exploring, so you can always bypass a fight if health & ammo is low too. You’ll probably wanna fight often though as the weapons are great, from dual pistols to SMG’s that kick like a mule, there’s plenty that spray bullets alongside more experimental guns later. Enemy variety is also fantastic to keep the gunplay interesting. The early foot soldiers quickly change out for a diverse mob that can get frantic if not tackled properly.
This feeds into the brilliant pacing of the game to me. Levels grow in size and complexity as you go along, if ever stuck there’s usually a vent or passageway to find that you can usually get clues for with the available map. Enemies also gradually get more powerful, and some stages can end with a boss battle (some are really quirky), which will leave you thankful for the dropped ammo of fallen foes. Your arsenal is another grows. You can have a few solid guns by the end of the first couple of stages if secrets are found as they generally get you a gun a stage or two earlier, but otherwise they feel well placed for the battles to come.
While there are plenty of shooters these days looking to pull on those nostalgia strings, HROT stands out from the crowd. It’s Quake leanings give it an edge in gunplay and overall style compared to most, and the bleak atmosphere coupled with the 80’s Czechoslovakia setting offer something unique. While lasting around half a dozen hours, it is only priced at £15.49, HROT still comes highly recommended as possibly the best boomer shooter I’ve recently played.
An enjoyably bleak journey through a retro Czechoslovakia.