If there's one thing I've learned from HROT, it's that Czechoslovakia was a weird place in the late 80s. In my time with the first episode of this Early Access shooter, I came across floating, projectile-shooting heads of Lenin, teleporting, gas mask-clad soldiers, and a rocket-shooting gymnastics pommel horse out for blood. That's just some of the horrors you'll come across in this trip of a retro FPS.
HROT is a retro-style FPS akin to Dusk and Ion Maiden, so the aesthetics and gameplay resemble that of a 90s shooter. You'll go through nasty sewers, catacombs, and socialist facilities in an effort to save your country.
HROT's Dirty Aesthetic
This is by no means a complaint, but HROT looks like a dirty, janky game. This is intentional; the developer's Steam page for HROT says it is coded on "a custom engine written in Pascal imitating 1990s software-style rendering with unfiltered textures and polygon jitter." The result of this is quite a marvelous game, in fact. HROT looks like it's something taken straight out of the 90s, but the environments and models crafted by the developer are still wonderful to look at if you're a retro enthusiast.
The most jarring part about this decision, though, the color palette, which is mostly just shades of brown. The atmosphere is incredibly bleak and, well, dirty. There's a rusty feeling to everything and a run-down, disheveled look to the environments and even the weapons you use. You might see the occasional red from fires or explosions, but never anything overly bright or cheerful like blue.
Despite the limited amount of colors, HROT is never boring to look at, nor is it boring to play.
The visuals were particularly impressive in darker areas of HROT. Sometimes, you'll need to use a flashlight to navigate some of the underground and dimly lit sections of the first chapter. Shining my flashlight on the walls created a mesmerizing effect; there's just something about the lighting in HROT that looks cool. In short, I'm in love with the visuals, but I also realize it might be the biggest barrier to entry due to the abundance of brown.
Fighting Off Invaders in HROT
HROT's gameplay is immediately accessible to almost any FPS fan out there, and the gameplay loop comprises the genre standard "find keys to progress, all the while finding secrets and taking out enemies as fast as you can." There isn't a great deal to distinguish HROT from other shooters other than with its aesthetic, but I still had a fun time playing. Enemy variety is, so far, nothing spectacular but varied enough that there is some challenge and plenty of entertainment value. There are, for example, grenade-launching brutes and skinny, insane horses with gas masks, and what I assume to be a chimp in a gas mask that throws barrels.
I also fought a few bosses in this first chapter, but none of them provided a significant challenge; in fact, I was able to finish off each one on my first try thanks to a surplus of rocket ammo. Even without the rockets, the mechanics for these bosses—like a giant spider—are simple and don't require much finesse to dodge attacks or takedown.
As for the gunplay itself, it's just adequate. I look for guns that make beefy, loud sounds and create a visible impact on the enemies you shoot. The pistol sounds more like a peashooter and the hallmark of every FPS game, the shotgun, sounds weak compared to HROT's counterparts. All of the weapons are useful in their own ways, but I never felt the chunkiness of the guns.
Perhaps the developer deliberately dialed down the impact of weapons, but for me, turning enemies into chunks is way more fun.
The level design was more impressive than the gunplay. There were several times where I had to backtrack in levels in order to find the right key to progress. It's not just a straight shot to the finish line in HROT. The areas you'll be navigating also pretty varied, although there are a few more sewers than I would have liked to dive into. In HROT, you'll be in underground tunnels, sewers, and outside areas for a good chunk of the first chapter, but my favorite part were the interior areas of each level. To see the pristine floors and walls of an important government building contrasting with the dilapidated outside areas was a cool touch to these levels.
So far, the first chapter of HROT has signs of a solid retro FPS title. I wasn't too blown away by Dusk's first episode, for example, but that game got more insane after each chapter. I can see the same happening to HROT, where the first chapter just scratches the surface and the wackier, more outlandish levels come later. The first chapter is certainly worth your time if you find the aesthetic intriguing, but I do hope the gunplay gets some improvement.
TechRaptor previewed HROT on PC using a copy purchased by the player. It is available now on Early Access.