If you’re into old-school retro FPSes, there’s one game you will definitely need to keep an eye on. HROT is not just a solid throwback shooter, it nails perfectly the Quake vibe of FPS in look, sound, and feel.
Set in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet era, you make your way through a drab, brown, and murky locale with a church, underground tunnels, a crypt, and waterways. Make a few tweaks and it’s a castle from Quake. The visual similarity to Quake’s is simply stunning.
Beyond graphics, HROT recalls the 1996 classic and its kind with doors that “open elsewhere”, different-colored locks with respective keys, a large enemy styled like Quake’s ogres, a main menu with the same design, a code console that comes down with a press of the tilde key, and some very Quake-ish water. HROT hits all the right notes.
Given the game’s real-world setting, you’ll fight soldiers, all wearing gas masks, but there’s plenty of bizarre monsters. There are large, gas-mask wearing horses, floating cyborg-heads that look like Vladimir Lenin, and mutant spiders. (Augh, I hate those spiders!) There are also dogs – though I’m not sure if they’re rottweilers, the enemy hounds of Quake.
The weapons, so far, are less bizarre, and fairly standard. There’s a pistol, a shotgun, a machinegun, a grenade launcher, and handheld grenades. There’s also a sickle, which you may interpret as a reference to 2018’s Quake-style shooter Dusk, a reference to the Soviet Union, or as just another melee weapon. The game isn’t totally Quake 1 as lobbing grenades is decidedly Quake II. The machinegun and pistol are Half-Life-esque. Speaking of, there’s also some cogwheels you have to crank for a little more of that Half-Life vibe.
If you’re clever enough you’ll find secret areas. At the end of the demo level, HROT displays a results screen just like Quake’s that will show you how many secrets you got, as well as the kills and time. Once you beat the demo there is also a friendly message from the developer that scrolls by, another old-school shooter touch.
There was just one map in the demo that took me around 30 minutes to complete. Though you may not have access to the demo now, depending on how thorough you are and what difficulty you play on it could have been up to around 50 minutes. I chose Normal and had a bit of a difficult time – health packs were scarce. Most of them were “semi-skimmed milk” packs. They don’t restore much health, so when you find a proper medkit it’s quite a relief. This gives HROT a sense of resource-scarcity even on Normal mode, rare for an old-school shooter.
Though the HROT demo was very compelling from start to finish, there were a couple of blemishes. One, on two separate occasions there was a segment where several enemies continued to spawn into an area such that it felt cheap. Two, the dog and horse enemies have a leap attack that is tricky to avoid, so much that it seems unfair. These nitpicks weren’t enough to ruin the experience, though – not at all. Most of the demo was grade-A retro, Quake-style FPS.
After you’ve completed the map you unlock Endless Mode, a wave-based game set in the exterior areas of the demo map. It's mostly throwaway. If you want to get a feel for the game beyond the standard demo map it can provide you that, but otherwise, it isn’t very compelling.
HROT Preview | Final Thoughts
HROT is one of those games that you know is going to be great as soon as you start it. If you have any interest in old-school FPS games – either as a veteran from the Quake days or a newfound fan from the Dusk days – you have to check out HROT. It perfectly captures what it means to be a retro FPS game and I’m looking forward to more. When complete, this could be the best throwback shooter yet.
TechRaptor previewed HROT on PC as part of the Steam Game Festival.