Hrot Review – Glory to Slavjank!
Developed and published by Spytihnev
Available on PC
Ah, Comrade! Dobrý den! I see you are in mood for shooty-bang-bangs, yes? Then grab shotgun and come kill evil gas mask horse with me! Is good!
Hrot (pronounced ‘huh-rot’) is another entry into the popular boomer shooter revival wave first kicked off by Dusk and 2016’s Doom. Developed by solo dev Spytihněv, the game was originally announced back in 2020 and has spent the last several years in Early Access. It just released the last chapters of its final episode on the 15th, giving me a chance to formally review it and sing its praises. This I shall now do.
One thing to say right off the bat is that you don’t really need to have any special love for the FPSs of old – Doom, Quake, Unreal, etc – to have fun with something like Hrot. I certainly wasn’t, being a bit too young to jump on that particular bandwagon back in the day, and that didn’t stop me. That being said, you probably know the formula for this kind of game by now. We’re talking fast movement, tons of enemies, low poly count, light on the story, and heavy on the gore.
What sets Hrot apart from the competition is the atmosphere. The visuals help a lot here. As you may have noticed from the screenshots, Hrot is a very brown game. Like, very, very brown. Everything is drab, oppressive, and intentionally ugly, and really helps to sell this sense that you’re exploring some sort of purgatorial Soviet nightmare. The game is also a lot more low-key in the sound department than other boomer shooters. Instead of heavy metal soundtracks, most of the time you’ll be key-hunting accompanied only by an eerie silence or the monotonous churning of machinery. One thing in particular – and I know it’s weird to focus on this, but hey, I’m going to do it anyway – is the game’s skybox. There’s a moment when you reach the first outdoor area in the game and get to look up at the sky, and you’re confronted with this hellish, slowly turning vortex brooding evilly over you… it’s powerful stuff, man.
The game’s heavy atmosphere stands in stark contrast to its virtually non-existent plot. From the game’s Steam description and literally one or two scrawled notes you can gather that you’re in Czechoslavakia, there’s been an accident and… that’s it. But unlike something like Dark Sector, another immersive, story-starved shooter set in monster-infested USSR territory, the narrative dearth feels intentional. It’s as though the game and your nameless protagonist are, in true Soviet style, used to suffering and not getting any answers; whatever supernatural cataclysm has occurred, it’s just yet more crap for the crap pile. This sense of nihilism is helped by the underlying absurdist humor the game throws at you, from having you square off against a killer ape on a merry-go-round to letting you dance at an underground newt rave.
If there’s one real complaint I have with Hrot it’s the gunplay. While it’s perfectly serviceable on a mechanical level, I’m one of those FPS nuts who like to feel that all-important thwack with each gunshot; a real sense of oomph. Even with the most generous will in the world I can’t really say this game delivers on that. The SMG in particular sounds like I’m shooting a BB gun, and I had half-hoped the guns might have had a bit more polish during development. Then again, maybe the very lack of satisfying feedback adds to the game’s weirdness. You’re not supposed to be Tommy Testosterone Tits slaying the Forces of Evil, after all; you’re some faceless, half-drunk mook killing other faceless, half-zombified mooks in a Kafkaesque version of pest control.
The game has three episodes of about nine chapters each, and a small endless horde mode with four maps. It’s a decent package for what you’re paying, and according to Steam between the campaign and secret hunting I’ve managed to clock up 18 hours in total. Performance was butter smooth, although with graphics as retro as these Hrot isn’t exactly going to tax anyone’s GPU.
If you’re someone who thinks boomer shooters need more dollops of Soviet Weird, this is the game for you… you weirdo. You can pick it up on Steam or GOG.com. Just remember to bring beets for your babushka.