HR review

need to know

what is it? A retro Quake/Dusk inspired shooter set in communist Czechoslovakia in the 80’s.
release date May 16, 2023
expect to pay $20/£15
developer Spedinev
publisher Spedinev
Reviewed on Core i5 12600K, RTX 3070, 32 GB RAM
steam deck Unverified
associate steam

The stars of Sovietcore boomer shooter Hrot are indie developer Spytihněv’s levels, all of which are inspired by or directly correspond to real-life locations in and around Prague. The apartment buildings, subway stations, churches, and castles of this twisted version of the city all feel like cheeky remakes of real-world locations, a MyHouse.wad blown up to gigantic proportions.

Levels twist and fold into each other in surprising ways, and Spytihněv loves to play tricks. It almost feels like he’s a dungeon master actively talking to you — or laughing at your mistakes — rather than a level designer creating these areas and then stepping back.

There’s almost always some sort of trick to activating switches or picking up keys, walls will collapse to reveal enemies, trapdoors will trap you, and the game will even teleport you directly to a completely different part of the map – Hrot is definitely a plug Full of little jokes like this one that always make me laugh out loud, and I’m always grateful even when I’m being played.

I had to leave the computer during late night meetings and come back the next day. “

One memorable sequence is the game’s riff on the classic Indiana Jones boulder trap. Early in Episode 2, you’ll encounter a standard, if surprising, one before the end of the level. After one quest, behold, there’s another, only this time the boulder doesn’t roll in a straight line: it chases you, a surprisingly yakety sax slapstick sequence in the middle of an ominously deep underground uranium mine.

One of my favorite levels is Granny’s Valley, which takes you to a farm in the countryside with a disconcerting statue of an elderly peasant woman in the middle (corresponding to the real-life monument inspired by the Czech novel), farm crafting is an interesting Find the level puzzle box and search for its key until its secrets are finally revealed to you.

The thing is, the granny statue will stalk you through her farm and even ambush you in certain spots, which are some of my favorite moments in Hrot.Granny herself doesn’t look that scary, but sheer surprise The first time I found her where she didn’t belong, I was so freaked out that I had to leave the computer during a late night meeting and come back the next day.

Hrot’s instant fire is a blast, and a variety of tough enemies demand improvisation and mastery of its arsenal, which I did find to be rather limited. It’s all FPS staples: pistols (more fun when dual-wielded), single- and double-barreled shotguns, SMGs, sniper-style crossbows, and “hussite hand cannons” (read: rocket launchers). They look, feel and sound great and are well balanced with each other.

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(Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv)

I always appreciate when super shots don’t beat normal shots, and the Hrot’s ammo economy means you’ll want to save shells when both barrels are overkill. However, the only thing about Hrot’s arsenal that tries to be different is a bit of a letdown. I was hoping for better use of two wacky Soviet space superweapons–I found them underpowered and ammo extremely rare. Spytihněv left a lot unanswered when it came to retro-futuristic beam weapons, especially given how funny Hrot was at the end.

become stupid

Episode 1: Kiss Me Gustav is at its most grim and depressing, focusing on sparse, modern, Soviet-era scenes. The middle chapter, The Degustation, remains my favorite, moving to the countryside while incorporating more pagan, earthy settings, like a gothic castle or a haunted farm. There’s a tertiary stretch at the end, KaÅ¡perk Castle, Dobrosov Fortress, and The Granny’s Valley, which to me is just a historical run of FPS maps. It sees you go from a 14th-century castle, where you climb the battlements and descend into flooded cellars, to a cramped Soviet bunker, to the unsettling rural key hunt I described earlier. This sequence is Hrot at his best, really emphasizing the variety Spytihněv is able to squeeze out of this grim brown world.

Episode 3, Gastroscopy, really worked on Hrot’s sense of ridiculous, surreal weirdness – and it got stupid– For the most part, it landed for me. The opening level, War with the Newts, is a new favourite, a nod to the 1930s Czech satirical novel of the same name and, oddly enough, an excellent epilogue to Wolfenstein. Other highlights include the bumper car boss and the adorable rat-dog sidekick, which instantly climbed to the top of my list of favorite video game dogs.

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(Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv) (Image credit: Spytihněv)

This silliness worked for me until Hrot’s final boss. Spoilers ahead, but ah, epic shirtless Vladimir Putin? To me, this illogical thing lands like wet farts, and it’s not as good as Hrot’s shit humor (it’s a game where you take out the trash and flush it down). The bosses of the first two episodes are eccentric zombified/robotized versions of the historical leader of communist Czechoslovakia, Klement Gottwald from episode 1, and Gustáv Husák from The Degustation. These feel like sharp, winking riffs on the absurdity of Wolfenstein 3D’s Mecha Hitler, the perfect culmination of their respective acts, while the low-poly Putin feels like an incongruous meme, more so than 20th-century socialism Politicians are more likely to date Hrot immediately.

It’s not a perfect comparison, but I keep coming back to the other cosmic special forces: the line where you fight George Bush at the end.Epic Putin just wears and deflates Hrot for me, like the end of Lost or something: “All the accumulation and mystery is for this?

Zombie Vladimir Lenin boss somehow is over there Worth mentioning – there’s plenty of period-appropriate Lenin imagery in all three episodes that could have been an effective foreshadowing, and the Lenin mecha would feel more like a made money, Ridiculous, real life politicians end up bosses. I’d also pick a zombie Brezhnev, but a resurrected Stalin would be clumsy. Complaints aside, I love Hrot and it kept me hooked until that annoying final battle. Hrot is a truly excellent FPS, one of the best games of the boomer shooter renaissance.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.