Rise of the Triad PC Review
Apogee Software may have helped to release one of the most faithful remakes in the history of video games. If you’ve not head of Rise of the Triad, then it’s probably because you didn’t play PC games back in the early 90s. It has been nearly 20 years since the original release of Rise of the Triad, a first-person shooter that was developed in a heavily modified Wolfenstein 3D engine and brought innovative concepts to the genre, such as rocket jumping and the ability to look up and down. Even the famous Capture the Flag multiplayer mode was first conceived in Rise of the Triad. The game was an important entry into the history of first-person shooters. This remake, however, doesn’t bring the innovation as the classic game once did, but it does feel refreshing to play in 2013 thanks to its 90’s gameplay.
Trying to find a story within a early-mid 90s first-person shooter is a mean task. Most games from that time give the player a simple paragraph or two to set up a background, and then send you off on your merry way. Rise of the Triad is one such game that fits perfectly into this description, and trying to break its plot down is a ridiculous and pointless waste of time. The only thing the player needs to know is that they are thrown into the shoes of one of five selectable H.U.N.T (High-risk United Nations Task-force) operatives and are sent to San Nicolas Island to investigate a deadly cult’s activity. The story makes absolutely no sense, but the developers have used this opportunity to offer amusing jokes by using the mission briefings as a way to laugh in the player’s face for needing such objectives.
One feature that is instantly noticeable with Rise of the Triad is just how fast it moves. This game completely stays with its roots and obliterates any other shooter with its speed. This is a game that relies purely on reactions and movement to succeed. I’m not joking. I can’t remember the last game I played where I died on the first level on normal difficulty, yet I died three times on Rise of the Triad’s initial stage. This game requires you to be always on high alert – strafing, jumping and shooting just to stay alive. It’s a testament to the difficulty of the game, which sometimes can feel a little unforgiving when you die and have to do a section all over again. I’ve certainly been spoilt by checkpoint systems. This is something players will adjust to, but if you haven’t experienced old first-person shooters before, then you might be in for a rude awakening here.
If you browse gaming forums in your spare time, then you’ve probably seen this image that depicts the level design of modern first-person shooters. While it’s a silly little joke that doesn’t affect the quality of a game itself, it’s not too far from the truth, and Rise of the Triad is one such game that demonstrates the level design of first-person shooters of old. Each level, often themed around a fort, castle or underground base, is packed with weapons, ammo, enemies, hidden areas, coins (along with the secret areas, this adds to the 100% completion for a level), and of course, those famous coloured keys to open locked doors. There’s freedom to explore in the confines of the map, as there are doors a plenty that require players to look around and find clues or objects to help them figure out where to go next. There were a couple of times where I felt genuinely stuck, helplessly running around like a headless chicken looking for a clue, and then out of the corner of my eye I noticed a switch or pathway I had missed and I was back on my way. It’s been a while since I’ve hammered the E button to find a switch hidden within a logo.
Just like with the story making no sense, the situations you come across in Rise of the Triad’s level design is something even more ludicrous. The game’s 20 levels include devilish traps, spiked walls, rotating blades and crazy jump pads. This game brings back puzzle elements that you rarely see in first-person shooters. One room required me to bounce around jump pads above a pit of lava. One wrong move and I fell to my toasty death, which I might add, happened a few times. The checkpoint system can be a bit of mixed bag, sometimes saving at points where the developers knew people would have difficulty overcoming a challenge on the first try, but other times, you lose like five minutes of progression. Although, since you’ve just done that section, you can often get back to where you died quick enough. Rise of the Triad doesn’t take crap from anyone, and you shouldn’t be disheartened if you find yourself getting burnt by fireballs, crushed by Temple of Doom inspired traps or getting gibbed by a rocket.
With so many enemies packed into rooms, it’s good to know that Rise of the Triad doesn’t skimp on ammo, weaponry and power-ups. The game includes pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, homing rockets, napalm bombs (just look at the wave of fire that comes of that explosion), mini-gun rocket launchers (this is one awesome gun), and even a baseball bat with a green glowing eye (I don’t even know why it’s there). The big guns, such as the rocket launchers, come with limited ammo, but the pistols come with infinite bullets, and the MP40 is always dropped that you’ll often have unlimited ammo for that as well. Most guns have an alt-fire mode, be it to look down the sight or to change how a weapon fires, such as the mini-gun rocket launcher launching grenades instead of rockets. Many games can’t say they offer a rocket launcher in the first stage, let alone god mode, a power-up that allows you to use your hands to send blasts of energy that gibs enemies. Straight from the start of the game, you are never short of ridiculous fire power.
One thing that I find amusing is that there is a reload button set to R, yet no gun ever requires you to reload it – they all have bottomless clips. I did research to see if reloading did anything, and to my surprise, the reload button is included just for show, as the developers saw it as something that “looked cool.” Oh! I also forgot to mention the additional power-ups of the mushroom and dog mode. Dog mode is what it is; you turn into a dog and chow on some enemies. The mushroom on the other hand is more of a handicap; because the screen bends and twists to represent the usage of drugs, but the funny side effect is that the player becomes spongy, bouncing off any wall until the power-up runs out. You can’t help but laugh as your character is sliding around a room uncontrollably. This is just another light-hearted inclusion from the people at Interceptor Entertainment.
Even though Rise of the Triad brings back old school gameplay, it’s not without its share of problems. I managed to get lodged between scenery three times during the course of the single player campaign. The only way out of this is restarting to the last checkpoint, Along with that, the game seems unoptimized, with frame rate dropping often, even when not much is happening on screen. The game was developed on Unreal Engine 3, which the system I play on has never had problems running with in the past – games have always hit a solid 60fps on max settings with the AMD Radeon 6990 – but there is certainly something going on here, because even when I knock down the various graphical settings, which there is a tonne of, it still happens.
Rise of the Triad wouldn’t be a good remake if it didn’t embrace the hectic multiplayer. Included in the game is Deathmatch (DM), Team Deathmatch (TDM) and Capture the Flag (CTF), this is stretched over five maps – two for CTF and three for DM and TDM – with more modes and maps promised as free DLC. Rise of the Triad is a pure arena shooter. The levels are small and when 16 people are populating them, you often find yourself running into someone within the space of a few seconds. There is never any downtime – spawn, run, shoot and then die is what usually happened to me, but I’m fine with that, because the constant action and the will to stay alive is a good thing to feel when playing a shooter.
Just like the single player, the multiplayer requires you to have amazing reactions to survive. You can’t keep still for even a second, because doom is littered everywhere. Knowing your surroundings and understanding the weapons helps to gain an advantage, since power-ups and weaponry are scattered around, but if you can’t react fast enough to strafe a rocket or shoot a player before you, then it’s over. I haven’t experienced a multiplayer as frantic as this since Unreal Tournament 2004, and I hope the developers keep their promise to support the game and promote its multiplayer aspect so that the servers stay filled.
I can’t fault what Interceptor Entertainment have created with Rise of the Triad. They’ve accomplished what they set out to do – bring a faithful remake of a very old first-person shooter that hasn’t sacrificed it’s soul for modern gaming. Any gamer who loved the classic shooters of the 90’s will have a blast with it. The biggest achievement from the game, which technically is down to other developers, is just how refreshing it felt to play a first-person shooter that isn’t filled with a barrage of scripted scenes and corridor linearity. If that perks some of your attention, then you’ll find something very old-school, challenging, but most of all, enjoyable, underneath its light-hearted humour and minor technical problems.