There was a time during the early years of the first person shooter genre when there weren’t linear levels, regenerating health, reloading, taking cover, recoil, and walking. This was back in the 90’s when Doom and Wolfenstein were the games to play. There was also a lesser known first person shooter that seemed to have had its own following as well: Rise of the Triad. Enough so that it’s finally gotten a long awaited and overdue reboot. Do you miss the days of 90’s gaming with crazy power weapons, running at Mach 3, terrible one liners, and finding colored keys to progress in levels? If so, Rise of the Triad may just be for you.
Rise of the Triad is a faithful reboot of the classic mid 90’s shareware shooter of the same name. I emphasise faithful because even this modern redux of the game still feels like it came directly from 1995 with all of its old school game design. Developed by Interceptor Entertainment and published by Apogee Software (yes, that Apogee Software) it was interesting to learn through the loading screens that the original Rise of the Triad was actually supposed to be a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, which would explain its German overtones and feel.
So what’s the big deal that this lesser known game is making a comeback? A few reasons actually. For its time as an FPS it had dual wielding, which was basically unheard of back then. It was also full of blood and gore, again, not commonplace back in the mid 90’s. Finally, it was one of the first online games that allowed for ten players to compete against one another. Sure, games these days include all of this and more, but those that want to take a trip down memory lane back to the days of frantic twitch shooters will probably enjoy this offering. Updated with the newest Unreal Engine, Rise of the Triad is just as ludacris as it used to be, but given it is a twenty year old game the older design mechanics highlight how outdated the game really is in comparison.
Rise of the Triad starts off with a well done comic book style introduction to the five members of the High-Risk United Nations Task Force (H.U.N.T.) who are dropped off on a small island that’s been taken over by a mysterious terrorist group only known as the Triad. Don’t expect anything else from the plotline, as you’re tasked with investigating and blasting anyone and anything that gets in your way. The “story” takes place over the course of twenty individual levels but you won’t care about the story, as you’ll most likely be distracted by how truly bad the voice acting is, not only in the opening video, but the one-liners throughout the game as well.
As you begin the campaign you get to choose between the five different H.U.N.T. members, each of which have different stats in speed and endurance, though you’ll most likely just choose the one you like the look of the best. After playing each of them I didn’t notice too big of a difference that warrants a drastic change in gameplay. Your objective is simple, to kill everyone you see while searching for the bronze, silver and gold keys so that you can progress in the levels through the appropriate doors. As you progress deeper into the Triad Island you will start to not only rely on your shooting ability, but also your platforming and puzzle solving skills.
When you first start your adventure you’ll face basic soldiers that stand in place and shoot you, but as you progress new enemies will have different abilities, such as being able to steal your equipped weapon if you let them get too close or trap you in a net that forces you to use your knife to escape. Certain soldiers will beg for their life if you inflict enough damage and some will even pretend to be dead and then get back up to shoot you if you don’t finish them off the first time. At the end of each chapter you will face a boss who can be quite difficult, and interestingly enough it turns out that all of the enemies are actually just digitized versions of the Apogee employees and their friends and family.
Rise of the Triad is all about shooting, so of course you’re going to need some weapons to arm yourself with. You begin with a simple pistol, eventually gaining a second weapon to hold akimbo, and then you’ll get a MP40 sub-machinegun. Let it be noted that these are the only bullet-based weapons in the game and both give you unlimited ammunition in your fight against the Triads. The real magic comes when you start to find the missile weapons that vary in types of rocket launchers, each with their own strength. While you’ll always have your guns on hand as rocket weapons can only be held one at a time and they have very limited ammo, so the majority of the time you’ll be using your guns as you run out of rocket ammo very quickly. And yes, the classic Excalibat makes its return as well.
Rise of the Triad starts off as a frantic run and gun shooter where speed trumps accuracy since you can seemingly run at a crazy pace non-stop, but about halfway through the game more platforming and puzzle sections become prominent. Having to platform across floating ledges in first person, where falling equates to instant death, is simply not that fun when you keep missing your mark. Later on you’ll have to do these sections with even more obstacles such as fireballs and spinning blades that block your way, and some of the puzzles are very confusing and offer no assistance. Jump pads are littered throughout the stages and will have to be utilized not only to keep moving quickly and avoid enemy gunfire, but to traverse to higher and secret areas where you’ll find the keys needed to progress. The biggest issue with these sections is that when you die you’re sent back to the last checkpoint, yes, checkpoint, which is a whole other issue in itself which I’ll delve into shortly.
While Doom and Wolfenstein were more known for their single player play, the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament really brought on the age of twitch based shooters, which is where Rise of the Triad firmly belongs in comparison. Multiplayer is frantic and fast paced where those with the best reflexes and skills will survive, and quite frankly, destroy the rest of the competition. You start with your lowly pistol and hopefully you find one of the missile weapons to actually stand a chance against the competition. The game comes with five multiplayer maps but with more on the way as free DLC and you compete in the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, with more modes on the way as well.
On the backend, there’s only one version of the game, so regardless of where you and your friends purchase Rise of the Triad digitally, you can all play together without any issues. LAN support is included, as is Direct IP connections, dedicated server tools (where you don’t even need to run the game), and even the old school spectator mode. There’s even no Internet connection required to play on dedicated, LAN, or IP based games which is a nice touch you don’t see often these days. Create an online multiplayer account though (for purchasing the game legit) and you’ll be granted with stat tracking, leaderboards, chat rooms, and a server browser. It’s been quite a few years since my Quake and Unreal Tournament twitch playing days and it clearly showed in my first few matches online when I got absolutely demolished and unable to really kill anyone on a regular basis, but it was fun, if you’re into that style of gameplay.
One of the biggest features included (well, coming soon anyways) is that the game is going to be 100% fully modded. When the toolkit is released you’ll be able to create your own levels and more. It is even going to be Steamworks compatible. A good 90’s-esque shooter just wouldn’t be right if it didn’t include cheats that you could use if you want (though it disables scoring and achievements) and are all included here.
There are a few negative issues that I had with Rise of the Triad though throughout my playtime. Enemy AI is non-existent and most of the time they will simply stand in place trying to shoot you, though it’s incredibly difficult to tell where you’re getting shot from as enemies in the distance are very small and blend in with the background quite well. At times you’ll just have to simply stand still and get shot looking for who is firing at you. There’s also zero help figuring out where to go, which I completely understand, as it’s a throwback to how games used to be in the 90’s, but it’s not the 90’s any more. Levels are linear but there are many places you can explore off the main path and you can get lost and turned around quite easily. Couple in the platforming and puzzle segments and there will be times where you have no clue of where you’re supposed to go or how to get there when you can see your destination.
The biggest issue I had though is that the game utilized a checkpoint based save system rather than a quick save mechanic to return you to where you left off. Like I mentioned above, these checkpoints are sporadic and when you die sometimes you’ll have to redo a very large section over again (I can’t count the times I had to redo level 2-1’s climbing section from dying near the top). Granted, this only affects the single player experience, but it makes the journey that much more frustrating when you have to redo sections over and over again because of the poor save mechanic.
Rise of the Triad is scalable all the way from low end PCs all the way up to Ludacris settings that will make even the highest end rigs work extra hard. I have a high end gaming rig and was playing on everything maxed with no issues, but when massive amounts of explosions start going off the visuals bogged down my system at certain points. While the environments look sharp and textures are high-res, the enemy models, their animation, and their textures are much lower quality in comparison. There’s a lot of blood (if enabled) but it looks incredibly cheesy with its fire hose-like spray when you perform a headshot. Limbs and severed bits will also fly, sometimes with eyeballs actually hitting your screen and sliding down for comedic effect. It’s a little overdone, especially in the later levels when everything seems to be coated in red, even your weapon, and when you blow up a large swarm of enemies and earn those Ludacris gibs look out. As to be expected with a remake, the original music has been updated to the standard rock and metal versions of the soundtrack, but you are given the option to play with the original 1995 sounds and music should you desire which is a nice throwback touch for fans.
For all the flaws that the game has, there are a lot of things Rise of the Triad does right as it attempts to recreate a 90’s gaming experience. There’s controller support should you desire and there are many options for you to toggle if you have the high-end rig to run it. Rise of the Triad isn’t trying to be a modern shooter by any stretch of the imagination; quite the opposite actually. It’s trying to bring back what gaming was like back in the mid 90’s for better or for worse. You’ve got crazy running speed, colored keys and doors, rocket jumping, Ludacris gibs, and of course, twitchy multiplayer. For those of you that never got to experience gaming back then and are curious, it’s worth checking out. At the end of the day Rise of the Triad can stand on its own legs if you take it for what it is, which is a throwback to an era of shooters long gone.