Rise of the Triad was one of the most beloved FPS games released during the 1990s. It was the first to offer eleven-player deathmatches (a number absolutely unheard of at that time), and introduced the market to the ability to play Capture The Flag with rocket launchers. However, the game all but dropped off the map in the same decade, and the majority of gamers today probably wouldn’t be able to even honestly say they’ve heard of the title.
Now we’ve received a modern remake of the aforementioned gem, though trying to recreate one of the most important PC first-person shooters of all time is no small task, and it’s not even something that most studios would bother trying. And while this is far from a perfect game and it certainly is rough around the edges, I thank Interceptor for taking on the task.
Right off the bat, something we need to accept is that Rise of the Triad is completely insane. Almost nothing here is going to make any logical sense, but that’s a huge part of the game’s charm. Between the incredibly overpowered and over-the-top weaponry, soldiers that bare a not so subtle similarity to WWII Nazis, and the mandatory inclusion of robots, Rise of the Triad plays out like a seedy TV special. There’s nothing here that makes even the slightest sense, but that’s part of what makes it amazing.
You’ll be playing as one of five members from the H.U.N.T. teams, as you infiltrate and try to destroy the Triad’s headquarters. Each team member has slightly different stats when it comes to their health and speed, offering a few unique vocal tracks as well. There’s no “best” character since it all comes down to your personal preference. I personally tend to take my time in a level and try to explore every nook and cranny, so I was willing to trade in some speed for the ability to take bit more punishment before going down.
The great thing here is that Rise of the Triad really caters to whatever style of gamer you are. There’s an impressive amount of freedom in each of the 20 linear stages you’ll have to cross, complete with shortcuts, secret areas, and hidden exits. The game stays true to the minimalistic player direction attitude that was found in the majority of early-to-mid 90s FPS games, but that does lead to a bit of confusion here and there. Maybe it’s simply that I’ve been spoiled by modern games, but I did find myself stuck on a few occasions on where to go next. Granted, once I did realize where I was supposed to be headed, it was fairly obvious in hindsight, though it was frustrating at the time.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Rise of the Triad without some absolutely insane weaponry, and fans of the series will be happy to hear that many of the classics have made a triumphant return. While you’ll be starting off with your standard pistol and SMG, you’re introduced into the heavy rocket weaponry pretty quickly.
It wasn’t long before I encountered the Gatling Cannon, which is exactly what you’d think it would be. Spinning up the barrel and unloading rapid fire rockets into crowds of baddies never once got old. However, I’m not sure there’s anything in modern first-person shooters that can keep up with the pure insanity of the Flame Wall. Launching a grenade that turns into a room filling wall of flame, which pushes down the corridor causing enemies to explode into bits of gore is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have in a game.
On top of the insane weaponry, you’ll also have a few insane powerups as well as two annoying powerdowns. Shroom Mode and Elastic Mode cause you to stumble around drunkenly or bounce off any wall you touch, and always seem to be in a place where an alteration in play is the last thing you could possibly want to happen. To make up for these inconveniences, God Mode and Dog Mode are also waiting to be discovered. God Mode may arguably be the more useful, as you’ll gain the power to shoot blue balls of energy that simply blink enemies out of existence, but Dog Mode was by far my favorite. You simply turn into a dog and run around biting people. It’s adorable, it’s horrifying, it’s Rise of the Triad.
The game itself is extremely fast, to the point where it will be off-putting for new comers. There isn’t a damn thing tactical about what Rise of the Triad is asking you to do; you’ll simply be running around at top speed with high-powered weaponry. This is a twitch shooter at heart, and you’ll have to adapt to the speed if you want any chance of getting through even its opening levels. Just remember that the key to survival here is to be constantly moving.
This does become a detriment when Rise of the Triad breaks back into its platforming sections. The sections themselves were extremely interesting, and being able to soar through the air after bouncing off a launch pad while raining hell down with a rocket launcher was infinitely entertaining. However, when I was tasked with making some tight landings, or bouncing from platform to platform, it was very easy to miss the target. It’s really a shame, as these instances, which already stand out as some of the most unique gameplay of the year, will probably be remembered as being a bit cumbersome by most gamers, and this probably could have been avoided with just a bit more time spent fine tuning them.
This mentality carries over into the multiplayer too, which is a prime example of the insanity that was a 90s arena shooter. You’ll have to memorize the map and its weapon spawns if you really want a chance to compete. Sure, you can try to take on everyone else with your pistol, but if someone has a Split Launcher, you’re going to lose that fight 10 times out of 10.
It’s not a gameplay mode that’s very welcoming when compared to modern FPS offerings. It’s punishing, it’s fast, and in your first few games you’ll spend more time dead than alive. However, if you’re willing to spend the time to get better, you’ll find a rich experience that kept many of us captivated for the better part of a decade.
The original Rise of the Triad had an absolutely legendary soundtrack. Everything about it was damn near perfect, and you’ll often hear claims such as it being the best soundtrack to ever grace a shooter. Interceptor tried to update that soundtrack with a modern heavy metal feel here, and I have to say they knocked this out of the park. I’ve already put the entire soundtrack on my MP3 player for workouts, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. For those of you who want to relive the glory days, the original soundtrack can be toggled on through the options menu as well.
With everything they did right with the soundtrack, I really felt like they dropped the ball on some of the voice work. The one liners from my character felt fine, but enemy voice overs felt phoned in and distant. The cutscenes themselves sounded like the actors weren’t really given a chance to play off each other, or maybe even hear each other when they were recording their lines.
Unfortunately, Rise of the Triad also presented a myriad of bugs and glitches. The most common ones were simple errors where a ledge would stick out just a bit too far, and to make matters worse these often showed up during platforming sections. In one instance, I was supposed to use the bounce pads to launch from one to another all the way up a tall room, but if I hugged a wall a bit too closely, I would just keep hitting my head before being able to set up the next jump. On more than a few occasions, I was able to get stuck in walls and ended up having to restart from the last checkpoint. To say it was frustrating would be putting it lightly.
The difficulty in the game is also fairly poorly implemented. Outside of the previously mentioned problems with the platforming (I still can’t get over how something that could have been one of if not the coolest mechanics we’d see this year became such a headache in places), enemies are very poorly balanced. The basic enemies rarely offer any real sort of threat, and the more advanced enemies aren’t dangerous because they’re smarter, it’s simply because they are literal bullet sponges and come armed with rocket launchers of their own.
The AI in this game is also almost nonexistent at points. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since Rise of the Triad places emphasis on blazing through a level while killing as many enemies as you can in order to finish with a high score, but if you want to take a more plodding approach it stands out as an annoyance. However, using this same logic, I could argue that Chess makes for a very poor skateboard simulator. I can’t fault a game for not being amazing at something that it didn’t really set out to do in the first place.
Rise of the Triad is going to be a game that certain gamers will love and others won’t be able to stand. That’s simply the nature of trying to do a twitch shooter in today’s marketplace, and it’s something I’m positive that the guys at Interceptor knew about beforehand. That being said, this is possibly the best retro FPS on the market right now. It offers something unlike anything else out there, and if it weren’t for the few glaring faults I encountered, the score would be on the higher end of the bell curve.
This review is based on a PC game that was provided to us.
If you’re trying to relive the glory days when FPS games were over-the-top in every aspect of the word, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better offering than Rise of the Triad. Sit back, grip your mouse, and get set for one of the fastest and most intense gaming experiences to be found on today’s marketplace.