In our Rise of the Triad review we look at how this remake of the 1994 shareware classic revives the old school FPS and how the solution to staying fresh in an era flooded with modern military shooters may lie in the past. The revival of the Apogee shooter by Denmark’s own Interceptor Software may be the freshest thing in the genre in a long time.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the boots of a H.U.N.T. agent on San Nicolas Island is how fast I moved: The speed of the player character makes Olympic sprinters out of modern FPS fans who are used to the sluggish, methodical movement found in modern shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. In this sequel to the Tom Hall designed Rise of the Triad: Dark War, players are charged with fighting their way through an island full of cultist soldiers and traps using a rocket-propelled–arsenal to make “ludicrous gibs” out of enemies. And ludicrous they are, with eyeballs plopping onto your scream as you run and jump at insane speeds through each level filled with coins, power-ups, and jump pads. If a stray bullet from your M40 knocks the gun from an enemy’s hand, he’ll drop to his knees and beg for his life. The appropriate Rise of the Triad response is to cut him up with dual knives. True to the original, it’s a mean-spirited gesture, but one that empowers the player and gives the H.U.N.T. agents ruthless authority. After all, the people you fight are evil – there’s no hidden morality in the land of ludicrous gibs.
Rise of the Triad’s reliance on the old school is where its strengths lie. I was reminded of a far gone era where I used my rockets as soon as I acquired them instead of hoarding them, because I knew at any moment I’d stumble upon a secret cache revealing another load of heat-seeking missiles to dump onto the next group of enemies that ran up out the nearest closed door . You start every level with a single pistol, but it’s never long before you acquire a second pistol, the machine gun, and a rotating stock of rocket launchers. Habitual reloaders will rejoice in knowing that you rarely need to reload your gun – little touches like the ridiculous pistol reloading animation, or the custom taped-together clips of your machine gun ammo add to the intense, silly atmosphere.
Each set of levels takes on a different theme, like a prison or a castle, which act as the backdrop for your gib-fueled killing spree. The environments look nice with some moody lighting and good set dressing, featuring cult artwork laid out on tables and things like piles of deactivated jump pads. The enemies look less impressive, especially up close, and they animate poorly which perhaps mimics the original game to its detriment. The blood effects and the aforementioned gibs are totally ludicrous and firing rocket after rocket into waves of enemies while your score goes up is satisfying and feels oddly fresh for 2013. The mix of adrenaline pumping and cheesy music that recalls the original game’s soundtrack is solid and the voice acting from cultists and H.U.N.T. agents is bad, but more for laughs. I got a chuckle out of the radio dialog when I died and a low, bass-heavy voice told me, “Yooou suuuuck.” The coin pickup audio is still one of my favorite bits of audio in gaming.
My biggest problem with the game lies in its level design. Many can be traced back to the original, but some levels are mere mazes with window dressing. I’m looking for a switch to open this door, but nothing stands out as interactive, and this other door that looks exactly the same opens without a switch and others that also look the same don’t open at all. Like any good old-school shooter, some doors are locked with silver and golden keys. The platforming sections are perhaps the worst in the entire game. It’s 2013 and platforming in an FPS is still a miserable task, with sections of moving platforms over lava streams that could have been rendered less painful with a quick save option, but checkpoints are your only option here.
I often found the environmental traps to be more dangerous than the enemies. Spike traps, fireball shooters and spinning blades will slice and dice your level progress, while the mix of enemies ranging from rocketeers to net shooters ended up as cannon fodder. There are boss fights that took some trial and error before I figured out how to beat them, as well as stronger enemies with heavy armor that take a ton of bullets or rockets to kill, and gold key guarding mini-bosses.
There are a handful of multiplayer options that are mostly there as a reminder that the original had multiplayer, but even now there seemed to be barely anyone playing. I feel like in a world with Quake Live, old school shooter fans have a more fully featured, more popular alternatives to the deathmatch, TDM, and CTF modes presented here. I’m glad it was included, but I’m not sure it’ll take off. The FPS loss I suffered occasionally during singleplayer seemed to be amplified in multi, and given how fast everyone moves I would often be dead before I could see what hit me. I suffered a couple crashes to the desktop during loading, with one requiring a full restart, but from what I hear, I encountered a lesser amount of bugs than what others have reported.
If you’re looking for an old-school FPS, Rise of the Triad is that and all that entails. There is enough stupid fun to be had for newcomers and old fans have plenty of priest porridge, dog mode, and I.P. Freeley to appreciate. The flame wall is still a great weapon, as are the drunken missiles and the Dark Staff. I was a little disappointed that the god mode projectiles no longer track enemies, but the way it makes enemies explode feels pretty good. Actually, that’s a sentiment I hold for the game overall: A little disappointed with the execution, but the heart is there and I’m glad a developer took the chance to revisit a classic.