Review

Rise of the Triad Review (PC)

Rise of the Triad and me, we have history. It was my first-ever FPS on a PC and kicked off my lifelong love for the genre. Originally intended as a third-party sequel to id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D (the very idea!), rights issues transformed the title into a unique standalone title. Similarly, developer Interceptor originally got together to remake Duke Nukem 3D in Unreal Engine 3, before realising they could pick up Rise of the Triad for nothing, remake that, and charge money for it. Fair play to them. Shame one game is better than the other, and that the year and a half development time shows...

First impressions of Rise of the Triad are excellent though, with favourable comparisons in terms of style to the superb Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Ridiculous over-the-top comic book cutscenes, a JRPG-style map complete with a small 16-bit character and a fun but pointless mission briefing, a main character spouting silly one-liners, and that’s all before you get to the silliness of the original ROTT that this remake fully embraces. Jump-pads, infinite ammo, Mushrooms, Bounce Power-Ups, God Mode, Dog Mode, whole puzzle levels and other such crazy features. Secrets abound, plot is incidental, and despite Interceptor’s best efforts levels aren’t believable in the slightest. That’s not a bad thing.

Feel the wrath of God Mode, Triads!

The fun of Rise of the Triad stems from embracing this insanity. If you just go from soldier to soldier shooting everything in sight you’ll be bored very quickly. If on the other hand you make it your mission to find every daft little secret or Easter Egg hidden in the game you’ll find loads to entertain you. Interceptor have clearly realised that little details like a pinboard covered in post-it notes from the developers add immeasurably more fun that an extra five enemies or a scripted sequence, so there’s plenty of those alongside “proper” secret areas. On the first level I found a secret exit that led to a bonus level styled in the original game’s graphics, and that made me laugh. Furthermore outwitting the game’s many puzzles or traps, including E1M2: The Room which is a whole level based around traps and acrobatic skill, are regularly entertaining.

The trouble is though, what happens when the fun asides represent all the fun in a shooter? Running around seeking out secrets or solving puzzles I was very happy. Shooting enemies though? Couldn’t be less interested. Apart from looks Interceptor have made no attempt to update the enemies, from AI to actions to types, and what was acceptable twenty years ago simply isn’t acceptable today. Soldiers walk around either blindly or shooting you from across the level, spawning when your back is turned or hiding down dead-ends. They occasionally throw nets that the game gives you no clue how to get out of (press Q to use your knife) then will either cheaply shoot you or stand their blankly. Only when they’re begging for their life are they fun. Facing them in combat? Gets old fast. Plus let’s face it, Rise of the Triad’s enemy set was pretty poor to begin with. A few Nazi-style soldiers, a few robots and a couple of Monks (plus bosses). There’s a reason everyone knows Doom but ROTT faded into obscurity – Imps, Hell Knights, Cacodemons, Revenants, Arch-Viles, Cyberdemons… Monks? Aren’t they from Blood?

Tee hee

Which, for an FPS, is quite a significant problem. It’s also, astonishingly, not the worst thing about Rise of the Triad. This shooting apathy would only create boredom that the rest of the levels could alleviate, but what transforms Rise of the Triad from a slightly mediocre to a hideously painful experience is the save system. There are two types of save system in gaming: save wherever you want, and save where the designers want you to (e.g. checkpoints or autosaves). Each have pros and cons especially with regarding to FPSs, but furthermore there are two ways to do each: do it right, or do it wrong. Rise of the Triad does it very, very wrong. Checkpoints are few and far between, and often at totally arbitrary moments irrespective of any challenge ahead.

Since exploration and puzzle-solving are often the main reasons to keep playing Rise of the Triad it’s disheartening that it’s actively discouraged by such poor checkpointing. On Level 2 alone on Normal I must’ve repeated one section about six or seven times, and in the end I gave up on secret hunting or coin collecting and just blasted my way through. Did I have fun like that? Absolutely not. What makes it worse though is that this is not a polished game and cheap deaths abound. Yes it’s funny to have a spike pit in a secret area or a fireball thrower behind a door, but when you have to replay twenty minutes of game to get back to that point afterwards the humour bleeds out. Did I mention the nets? They’re glitchy and it can take a while to free yourself from them, plus some soldiers can steal your weapons. Enemies spawn behind you, do pixel-perfect rocket shots from across the map, and I swear dead soldiers suddenly sprang back into life when I wasn’t looking.

Which is all a real shame, since there is some really inventive level design going on. Not just the secrets hidden all over the place with unique ways to access them, but also platforming, spike traps, crazy bounce-pad sections (which are a little fiddly), and puzzle sections. While the game’s defiantly old-school these moments at least hark at something more. I wish I could turn the Run key off though in the jumping sections, and that those bounce pads were easy to navigate (particularly in a devilish part of ‘The Room’). At least things are kept interesting, and it’s rare for areas to feel re-used despite occasionally similar themes popping up. There’s always something new to discover, and while not mind-blowing Unreal Engine 3 is used to create some nice looking levels here.

Ludicrous gibs!

Weapons though are another area I wish Interceptor hadn’t just lifted wholeheartedly from the original, since much like enemies the majority suck. You get a pistol, dual pistols, and a machinegun, all with infinite ammo. Then there’s a variety of rocket or flame launchers of which you can only carry one at a time but which are in plentiful supply, and a couple of magic items which are a bit boring. The God Mode and Dog Mode power-ups are as hilarious as they were in 1994, the first turning you into an all-powerful lightning ball-firing deity and the other turning you into a small crotch-ripping-out canine. But that’s it. You’ll be using the machinegun for the majority of your time, and it gets very boring. Rise of the Triad’s weapon set has been bettered in every FPS from Doom onwards, so it really needed an overhaul that Interceptor misguidedly haven’t given it. Also, why is there a Reload key when none of the weapons need to be reloaded? Or Iron Sights when they’re worse than shooting from the hip – and incidentally, why bring that trope of all things from modern shooters?

I really don’t want to rag too much on Rise of the Triad given it works so hard – and often succeeds – to just be an even-more-ridiculous modern-looking remake of a classic FPS. In many ways Interceptor have done exactly that, but in others I really wish they’d been more ambitious. Enemies quickly become a pain to fight rather than a joy with no AI whatsoever, the weapons are just as dull as the original game, and poorly placed checkpoints combined with cheap deaths sapped all my drive to play. I haven’t had a chance to try the multiplayer since the game’s not out yet, but it just offers basic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag, so no surprises there. There’s a lot of fun to be had navigating the levels and finding all the cool secrets, the game looks pretty good with Unreal Engine 3, it’s occasionally legitimately funny, and all the areas are well designed and challenging so are fun to get around – trouble is thanks to the atrocious save system you might not want to explore. If Interceptor patch in a quicksave option Rise of the Triad might be worth a purchase in a Steam sale if you’re after a moderately-updated old-school FPS, but until then leave it on the shelf and wait for Shadow Warrior instead.

Top Game Moment: It’s a coin toss between God Mode or Dog Mode. I’ll go with Dog Mode just for the way Interceptor persuaded the voice actor to make silly dog noises.

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Comments

By Mindrax (SI Core) on Aug 01, 2013
Mindrax
Well, i didn't expect much and i got what i expected.
Another FPS riding on old merits and titles.
I agree with the review and i cant recommend this game in good faith to anyone. Maybe if its on sale and you are bored and need a fast and dirty FPS fix :)
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Aug 01, 2013
The_Tingler
The main thing is that this makes the same mistake Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded did, and too slavishly adheres to the original even where the original wasn't very good - e.g. most of the weapons and enemies. There's just not enough variety. Yes, even when you do get the Excalibat.

Still, if they do include a quicksave/manual save option I might actually suggest people at least try it. Until then I won't, because it's too painful.
By Mindrax (SI Core) on Aug 01, 2013
Mindrax
Yes, that can be a major problem.