Review: Rise of the Triad
Out of the 90’s, Apogee Software has been reborn, and along with it, a re-imagining of cult classic PC FPS Rise of the Triad. Way back then, it was the heyday for FPS games on PC, with Woflenstein 3-D and Doom paving the way for the evolution of the genre. I have fond memories of those old games when Shareware was the first incarnation of game demos. Nostalgia is high, but does the game live up to its legacy, or are fond memories best left alone?
(+) Glorious old-school PC FPS action with a steep challenge
(-) Nostalgia doesn’t hold as well for the multiplayer modes of the game
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It
Rise of the Triad stays faithful to its 1994 predecessor, adopting the same story and mission. You choose one of the H.U.N.T. operatives (High-risk United Nations Task-force) and attempt to infiltrate the fortress of a cult on San Nicholas island. Little is known about the cult that has called San Nicholas home, other than its terrorist plots to attack the nearby city of Los Angeles. Picking one of the five agents thrusts you right into the fight for your life. What is intended to be a recon mission drastically changes as your boat is destroyed, stranding you and the H.U.N.T. team on the island. Now, with your MP40 and rocket launcher, you can carve a swathe of destruction and mayhem through the cult, uncover its secrets, and hopefully escape the island.
Kickin’ It Old School
There is something to be said for the shooters of yesteryear that start with very little exposition, no tutorial and drop you right in the middle of the action. No taking cover to restore health, no map, no quest arrow, no hand holding. Rise of the Triad stays very true to the old-school mechanics of the original in all of those punishingly difficult areas. You can plow through and rush the exit, or you can explore the maps and find tons of hidden secrets. Either way, the action comes hard and fast. The longer you stay still, the more of a sitting duck you become. It’s awesome to get a glimpse back at those glory days of PC FPS games where jumping puzzles and problem-solving mechanics were being added, and new features were still being discovered. The game built on the framework of predecessors like Doom and Wolfenstein and added its own twists with tricky AI and magical weapons. These core mechanics have been wonderfully recreated and brought into a more modern aesthetic, while keeping the original spirit and challenge of the game intact. Other than simply a graphical update, there are some nice touches that have been added, like the screen on the missile launcher actually tracking your field of view and targets.
56 Baud Multiplayer!
Ok kids, way back in my day, it wasn’t lag that blew up your deathmatch fun, it was parents who didn’t get call waiting! Yes, Rise of the Triad was one of those games you played over LAN or with a *gasp* dial up connection. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big multiplayer person in those days, but ROTT shows me just how poorly my twitch skills have aged. Still, I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia remembering how different Team Deathmatch was without Teamspeak or Skype to taunt your friends in real time. The game features Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes in an arena-shooting slugfest that is not for the faint of heart or twitch reflex impaired.
Sadly, the Tag and Hunter multiplayer modes are missing from the original COMM-BAT multiplayer. What is present is the awesome ability to play with anyone that owns the game on any platform. What that means is that Steam, GOG and those who bought ROTT from other online digital retailers can all play together in the same multiplayer games thanks to coding specifically for that compatibility by the team. I would imagine that implementation may be the reason that only 3 multiplayer modes are available and that either the developer or the mod community will step up and fill in the rest post-launch. With Steam Workshop support already announced, the sky is the limit!
Back to the Future
Playing Rise of the Triad was a wonderful trip back in time to my youth. Himem boot disks, AOL startup sounds, floppy disks and Gravis gamepads (c’mon, you know you had one or wanted one!). It also makes me appreciate the fact that we’ve moved away from some of those mechanics and punishing difficulty. I don’t remember some of the harsh language, I think that’s one innovation I would have been fine leaving out. Granted, I don’t think the buckets of blood, spurting torsos and eyeballs hitting the screen are something you would play around the kiddies anyway, but it’s something to be mindful of nonetheless.
It is amazing and tickles my inner geek to boot up a game and see an ‘Apogee’ splash screen after all of these years. I think the heart of the game (and gibs) have certainly been captured, and the price point is spot on. I’d have a more difficult time recommending Rise of the Triad at a higher price. I’m also curious how it fares with a newer audience that doesn’t have the nostalgia to fall back on. While the difficulty can be daunting, ROTT reminds me of what a big payoff it was to work at and finally conquer a level. I can’t help but think that appreciation is something we have lost in the modern era of frequent checkpoint saves and regenerating health. That is why Rise of the Triad gets 8 out of 10 bloody stumps. Go check it out on Steam, Good Old Games or your favorite digital retailer.