Nostalgia is certainly a crazy thing. Nostalgia sells because people played old games when they were younger, made pleasant memories, and therefore would like to play it again. I didn’t need to tell you that, though. Over the years, and especially with the advent of Kickstarter, nostalgia has run rampant. Developers reviving franchises from the early and mid 90s like Tomb Raider and XCOM, with some developers being so bold as to revive franchises twice in the span of five years, in the case of Wolfenstein. Enter Rise of The Triad. Originally designed by Tom Hall, known also for the Doom bible and Anachronox, Rise of the Triad in particular was a smart FPS with some incredibly funny power-ups and weapons and a certain charm to it. For example, the entire company acted in the game as enemies in one way or another, voices and all. From the outside, it looked like those involved truly loved what they did. All that love translated into Rise of the Triad, in my opinion one of the most underrated games of 1990 sitting next to, funnily enough, the Tom Hall designed Anachronox.
Enough of invoking previous experiences, it’s 18 years later and Rise of the Triad is back as a reboot. Published by Apogee from the ashes of 3D Realms and developed by Interceptor Entertainment, known for the iOS ports of the Duke Nukem Games, Rise of the Triad is their first foray into a full-fledged game.
Starting in the single player campaign, one thing that will be readily apparent is how the game moves at a breakneck speed. Enemies flow in from all directions as you frantically spray rockets and bullets to bring them down, exploding into a mass of gibs and blood while point-totals rack up above where their heads used to be. This game loves its bloodshed, and without hesitation, will splatter the HUD with blood, and paint entire hallways with the stuff. Even the game’s sense of humor, its love of the word “ludicrous” and Kim Jong-Un references, pales in comparison to the level and detail of gore present in any given scenario.
Once one adjusts to the quickness to the movement and gains a feel for the game, ROTT reveals itself to be more about high scores and rankings than it is progressing in the story. Brushing the paper-thin tale aside, there are multiple secrets in every level and one, linear path to follow to an objective. Making it to the goal in as little time as possible, as well as causing the most damage in that time span is what you’re measured on in the leaderboards. The abundance of secrets that are scattered about in all of the levels are there to be found, boost the player’s score, and allow them to wring every last point out of their run.
Everything meshes well with the play-style Rise of the Triad promotes. The levels are designed to allow for quick movement and old-school rocket jumping for those looking to shave some time off of their scores. The soundtrack is a fun listen, and acts as a quick, furious backdrop to the blisteringly fast action. It’s hard to stand still and look about the world, as the urge to move quickly and at a breakneck pace will be the more appealing option. Those who are diligent enough to find the secrets in a given level may be rewarded with paths leading to hidden levels. The hidden levels are all a great deal of fun, and a pleasant surprise to find lying about in this game. The hidden levels aren’t anything too crazy, but it certainly is fun to glance about the world, hearing the pinging of the coins as you run over them.
As you wander the levels, you’ll discover the game’s tongue is stuck firmly in cheek with super glue, for better or for worse. Enemy ragdolls and gibs fly everywhere at any given opportunity, plastering themselves onto the walls or ground while spewing blood like a hose. The dialogue equally mimics that, as whichever character you choose to play will have a screwball comment for picking up a new weapon or triggering an action. While at first it’s a nice gesture to have, it’ll be commonplace to hear recycled audio due to the sheer amount of weapons that are slathered onto a level. This works to keep things from getting stale when tackling areas, since the game is more than happy to give you a variety of weapons at any given time. To coincide with the weapons, Interceptor Entertainment tried to reference the original Rise of the Triad as much as they possibly could. Every single weapon here can be found in the original, even getting the power-ups down to their very last Romero god-mode moan. It looks like the game was crafted with a great deal of care while trying to play as much like Rise of the Triad as any modern shooter can. I mean, it even referenced Extreme Rise of the Triad at a few times, which I never thought I would see or hear about again.
The humor can wear thin, however. With Interceptor attempting to cram every orifice of the game with some sort of joke, it has the tendency to get old, or simply not be funny at all. It feels as if the developer at times is trying a little too hard to be funny, throwing all of their eggs in one basket at every possible opportunity. The problem with that mentality is that a great deal of those eggs are going to be broken, and for every joke that is genuinely funny, you’ll get a hamfisted comment a few minutes or even seconds later. The mission briefings are the biggest perpetrator, with the joke being that they aren’t very helpful at all, or are stating the obvious. More often than not they go too far with acknowledging the joke, even throwing a poor Simpson’s reference into the dialogue, or just going through the motions by being as random as possible in order to draw out a laugh.
One thing I was genuinely interested in was the multiplayer, as I wondered how a game that moves as fast as Rise of the Triad does would work against multiple players. The answer, to put it bluntly, is chaos. Everyone is sprinting around, firing rockets in every which direction and fighting over the spawn of the Firebomb. It certainly doesn’t feel like any other current multiplayer FPS. Currently, the three game modes are Deathmatch of the solo persuasion, team persuasion and Capture the Flag, to go along with a handful of maps. Death is common in multiplayer, and it may frustrate people who are looking for a more laid back experience. There was also time spent in order to hide powerups like God Mode inside the levels to reward those who look in an attempt to truly capture the mid 90’s multiplayer feel. Because of that though, for those looking for a finely tuned, balanced multiplayer shooter, you just aren’t going to find that here. It plays loosely and quickly, with matches quickly devolving into sloppy bar fights with rocket launchers. It’s fantastic to play a game that moves as quickly as this does online. Couple that with gratuitous amounts of explosions, and you have an online experience akin to Quake 3 on bath salts.
It’s clear that Interceptor Interactive was determined to do two things: Place as many Kim Jong-Un jokes in a video game level as humanly possible, and craft a game that follows in the footsteps of the original Rise of the Triad. Both of those things have been easily accomplished. It plays with a respect to the original game, and revels in its ridiculousness, something many modern FPS’s have issues doing. While the dialogue can wear thin, the flinging ragdolls of your adversaries and fresh level design keep things entertaining. Everything feels as if it was meant to be blown out of proportion, the insanity constantly seeps into the action. Everything flows nicely together, and the level of absurdity dished out on a consistent basis in this game is the sort of thing I can get behind. Couple that all together, and you get what feels like a heartfelt homage to the Doom era FPS. While that style of FPS has all but disappeared, given way to the dramatic military and sci-fi military shooter, it’s nice to see a game that still knows to not take itself seriously. Sometimes it’s just fine to have a magical baseball bat that fires glowing baseballs that causes enemies to explode rather than an M16 or M4A1. Sometimes it’s nice to not care about trying to recreate a semi-realistic world and get lost in crazy for a couple of hours. Nostalgia is certainly something that can bring back those memories, while potentially reminding us that the games we used to play as kids might not have been great. Nostalgia is certainly a strange feeling, but then again all double-edged blades are strange in some way, aren’t they?