Rise of the Triad? What is this madness?
It's a reboot of an old school shooter! But unlike Duke Nukem Forever (yeah I'm calling it a reboot and a failed one at that), it actually stays true to how games were played back in the day! Apogee Software and Interceptor Entertainment did not screw around at all with this game.
The story, from what I understand, is more or less the same as the original game. Players take the role of one of five members of H.U.N.T. (High Risk United Nations Task-force) being sent to San Nicholas Island, right next to Los Angeles, to investigate some cult activity. But this reconnaissance mission quickly turns to a fight for their lives when their boat is destroyed and they are left stranded on the island full of cultists. These cultists also look a lot like Nazis, and the weapons players use early on like the MP-40 definitely suggest that this is the case. After looking into it, I discovered that Rise of the Triad (1995) was originally going to be a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D but became its own game. It was an interesting tid bit of information!
I heard you liked bullets.
So have rockets and wizardry instead!
Rise of the Triad is probably the single craziest game I've played in a long time. I knew it was a reboot of an old school game and I had my concerns going into it, as my experience with reboots has generally not been a pleasant one. Those concerns were put to rest the second I got into the game, with what I can only describe as motion sickness while I re-adjusted myself to the absurd speed of the game. It was pretty difficult to keep my sights on target at first until I adjusted but afterwards, every other game I've played just feels like it's moving at a snail's pace. That being said, I had initially chosen the slowest character of the H.U.N.T. team under the assumption that he was the one made to carry the most or at least the biggest weapons.
At the start of the game players have a choice between five characters in the H.U.N.T. team. Each one has different health and speed stats as well as their own personalities and voice acting, but I haven't found a difference between them beyond that. Do you want to be fast? The female characters tend to be on the faster end of the spectrum. Want to be durable? Pick one of the males. If you want to be right in the middle, play leader of the team! It really depends on what play style the player prefers but it doesn't affect the choices of equipment or any special abilities from what I've seen.
Speaking of weapons, they go from the mundane to the just plain crazy. As I mentioned before, the Triads are basically Nazis and so the first weapons the players have access to are World War II weapons; MP-40, Bazookas and Walther P-38 pistols. But the weapons don't just stop there. Double rocket launchers, gatling rocket launchers, heat seekers, napalm launchers... Rise of the Triads arsenal has a whole lot of boom. That's before you even get your hands on the more occult weapons like wizard staves and Excalibat, which can only be described as a possessed baseball bat. Unfortunately players are limited to five weapons; their side arm, double the side arm, the MP-40 and their choice of boom stick and occult weapon when they run across them. Still it's a lot more than what the average modern shooter allows players to walk around with, and the special weapons are considerably more effective and hilarious to use.
Like any good old school shooter, there are power -ups as well. These range from the awesome and super useful God Mode to the more ridiculous and not so useful but still hilarious mushrooms. The most useful and entertaining one, in my opinion, is Dog Mode. Players that find this power up will be turned into a dog that can run around biting the triads ankles with deadly efficiency and hilarious speed.
The only bad thing about Rise of the Triads gameplay is that the AI is fairly basic. They usually stand in place taking pot shots at the player or run in a line straight at them. NPCs are not terribly smart, but every now and then they will try to trick players by playing dead or trying to appeal to the player's conscience. Rise of the Triads tries to make up for this by introducing tougher, smarter enemies as the game progresses, as well as increasing their numbers. And of course, there are bosses along the way that vary from fairly straight forward mini-bosses to the more complicated end of episode bosses, which require some tactics to take down.
What manner of mad man has designed this map?!
I normally don't talk about level design because, lets be honest, most shooters these days are very straight forward and to the point with little to no need or incentive for exploration. Rise of the Triad, however, is from the old school of shooters where exploring the map is just as important to the player' survival as their ability to aim.
Part of the reason for this is because there is no regenerating health. If you run into too many bullets or traps, you're going to have to find some healing items or get really good at dodging bullets if you want to survive until the next check point or the end of the level. There's also the importance supplies. While players will find the base weapons to be fairly effective, at the end of the day, if they are out numbered by Triads or their robot forces, you're going to need a lot more boom to get past them. Exploring the map not only helps players earn more points by finding coins and discovering secrets which add to their score at the end of the level, it also helps them find weapons that will help them cut through the Triads like a hot knife through butter.
Finding secret areas also help those who would seek 100% completion for the entire game. I think every level has at least ten secret areas to keep players searching. Locating these involves everything from looking for levers that are out of place, noticing jump pads, walls and other things that don't look right, to the timeless classic of rocket jumping your way to a secret.
Then there's the plain and simple madness of the traps. Some trap rooms are fairly simple, with flame throwers and walls throwing out fire balls at the start of the game, but as you progress they become more complex and eventually become completely insane, filling the room with spinning blade traps. There are even laser traps and lava pits - because no evil lair is complete without lasers, lava and the classic falling rock down a tight hallway.
Would you like more boom with your multiplayer?
Rise of the Triad has fairly simple multiplayer, which is unfortunately only limited to Death Match and Capture the flag. Combat in multiplayer basically boils down to who has the bigger stick. The base weapons, like the pistols and MP-40, don't really hold a candle to the much more powerful rocket launchers and occult weapons, even when going for head shots. It's not until both sides have their hands on the powerful explosive weapons that the fights are even, but then they really seem to boil down to who fires first and catches the other player off guard. It's pretty fun and hectic, but the lack of performance in the lower grade weapons just makes them even being there rather pointless to me.
Just like in the single player game, exploring the map or just plain memorizing it is incredibly important for finding power ups and equipment. If players decide to just go straight into combat, unless there's a gentlemen's agreement to avoid the more powerful weapons, they're going to be at a massive disadvantage compared to all the other players.
Also, as in single player, there are plenty of characters to chose from. Both H.U.N.T. and Triad members are available for players to chose from. Each of them comes with their own stats and back stories, which were an amusing read. Bob was probably my favorite character just from reading his reason for being.
I was actually expecting there to be co-op play considering there is a team of characters involved in the single player campaign, but sadly this is not the case. This was unfortunate, but I'm hoping that maybe in the future it'll be a thing that happens for Rise of the Triad, whether it's an official update or a player mod.
Painting the walls red with an awesome soundtrack.
When I was first got my hands on Rise of the Triad the first thing I did was look over the graphics settings, and I found one of the presets was called "Ludicrous". The natural response was to hit that button and crank everything else up to max, because I have a PC and it needs to sweat every now and then. Plus you want to see how pretty the game looks anyway, right?
Well, graphically it may not be the most impressive game out there but it still has something that is a pretty rare in these days politically correct games. Gore. Lots and lots of gratuitous gore. Blood and entrails paint the walls, limbs fly off your enemies while you blast them to bits, and if a ceiling is low enough the blood will even stick to it and drip down to the ground. Even the player's weapons and screen will be drenched in blood and chunks if they're too close to enemies as they're blown to bit and pieces. There's even a score multiplier called "Super Gib" - I haven't quite figured out how to trigger it without fail, but every time it is, the eyes of your last victim splatter into the screen and slide down it as the chaos rages on. It was a very refreshing change of scenery from modern games. What can I say? I grew up in the 90's when an M rated game had actually earned its rating.
To top it all off, the delicious icing on the cake if you ask me, the sound track is awesome. Excuse me. Sound tracks. That's right. Two sound tracks for the same game. The new sound track consists of heavy metal, which is always an awesome choice for a game where players run around blasting their way through things. The other, which is just as awesome and adds an extra layer of comic relief to the game, is the classic sound track. Classic as in... it sounds like they took the MIDI sound track from the original game and transferred it over. I had the biggest grin on my face when I first discovered this was a feature in the audio settings, even more so when added to the chaotic explosion filled frag fest that is Rise of the Triad. I found myself switching between sound tracks a lot because I just couldn't settle on one.
And before I forget! One feature that I thought was pretty sweet was the level select for Rise of the Triad. Most games these day just give players a list with short description. That's fine. It gets straight to the point. Rise of the Triad went ahead and made a proper map of San Nicholas island with a 16-bit version of whichever character the player chose to run through the game with. Because the game wasn't full of enough awesome cheese already.
Lets get ludicrous.
Rise of the Triad is currently 15 USD on STEAM right now. That alone makes it worth picking up just to check out. But if you're a fan of old school shooters this is a great deal of fun. The characters are all fairly amusing when they open their mouths, and gameplay is fast and frantic. The game gets more punishing as players progress through it, and even more so if they crank up the difficulty to say... Ludicrous. Multiplayer is where I feel Rise of the Triad struggles a bit due to its lack of variety in game modes, but it's still fun for the sake of just blowing each other up. Not sure it can really compete against the Unreal Tournament games however.
If you're looking for a more serious game, this isn't really for you. Rise of the Triad knows what it is, it's not ashamed and it doesn't bother to sugar coat things. It's just plain, crazy fun and I love it.