When it the original game first released, Rise of the Triad was largely overlooked. It remains one of the most influential first-person shooters though, for the mechanics it pioneered: bigger and more complex environments, built-in mouse aiming and multiple protagonists. Many of these were made popular by the games that came after.
This new version feels more like a remake than a reboot, despite the huge amount of new content present. Throughout the game, there are hints pointing to its history. Loading screens usually contain bits of information about the original game, and there are a few things like optional mission briefings that poke a bit of fun at modern shooters. This game brings back a lot of the humor and feel of the original as well. God Mode, Dog Mode and most of the arsenal from the original returns, as well as the crazy-fast movement speed. Also returning is the soundtrack, both in its original form and a fully remixed one for this update.
The game adds many modern conventions, such as iron sights and secondary fire modes, and offers more utility to level designers through the character’s ability to jump and crawl. Levels have been designed with more thought to the overall setting, as opposed to the original game’s seemingly-random assortment of mazes. A few levels from the original have made a return for the sake of nostalgia, but most are completely new, taking full advantage of both old and new mechanics. The new Rise of the Triad feels short compared to the original, that campaign was, in many ways, simply too long. With the map editor it seems unlikely that we will run out of content anytime soon.
After so many shooters with a single-player mode driven by a cinematic narrative, I am very happy that Rise of the Triad didn’t try to fit this pattern. It retains a lot of its original gameplay: exploring a maze full of traps and enemies, with very little plot to explain each level. Still present is the odd brand of humor from the original. Enemies will beg for their lives, play dead, jump up and start shooting.
The remake adds a few conventions of its own, such as the ability to deflect fireballs launched by traps with the Excalibat, a baseball bat weapon present in the game. The game also brings back that hallmark of the ’90s: ridiculous, over-the-top violence. If you shoot a guy with a machine gun, sometimes you cut him in half.
Rise of the Triad brings back the difficulty level present in older games. Easy isn’t the cakewalk it has become in newer games, as you can’t simply hide behind cover and regenerate health. The game assumes a certain familiarity with first-person shooters going in, and players unaccustomed to scavenging for health pickups may find themselves in trouble. One thing I didn’t enjoy: manual quick-saving has been replaced with a set checkpoint system. Failure can result in replaying a chunk of content as a result.
Rise of the Triad‘s multiplayer feels nice and smooth. There have been some ongoing server browser problems, fixed mostly by sharing IP addresses directly. (Such a ’90s thing to do.) Directly joining games via IP works in offline mode as well; the login is only for leaderboards and the server browser. Multiplayer Rise of the Triad brings back the crazy fast deathmatch we all know and love. It does take a bit of time to get used to the speed, but once you do, it brings back what was great about online play. With fast respawns and few penalties for death, it becomes stress-free fun that lets you mess around and try crazy things without worry.
One thing that really shines through in this game: it is made by a team that has a love for ’90s shooters, not just another remake designed to cash in on an old IP. You may recall Interceptor Entertainment as that group of Duke Nukem fans who put together a Duke Nukem 3D fan game, initially shut down by Gearbox and recently given the go-ahead to continue as a non-commercial project.
Rise of the Triad is certainly the shooter that so many of us from that era have been hoping to see return, with a wonderful balance between old and new. It borrows some modern conventions, but makes no attempt to disguise itself as a modern shooter.
Pros: Wonderful mix of old and new
Cons: Server browser is a bit buggy