Rise Of The Triad Review

The reboot of the late 90’s many shooter fans have prayed for is out now. It delivers the fast paced carnage, and exploration of the original game. But along the way are a few caveats.

PROS: Wonderful retelling of the original 1995 2.5D First Person Shooter.

CONS: Bugs, micro stuttering, and a lack of optimization.

WOW! THEY PULLED A DOOM II:  Four super secret retro stages!

To say there is a new Rise Of The Triad is nothing short of a miracle. Only a handful of people thought there could ever be another one. Especially seeing how Apogee/3DRealms was barely on life support after losing millions on Duke Nukem Forever, and then selling the rights to Gearbox who merely got it functional enough to sell to the unsuspecting public.  Many of us, if not all of us, figured Apogee was all but gone, and their backlog lost to history.

Enter Interceptor Entertainment, who managed to get Apogee’s blessing to reboot one of their more obscure releases. I’ve reviewed the original game so I won’t go gravely into it again here. But Rise Of The Triad was a really good game that did a lot with dated technology. So much so, that for awhile it actually hung with the big boys of the time.

Born of an abandoned sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, it brought jump pads, destructable environments,  and multiplayer staples like CTF to the table. It did a lot of amazing things with a then five year old engine. Things some newer releases hadn’t done. In short it was awesome. It grew a devoted cult following over the years. Ironic, seeing how ROTT’s villians are helmed by a murderous cult.

Interceptor is a small team spread out over the globe. The creation of the reboot is an interesting one because it is such an unorthodox one. Developers created the game through nearly two years of internet conferencing, uploading, assets, and involving community feedback. It’s something you rarely see in the creation of any sort of ambitious project by such a small team.

Overall, this did work to their advantage. Rise Of The Triad is crafted with love for the IP, and it shows. Stages are built with the spirit of the original in mind at every turn. But entirely on an Unreal 3 engine. No longer restricted to 90 degree tile set design, the developers built stages with more of a building block approach. The stages are almost entirely open to you. With the exception of searching for keys for certain areas, and stage outskirts you can pretty much go anywhere.

With the advent of the popularity of Half-Life, Call Of Duty, and other contemporary big games, campaigns became more of a linear, cinematic experience. One of going on rail like segments where you can see things happening, but can’t explore them. ROTT throws this out the window,  embracing it’s 1995 era fully.

Exploration is one of the best things about the game too, because it will lead to a lot of power ups, secrets, and in four cases, retro levels themed on the 1995 original’s graphics. You will want these power ups too because ROTT is challenging. Even on lower difficulty settings, you will find yourself realizing the odds are against you. Gone are the regenerating health bars of modern design, and returning are the bowls of priest porridge  from the old game.

Managing health, and ammo is a staple of arcade shooters. There is little difference here. Although the bullet weapons like the handgun or MP40 supply unlimited ammuntion, going up against tougher enemies proves that they’re not ideal. ROTT’s meatier weapons are all variants on the rocket launcher. On top of the stock one, classic favorites return like the Flame Wall, Split Missile, Drunk Missile,and Firebomb. Each has a secondary function now to put another spin on the classic gameplay.

These weapons are a must against bosses, or heavy enemies. Also returning to help you out, are the powerups. There’s the wings to allow you to fly for a short time, dog mode which helps you find certain secrets, bite bad guys, and barkblast an entire room of badguys into paste. Also returning is the classic  god powerup giving you the familiar yawning sound, invulnerability, and force lightning balls of the original.

Interceptor also brought back the joke powerups. Shroom mode impedes your movement, and Ball mode makes you ricochet off walls. Finally, the excalibat, an enchanted baseball bat that shoots baseballs, and the magic wand that shoots force lighning.

ROTT’s story is told through comic book panels at the beginning of the game, and through radio chatter between levels. The game is broken up into 5 levels across 4 episodes. At the end of each episode you’ll face a reimagined version of a boss from ROTT 1995. Most of these will be multipart affairs with multiple forms. It’s another way the game attempts to bridge the gap between old, and new conventions.

Multiplayer is also a very fun return to form for the arena shooter. Not since Unreal Tournament 3 has there been a deathmatch focused arcade style game where twitch skills are key. Of course there is some luck involved as the stock pistols don’t get you far, and starting near a pickup is ideal. But at the end of the match it’s those with the best hand, and eye cooirdination who can claim success. That is if they can stave off anyone who picked up god or wing powerups. This is Rise Of The Triad after all.

ROTT also includes an editor which is great news for those who wistfully remember making their own stages to share with friends, and other fans in this era of paid DLC maps, and micro transactions.

The original game was also heralded for it’s over the top, goofy violence. ROTT also doles this out in spades. Enemies spin around in flames. Enemies lose limbs or heads. In many cases they’ll explode. When this happens you’ll find the developers were so devoted to recreating gibs that they modelled individual organs. It never gets to the clown shoes level of Mortal Kombat 3’s fatalities. But it will certainly wow anybody who has fond memories of the original game.

Fond memories of the original’s soundtrack can be found with most of the fandom. This was another thing that was celebrated in the reboot. All of Lee Jackson’s classic chiptunes have been painstakingly covered in heavy metal. But the game also gives players the option to hear the original Jackson soundtrack instead. To their credit, the covers are awesome. Any hard rock fan who plays the game will find themselves jamming to the tunes inbetween waves of Triad soldiers. But those who aren’t big on loud guitar work will love turning on the original tunes.

ROTT isn’t a visual powerhouse, but it does have a lot of special effects, and graphics options for players to tweak. It goes out of it’s way to allow you to setup all of the various settings you’re accustomed to, and then some. Unfortunately it’s here where some of the game’s problems begin to come through.

As fun, exciting, and all around awesome as Rise Of The Triad is, the lack of optimization is disheartening. If you are on anything other than mid tier or higher intel, or nVidia hardware, expect to run into some micro stuttering. Setting the graphics options lower, honestly doesn’t help much unless your computer is honestly that old or running onboard video rather than a discrete card.

To it’s credit, Interceptor has been much better about fixing these issues than even many AAA developers. Since launch they have been working with community feedback on patching the game starting with it’s editor for mod makers. They’ve committed to releasing a stream of small patches, and updates to get the game working right for their customers.

But with that said, ROTT is still a product, and as such customers expect a game to work when they get it home, or get it installed on their computer.  Even if it is only $15.  If you are a die hard ROTT fan who still doesn’t have this game, you will probably be able to grin while bearing the periodic performance hitches. For those curious or on the fence, while the game is nowhere near as glitch filled or broken as something like Brink was in it’s launch you still may want to wait for a patch or two.

One can only hope the hitches are hashed out soon because the multiplayer has the potential to bring back UT or Quake style arena shooting to a new generation. The campaign is a fun, engaging affair that is one part Quake II, and two parts Return To Castle Wolfenstein.

Final Score: 7 out of 10 (When the problems are solved make it a 9)

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