In 1994 a game was released that, for me personally, was a sign that first person shooters were here to stay and that we, as gamers, were coming up to a golden age of FPS’s on the PC. I’m talking about Apogee Software’s Rise of the Triad. The game was originally built as a sequel to Wolfenstien 3D, but with that project getting cancelled Apogee Software stepped up and still using a modified Wolfenstien engine released a game that featured all the things that an adolescent boy thinks is cool; Guns, guns, more guns and clandestine cults with allusions to the Nazi party. Well here we are just shy of 20 years later and we’re stepping back into the realm of pseudo-Nazi cultists and taking on the world one RPG at a time.
I’m not going to say the original game was the most groundbreaking release ever to grace the world, however it did do some things differently. With Doom being released the year before, and causing the usual uproar against it’s violence, it’s odd to think that Rise of the Triad avoided too much controversy, the game featured your enemies frying, flaming and exploding depending on your weapon of choice. Go in hard and heavy with a RPG then you can expect to see an orgy of blood and entrails fill the area, and if you’re good at Where’s Wally/Waldo books then you should also be able to spot the obligatory eye-ball dislodge from the mass of meat and fly across screen. With this being the set up for the game from 20 years ago I was curious to know what they had changed for this ‘reboot’. Well it turns out not very much.
Rise of the Triad has been reborn nearly 20 years later by a virtual studio called Interceptor Entertainment. The team is built up from indie developers, modders and just all round techie people. With previous attempts to revive other Apogee/3D Realms games not quite coming together they’ve spent the past 18 months building what can only be described as one of the craziest, most over the top and convention breaking first person shooters of the past decade. With comparable games being few and far between the closest I can come to is Serious Sam.
Rise of the Triad is a game that tries to break you of all the gaming habits you’ve picked up over the years, no longer should you spend your time searching for cover or going for the headshot, no more will you kill every enemy in an area before progressing, conserving ammo is for the weak in the eye’s of Rise of the Triad. You will die a lot at first, until you understand, this game is a speedrunner’s dream. In the first level, for example, I spent ages aiming for headshots and clearing out sections before progressing, and while this does work and is perfectly feasible, in reality the game wants you to find the first rocket launcher and just sprint.
To some this may not be the most satisfying gameplay style, but when you notice the timer along the top of the screen you have a little clue as to how you’re scored. Around the levels are hidden bronze, silver and gold coins all of which, when mixed with the ferocity of your kills, is tallied up and added together to give you an episode/chapter/level score.
The game knows what it is and I like that, it sets an eye on the crazy and then smashes that eye against the screen. This game is not one to play around mother dearest, time a pistol shot right and you’ll be treated to blood flying out, time a rocket right and you’ll be treated to muscles rolling along the floor, time a flamethrower right and you’ll get to see a skeleton fall to the ground still dripping crimson.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag, by default it has a motion blur effect that reminds me of the PS2 era Grand Theft Auto games, where they tried to hide some potentially dodgy graphics with this technique. Well Rise of the Triad isn’t far off the same, I played the game on high settings at first but found the action too laggy for my quite good machine. Even on the highest settings however the character models are lacking the oomph you would hope for. The level designs are interesting enough to keep you engaged but they do fall under the Quake mentality of changing the brick colour, there are exceptions to this but you have to push through quite a bit to see them. That being said, if you end up speed running the game like I mostly did you wont notice most of the decorations anyway. The problem is that a lot of the time you’ll only know an enemy is around because you are being shot, the dull colours all blending in together leads to what I like to call ‘Where The F Are They?!’ syndrome.
I compared this game to Serious Sam for a few reasons, firstly the balls out stupidity of it all. The game’s voice over work features silly jokes and swearing, which when you hear for the first time are smile worthy but after death 20 you’ll soon learn to loathe. The other reason I compare this to Serious Sam is that it’s taken shortcuts in terms of design, but for the betterment of the game on the whole. There is a story here, something about an island off the coast of California, crack team of UN soldiers, something, something whatever. It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. This is a game where you only have to use a single pistol for 20 seconds, then it hands you another, 20 seconds after that you get a rocket launcher and shortly after that you get a magical fist that shoots glowing blue balls.
This isn’t going to change the world as we know it, the game is lacking in substance and polish, with speed runs and the lack of depth it could easily be accused of not being a well-rounded game, and it’s true, the game doesn’t stand up to many full releases today, but that being said it has been well-built for its purpose, and that purpose is to give the player the opportunity to blow seven shades of SS out of Nazi cultists and watch blood and entrails stain their monitor.