Remember back when playing a first-person shooter was a completely non-serious engagement? Once you inserted that disk (or in some cases, floppy disk) into your machine, you knew you were only minutes away from shooting away some humanoid-pigs, looking for that one secret you knew you had missed in DOOM, or attempting to blast away your friends in a competitive round of Quake. Nowadays, a majority of shooters take place in present-day conflict, with real-life skirmishes being recreated digitally and — while they do have their place in the industry, and I have enjoyed my fair share of them — they are, just by their setting, harder to call completely innocent fun. Rather than running and gunning, real-life tactics are put into play in the modern shooter. What happened to the days when people could run around a small, confined map, shoot some baddies that don’t carry much of any real-world baggage, and just have some fun? I’m very, very happy to say, those days aren’t completely lost, with the advent of Rise of the Triad.
“But Rise of the Triad is an old game” you say. “That released way back in 1994!’. Well, right you are little reader, but I’ve got some news for you: There’s a new one! And it’s completely, and utterly insane. Just as I’d hoped it would be.
The single-player component opens up with a comic book-style tile layout with hand-drawn stills and fully-acted voice-overs. This opening scene is the player’s introduction to “The HUNT (High-risk United Nations Taskforce)”, a
highly trained crazy and incredibly proficient seemingly dysfunctional team of five. The HUNT is sent on a recon mission to the Triad’s (a group of people who do bad things) base, but wouldn’t you know it? That mission goes horribly awry, and before you know it you have no choice but to kill every single living being in the Triad’s base of operations.
The game’s trappings are appropriately retro-feeling. Upon playing the game for the first time I immediately felt a rush of nostalgia, feeling the familiar “bouncy” camera and deliberately fast movement speed. It plays very similarly to the likes of Wolfenstein 3D or Duke Nukem 3D, and — though I’ve never played it — I’m guessing it plays a whole lot like the original Rise of the Triad. It’s a classic shooter through-and-through, the only exception to that decidedly (and in some cases stubbornly) old-school direction is the inclusion of iron-sights. Hardcore fans may call foul at the inclusion of the zoomed-in aiming assistant, but I feel it’s a necessary evil, as the draw-distance, and map size in this game are far larger than in any of the other games mentioned.
Like I said before, the game is incredibly old-school and that’s a good thing ninety-percent of the time. But in some cases, it’s old-school to a fault. For example, most every boss encounter after the first is incredibly difficult — and might I add sort of unfair — on any difficulty above Easy. Blame my incompetency if you will, it may very well be to blame. But the boss encounters, and the tail-end of the game are brutally difficult. For instance, the game starts you out with standard Triad soldiers, if you aren’t paying attention to them they can do you some harm, but they’re pretty easily over-powered. However, in the final episode (there are four “Episodes” in the game, each featuring four levels) of the game they introduce a new enemy-type “Monks”. Monks take almost twice as much damage as standard soldiers, and to make things even more interesting, in your first encounter with them you’re met by six of them, and they aren’t sissys when it comes to dolling out damage either. Again, maybe modern-day shooters have just nursed me to the point where I need my foes to have but a small sliver of health. But if you ask me, it would feel much more natural if the game’s difficulty would ratchet up gradually rather than be so sporadic.
That said, the game still has a lot of retro-charm that I absolutely adore. It’s chock-full of secrets requiring players to rocket-jump, and preform other daring feats. I forgot how much I missed this kind of exploration in shooters. I know for a fact that I missed a great deal of Rise of the Triad’s secrets, and I can’t wait to go back and find them all. There is also a great deal of variety to be found in the game. In one mission you’ll be shooting outrageous amounts of enemies, and in the next you’ll be hopping from platform to platform, or going through an obstacle-course full of fiery hazards.
Because of its decidedly old-school mindset, I found myself wondering whether or not some of the smaller issues I had with the game were accidental, or intentional. An example of what I mean is the heavily repeated player-character dialog. I feel like they could have easily gotten the voice-actors to at least say a few more lines, but would too much variance in the in-game dialog make the game feel too “Modern”? Was the repeated dialog intentional to remind players that this is an entirely old-school game with very nice graphics? “Floppys can only hold so much data, you know”. Well, I don’t know. I almost feel like that might be the case, but that doesn’t make the dialog grow any less tiresome. While a few lines did make me laugh out loud the first time I heard them, they’re repeated so heavily that toward the end of the game I nearly turned-down the game’s sound off altogether.
Multiplayer is of course a big feature in a retro game of this nature. In fact, I initially though the game was multiplayer-only. But in addition to the relatively lengthy single-player campaign, the game offers the classic trio of multiplayer game-types, Deathmatch, Team-Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. And the gameplay translates really well to these game-types. But I’d highly recommend grabbing a few friends to play with rather than joining a public server. Not only will you be exposed to some incredibly out-spoken individuals online, but you’ll also be facing a bunch of people who surely consider themselves Rise of the Triad veterans.
This is a more forward-thinking point, but I’m super excited to see what the game’s community makes, as the game is completely moddable, with a free modding-kit being set to release soon. On top of that, the game will supposedly have totally free DLC. Some of my best experiences with older games like Marathon were with mods, so I can’t wait to see what crazy things people will come up with in the coming weeks with an (ideally) more powerful mod-kit to work with.
Even with its occasionally sporadic difficulty, and some sort of unfair sections, I can’t help but recommend this homage to the old-school shooter. Its single-player is highly replayable, and it’s multiplayer will likely keep me entertained for quite some time… If I can find some people to play with.