Rise of the Triad sells PC gaming back to you for $15, and it’s ugly, fast, silly, and fun
Rise of the Triad
The problem with trying to please everyone is that the end result often pleases no one. Many games try so hard to appeal to a wide audience that you’re left with a soggy, indistinct mess by the time the game is released.
The modern remake of Rise of the Triad, to its eternal credit, knows what kind of game it wants to be. It’s fast as hell, completely silly, and doesn’t make a bit of sense. It doesn’t try to retrofit a serious, gritty, or brooding atmosphere over a game that was gleefully nonsensical. In many ways it can feel like an unpolished passion project on the part of Interceptor Entertainment.
The problems, and why they don’t matter
You have to buy into the idea behind Rise of the Triad, and that idea is to get back to what made PC gaming so interesting in the past. You can mod the game, there is no DRM, you can play it offline, multiplayer is possible through a direct IP connection, over a LAN, or you can host your own servers. If you don't fondly recall the time that these features were the norm, you may wonder what the fuss is about.
There is a collection of cheat codes you can enter to change how the game is played, and they’re almost all fun for at least a few minutes. You get the sense that the game is yours when you buy it, and that’s a rare thing these days.
That’s the good part of the experience. The bad part is that the enemies are completely brain dead, and you’ll often be overwhelmed by enemy fire without being able to tell where it’s coming from. The save point system is frustrating, as is the game’s insistence that jumping is a fun mechanic in a first-person shooter of this type. The pace of the game is fast, fast, fast. You have to move and react at a speed that you almost never see in modern games, and will challenge your ability to read a situation on the fly.
Rise of the Triad can be brutally difficult, and the “find a key, find the door, move ahead” rhythm of the levels is anachronistic. Gaming has evolved out of most of these habits, and that’s a good thing. Interceptor seemed to stubbornly hang onto everything about PC gaming from this era, both the good and the bad.
Your health is a finite thing, and you can only get it back by eating priest porridge or monk meal. Your machine gun has unlimited ammo, and explosive weapons come early in the game and are plentiful. You can eat a magic mushroom and go on a trip, and there is a “dog mode” where you can bark at the bad guys and make them explode.
The baseball bat has an eyeball in it. There are missiles that careen around as if they were drunk. None of this has to make any sense, and the game doesn’t attempt to explain it. You’ll run into some glitches, such as the enemies not firing at you, or falling through the floor after death, but they almost feel like part of the experience.
Alone and an easy target
The multiplayer is also a joyfully retro experience. There are “only” three modes, deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, and five maps, but each one requires you to know the maps to win.
Even more importantly, you need to understand the maps, and how they play. The action can get thick very quickly, so if you don’t know how to get to the best weapons, how to shut down certain areas from the competition, and where and how to move quickly… you’re toast. You can’t level up or count or any kind of advantage from grinding; the only thing you bring to each round is your knowledge and skill.
This is a great LAN game, and the fast-paced nature of movement and the area-of-effect aspects of so many of the weapons makes for some often silly matches, but pure mechanical skill will always find itself on top. This can be frustrating for new players, or those less skilled with a mouse and keyboard, but every win feels earned in a way that you don't get with many modern games. If you bought the game only for the multiplayer, I don't think you wasted your $15, and I can only hope the modding community takes off.
There are rough edges here, and plenty of them, but the world of gaming is better off with this sort of passion project in it. See you online.