Publisher: Apogee Software
Developer: Inceptor Entertainment
OH SNAP. What is it about remakes and reboots these days? OH right, capitalizing on a built-in audience leading to – presumably – more sales. It’s kind of funny though, because I don’t remember too many people actually playing RotT beyond the shareware version and for those that did it quickly got overshadowed by the top dogs (Doom, then Duke, then Quake). Two things stuck out for me though — it had those kick ass jump pads and it was the first FPS I can remember that actually had dual pistols which, during the mid-90s John Woo-influenced action era, was the cat’s ass… Then, of course, Max Payne came out and set the standard. I’m digressing, I know, but the problem is the recent remake of Rise of the Triad is essentially a straight-up remake. Like it feels the same and basically looks the same (no, not really, but kind of).
In fact, the only thing that has been changed is the presentation, and it is NOT for the better. The comic book style intro cutscene almost seems like it’s going to be good, but then it actually starts and you’re sitting there wondering if the cheese was intentionally bad, or just bad-bad. Whatever they paid for voice acting was too much… Wait, maybe it wasn’t the voice acting, but definitely the dialogue editing. Lines read way slower than the comic book thought-bubbles come up, so you’ve essentially read through the two or three words/sentences, and then some way too over the top dudes/chicks say the lines with long beats in delivery. It’s wicked bad, but fortunately only lasts a couple of minutes… And it’s skippable, but then you wouldn’t know the game’s thought provoking premise (kidding, of course).
The story goes that a cult has taken over an Island off the coast of California, and it’s up to the futuristic HUNT unit — High-risk United Nations Task-force — to do some recon and find out what they’re up to. Upon arrival to the island, the HUNT team’s boat is destroyed and their only course of action is to fight their way through the base and put an end to the Triad, who are hell bent on world domination.
RotT, then and now, allows you to choose from one of five HUNT characters, each with their own characteristics. Realistically the game doesn't hinge on any of these characteristics (although I think certain secrets areas can only be accessed by characters that jump higher or run faster). What makes the game fun/different is the gib-factor; RotT is about straight-up fragging. Enemies dumb and basically explode on bullet impact and the game is more about racking up points than making it to the end of a stage. There are “coins” to collect and you get awarded higher points for combo killing, headshots, and the like. Plus the power-ups are awesome — two words: dog mode.
Like a lot of games of early/mid-90s, Rise of the Triad plays *really* fast. As in, maybe a little too fast. If you’re used to playing Haloz and/or COD this game probably won’t be your cup of tea. I wouldn’t say it’s a twitch shooter, more like a circle strafe shooter. Which makes sense, as RotT bridged the gap between Wolfenstein 3D and Doom (actually it was originally supposed to be a level pack for W3D.) Multiplayer definitely plays better on a mouse and keyboard, but the AI in single player is pretty easy to dominate regardless of the controls used. That reminds me, the big change to the controls this time out is that there is freelook, something that the original game didn't have. Huzzah!
Unfortunately that's where the innovation stops. Like the original SP bosses are their own breed of annoying. It takes too long to kill them and their stacked with devastating weapons. What’s worse is that the reason they’re so difficult isn't because they’re particularly clever or require a cool takedown method, but rather that they can take so much damage — in other words it’s a false sense of difficulty, which equals frustration. Similarly aggravating is the save system, which is actually a step backwards — no saving and checkpoints absurdly far apart — and the slew of jump-puzzle death traps. It’s bad enough that you’re playing “find the key to unlock the door” missions, but when you have mind numbingly difficult traps to navigate followed by insta-death bosses, it gets more than a little bothersome.
16 player multiplayer, which is honestly why I think the game was remade and the major reason you’d buy it, actually plays pretty well… assuming you can get accustomed to the speed of deathmatch circa 1995. The jump pads are wicked fun and levels are designed for carnage. Unfortunately there are currently only half a dozen maps or so (although the developers are promising free downloads), and modes are essentially limited to deathmatch, team deathmatch, and CTF. Weapons (there are a boatload, all with secondary fire) lean heavily towards projectile-based explosives. When you’re using ordering bullets — something that’s adequate (and even fun to use) in SP — you’re at a serious disadvantage.
While Rise of the Triad maintains its roots, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The fact of the matter is, RotT shows that gaming (or at least gameplay) has evolved quite dramatically over the past twenty years. I’m having a hard time deciding if I appreciate RotT, or just appreciate the idea of RotT in the what’s-old-is-new-again sense. At the very least it shows a window into the FPS genre during its infancy, which will be nostalgic for some and a learning experience for others. Even the price point — $15 — doesn’t make it easier to recommend; on one hand, it is exactly the same as you remember (just updated to 3D), and on the other hand it’s exactly the same as you remember but 20 years later. Moreover, and probably the biggest thing working against it, is that you could always just load up the re-releases of the other classics (Doom, Duke, Quake) to get your nostalgia fix… I mean, Q3A/QuakeLive has been free to play in your web browser for years now. Tough sell.