Rise of the Triad is an exercise in resurrection. Much loved as one of the 1990s stand out and most innovative first person shooters, it holds a special place in the history of modern gaming. Like Lazarus rising from the dead to walk again, Interceptor Entertainment have taken the iconic game on board and given it a 21st century reboot. What has resulted is a strange and fascinating game, that is sure to divide critical opinion.
For fans who watched dawn break on the modern first person genre, 2013’s ROTT is a trip down memory lane. But a newer generation of gamers will be bemused and perplexed by this oddly put together and at times downright broken title. ROTT’s 2013 reboot poses a challenge to developers: do we need to look backwards in order to move forwards? Or is the past best left dead, like Lazarus?
Rise of the Triad sticks closely to its predecessor. It follows the same story, plays on the same narrative, and features the same characters. Even the menu audio is the same. Interceptor Entertainment have done exactly what they said they would do. They have taken the ROTT experience, put new graphics on old gameplay, slapped a price on it, and sent it out the door.
The game features H.U.N.T - the High-risk United Nations Task-force. Not much is mentioned about HUNT, or what they do - apart from the fact that they are highly trained super soldiers with a penchant for rampant destruction. Just like the original, they are told to infiltrate San Nicolas island to take down a secret cult, who are intent on destroying the city of Los Angeles.
Interceptor have embraced the madness of the original with glee, and reproduced ROTT’s world in all its surreal splendour. The cult, and the island they live on, is an evil genius’ wildest fantasy. There are castles, robots, nazi-style stormtroopers, Schutzstaffel officers, booby traps, bottomless pits, power ups, lava rivers, dungeons, hulking German bosses, and rocket launchers. Lots and lots of rocket launchers.
We are introduced to HUNT and the ROTT world through a quick and dirt comic book cinematic early in the game. But once that’s over, there’s not much more Interceptor has to say. And they don't really need to. ROTT has never pretended to be anything more than a gory, fast paced shooter. It's a product of the early nineties, where men had big muscles and the United Nations still mattered. Interceptor did well by not interfering.
However, if there is a criticism to be made of ROTT’s story, it's that Interceptor missed an opportunity to invent. In 1994, the technology did not exist for developers to build complex characterisation into fast paced shooters. Aside from pithy one liners, which Interceptor have retained, it was hard to make gamers care about who they were and why that mattered. For a game as well loved as ROTT it would have been a bold move to add new depth to ROTT’s cast of characters. Interceptor have played it safe.
ROTT’s progression also follows a similar pattern to the original, and the game is broken up into episodes. Within each episode are a series of maps that culminate in a final boss. It's exactly the same mechanic we’ve seen a thousand times, sure, but it works. It works because it gives players a linear direction, while not constricting them to linear gameplay.
The gameplay is simple, your character enters a level and must fight their way through, collecting items along the way. Unlike the cookie cutter “cine-shooters” pumped out by modern studios, the gameplay is not scripted and the maps aren't linear. Like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Hexen, your character needs to work their way through each labyrinthian level, finding keys to open up new areas. It's a style of game design that has slowly fallen out of favour so it was heartening to see Interceptor make the choice to retain it.
The combat mechanic is also transported straight from the original. Each map is filled with cultists out to take you down, and you need to blow them away. At first it's hilarious and fun. The garish gore, completely unhelpful but very funny powerups, and fast paced action that made the original famous, have all been replicated. But after awhile, this ludicrous experience becomes rote. It is also incredibly difficult - even on easier difficulties. Which is odd, given that the enemy AI is very poor and is sometimes fundamentally broken.
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