Rise of the Triad Review: Prepare To Swear At Your PC
Should you care? Nah, it’s an excuse plot at best, but it’s worth paying attention to if only for the exposition conveyed via comic book panels at the beginning of the story and in between missions. In the best old-school style, you get everything you need to know to keep plugging along through kill after kill. And it’s in the killing that Rise of the Triad shines — and also groin-punches you.
If you’ve ever played the original, you’ll already know what I’m talking about, but for those of you who haven’t, an overview: Weapons are both absurdly unrealistic and horrifically realistic in the worst possible ways. Your pistol ammo isn’t scarce, but the weapon, even when you get to double-gun it John Woo style, is not effective for anything but a last resort. Your machine gun is a more effective weapon, great for sawing enemies in half viciously, or the occasional squinted long distance kill, but you’ll empty a lot of bullets into the seemingly impervious kneecaps of your opponents. The game’s copious rocket launchers — there are different varieties, including one that causes a chain of explosions behind it — are the most generally effective weapons, but ammo is very limited and if you miss, you have as good a chance of doing superficial damage to an enemy as you do blowing them to shreds. You can also very frequently kill yourself with them. It’s maddening.
That adds an interesting challenge, because for many of you (us, honestly), you’ll have to catch yourself making tactical decisions that assume such elements, and be forced to adjust your thinking accordingly.
At the same time, the game offers wildly different experiences via the playable characters who each come with their own buffs and limitations. They’re not specialized to the point of occupying specific classes, but Doug Wendt is pretty close to a tank, Thi Barrett is close to a thief, and so on. You’ll find the game plays out differently depending on who you’ve chosen, even if the enemies are as irritatingly relentless and expert at killing you no matter which one.
It helps that the game goes beyond being a simple modern update of the original title. While 2013′s Rise of the Triad is functionally and aesthetically built on that game, it carves out a unique space in part because it was made with the knowledge of 20 years of the evolution of gaming that preceded it.
And ROTT is constantly cracking jokes about the tropes of video games we once took for granted. Play as Thi Barrett, for instance, and as she’s damaged she’ll scream “MEDIC! A BOX WITH A CROSS ON IT! ANYTHING!” If you die several times in a row, you’ll be mocked for it by a disembodied voice wondering, “So your plan was to lose?” or telling you, “Yeah, so you’re not John Woo.” During a mission briefing before the second level begins, you’re informed that the antigrav platforms seen throughout the game were used instead of stairs for a brief moment in the mid-90s, “for some reason.”
On the other hand, the game is sincerely clothed in legacy features from the original, as well as old-school tropes, that make its difficulty sensible. It’s bloody — you even win an achievement for a particularly grisly kind of bloodshed. Characters can be shot into pieces, blood spills out in thick chunks, and downed-but-not-killed characters beg for mercy (not that you’ll give it). Health pies return, as do coins, secret areas, magical power ups, and classic weapons like the Excalibat. You can even turn into a dog (and yes, still kill people) for a limited time. It’s gleefully ridiculous at every turn, and it’s glorious. The only thing missing is a “winners don’t use drugs” screen brought to you by the FBI.
That said, it looks incredible for a game drenched in old-timeyness. Running at high settings, it still looks very geometric in the way games used to look, but colors throb, textures look tactile, and lighting is rich. Built on Unreal 3, it’ll run fine on most PCs, but Interceptor has included “Ludicrous Mode,” which they swear will “make high-end PCs cry in pain.” Those of you with high-end PCs are encouraged to let us know how it turned out.