It's almost impossible, at first, to hold any scorn for Rise of the Triad, Interceptor Entertainment's modern update of the cult classic twitch shooter. The silly one-liners, absurdly fast movement speed, and cheesy shred metal soundtrack all hark back to the days when shooters had rich color palettes and didn't take themselves so seriously. In today's set piece-driven climate, you'd almost consider a game like Rise of the Triad--more interested in challenge and breadth than spectacle--a breath of fresh air. Then, when you get to the campaign's first boss, die countless times from cheap environmental hazards and overpowered rocket attacks, and defeat him by merely standing in an adjacent room and firing through the door, you might start to reconsider your stance.
From the font to the music, Rise of the Triad has the presentation of an FPS from the mid-'90s down perfectly, but it's also a jarring reminder that not everything from that period has stood the test of time. The game is often gruelingly difficult, but rarely for good reasons. The campaign constantly diverges into precision platforming, which mightily clashes with both the breakneck speed at which your character moves, and the checkpoint system frequently forces you repeating large chunks of levels that you'd rather be finished with for good. When the combat gets tough, it's because of occasional bullet-sponge enemies with overpowered explosive attacks.
"The game is often gruelingly difficult, but rarely for good reasons."
In stark contrast, the run-of-the-mill soldiers that you spend most of your time gunning down pose virtually no threat; sometimes they don't even realize you're there. Many of them will stand still and blankly stare in one direction until they're under fire, while others will charge from spawn points and run right past you before attacking. Your two primary weapons in Rise of the Triad have unlimited ammunition, which certainly begs the question of why a "reload" function is necessary when clips never run dry, but this at least underlines the campaign's emphasis on straightforward, unburdened gunplay. Still, AI still needs to behave sensibly for a shooter of this nature to work.
Rise of the Triad is rife with technical issues, from incessant performance problems to outright glitches, such as guns occasionally not functioning correctly or not appearing altogether. It also doesn't look especially pretty. In particular, the gore--often touted as one of the defining characteristics of both the original game and the reboot--is unsatisfying, plentiful as it may be. Gibs frequently clip through objects and get stuck in walls, and the geysers of blood are just massive red pillars that awkwardly jut and lurch from severed body parts with no regard for how liquids actually flow. (To call them "particle effects" is almost a stretch.) It's aggravating that what should be the basest joy of Rise of the Triad's wanton violence--the pleasure of watching enemy soldiers burst into pieces--is something that the game stumbles with.
"Rise of the Triad is rife with technical issues..."
If you do enjoy Rise of the Triad, you can take comfort in knowing that there's an awful lot of content being offered here. The campaign does feel somewhat padded--most evident in the tiresome hunts for keys and switches--but it's lengthy nonetheless, and a robust scoring system encourages replays. The massive, sprawling levels are full of collectibles, secret areas, and Easter eggs, so those who spend more time than average with Rise of the Triad will be rewarded for their dedication.
The game's selling point, however, is its multiplayer. Brisk and frenetic, it's a counterpoint to nearly any other mainstream, competitive shooter on the market these days, in a good way. It's still awash with many of the technical shortcomings that hamper the campaign, but it's also free of both the lousy AI and crippling design choices, which allows Rise of the Triad to focus entirely on lightning-fast combat between players. Ironsights aiming has been added with this reimagining, but it's just for show, and anyone who fusses with it is likely playing incorrectly. Victory is decided less by precision and more by one's affinity with rocket jumps. Game types are limited, but that's sort of the point: to strip away any excess baggage and simply release 16 players into an arena to kill one another as quickly and loudly as possible.
"The game's selling point, however, is its multiplayer."
Your reaction to Rise of the Triad, then, may depend on what you hope to get out of it. For those who aren't already ardent fans of the original and are looking for a solid solo experience, it may be an "update" in the visual department only, and one that doesn't even manage to look very good. Even so, Rise of the Triad delivers on over-the-top weapons, goofy power-ups, and one of the most sincere deathmatch modes in quite some time, and it's undeniably a retro experience from top to bottom.
This game was reviewed on PC.