Looking back on videogames of 90’s, specifically those early years of Quake, Doom, and Duke Nukem, you get a sense of the landscape back then. Ultra-violence, crude humor, and pure action were the hallmarks of that period. The gloss back then wasn’t quite as thick as it is today with developers looking at the vital core of a game and bringing a raw experience that was simple, if not eloquently so.
Now that we live in a time where we’re seeing a massive revival of these older titles, nostalgia seems to be in full bloom.Developed by Interceptor Entertainment, and published under the “sister” company of 3D Realms, Apogee LLC, Rise of the Triad is, in all its glory, a type of reboot that takes the source material and puts it through the steam press that is current graphics. Utilizing the latest version of the Unreal Engine, barring the release of UE 4.0, the game takes a step into a more fundamentally three dimensional direction for its gory, fast-paced presentation.
If you’ve played the original, of which became available to you had you pre-ordered it from GOG, then you’ll know the score for the most part. The story of ROTT centers around a crack team of combat specialists from around the world, dubbed HUNT, who are tasked with bringing down a cult that has taken residence on the island of San Nicolas, off the coast of California. The team’s boat is destroyed, and so they’re forced to engage the cultist forces head on.
There’s little else story-wise and that’s generally how FPS-style games tended to run during the early 90’s. You’re plopped down into the out-lying compound of the Triad, the cultists that I mentioned, and are forced to run and gun your way to victory. The set-up is simple, but the underlying methodology is decided more complex, and obscure.
Sure you’ll pick up rocket launchers here and there, your pistol and machinegun ammo are infinite, and you’ll be speeding down a hallway like a bullet in an air vent, but the game isn’t always about that. Taking time to stop and appreciate the game’s nuances, you realize that a linear experience can offer an artfully developed game. Does that mean ROTT is masterfully developed? Well, no, but it does do exactly what you expect for this kind of shooter, and adds in a little bit more to boot.
The game allows you, at the start, to choose between the five team members of HUNT, each of whom have particular qualities about them that lend to their abilities. Some run fast, others are harder to kill, and so the game gives you the option to decide who you want to approach the game, beyond the arbitrary difficulty setting. From there you’ll be given a small set of weapons to choose from, a few more ‘imaginative’ than others. You’ll have your standard pistols and machine guns, sure, and you’ll pick up a bazooka now and then, but sometimes you’ll pick up a heat-seeking rocket launcher, the classic firebomb which sends a wall of fire out from the grenade you launched; and even the estranged Excalibat, which hosts a green glowing eye, and lets you shoot exploding baseballs.
The fact is, the game is developed as bizarrely as possible, just as the classic ROTT was like to do. Of course, there are other elements to the game.
There will be mazes full of death traps, puzzles which require you to determine which lever to pull, key hunting, and… god help me… platforming sections.
Oh platforming sections. You are truly the bane of my existence.
Now that’s not to say they aren’t welcome. I do appreciate what they offer, and it does mix up the gameplay a bit so you’re not just shooting things all the time, though my experience with these has been less than stellar. In fact, more so. A lot of people out there, including a few of my friends, really do not have the patience for first-person platforming, and the reason being that generally when you’re platforming in a game, you’ll want to be able to gauge where you land, and accuracy in movement is key.
ROTT’s habit of you blasting across the room like a rocket does not a good platforming section make. There is no function to slow your character down and increase precision beyond selecting that slower-moving character before a mission. Does that mean these things are impossible to traverse? No. But, well… there are other games that handle these sections better.
The game isn’t exactly long, rounding out to about an 8 to 10 hour experience, with variation depending upon how skilled you are at this game. This game capitalizes on secret areas, which often require you to use rocket jumps and other maneuvers to reach these places, and all of them have significant bonuses that lend to your end-level score, as well as other goodies. In fact, a major portion of the game lends itself to your score, through kills, secrets, and oddly enough, coin gathering. You’ll be searching the level for collectible coins throughout, and since there are many different types of coins, you’ll get to varying amounts of points from them.
The game doesn’t feature any sort of health regeneration, so you’ll be needing to keep an eye out for food stuffs, and this is really where we step into crude humor territory. I never knew that Priest’s Porridge was so high in fiber. Other elements of humor include a God Mode items that essentially gives you the Hand of God , makes you nigh-impervious, and lets you vaporize enemies with a single flick of the wrist. You’ll also be treated to Dog Mode, which makes you a dog, invincible, and allows you to instantly kill anyone with a charge attack. Too bad other games haven’t done this yet. The game also features “Power Downs” like Spring Mode which causes you to slide around and bounce off walls, and ‘Shroom Mode, which … basically wobbles the screen around, making it harder to aim. I honestly expected a bit more from that one.
The game attempts to be an homage to the original, a love letter if you will to a classic, but the attempt is a bit hollow in that it borrows possibly too much from the original game, and leaves little else to give this reboot a personality. There is a fine line here, and building on the success of a previous game only goes as far as you’re willing to take it. It would have been nice to see Interceptor build its own identity while still taking inspiration from the previous game, and since we’re stuck in Reboot Limbo these days, I’d like to note that naming the reboot the same thing as the original game does nothing but add confusion, but I suppose the name fits.
The game is still relatively buggy, getting stuck on corners, and watching the physics engine of UE 3.0 bug out in several areas. The movement model needs some adjusting, especially when in areas with knee-high obstacles, and there are other minor issues here and there. I had to turn the settings down on my old crappy rig, but modern machines should be able to work around all of that with ease. The game itself is DRM-Free, and the leader boards and official servers are run through Interceptor, but you can still play in offline mode if you so desire. Multiplayer can also be hosted locally over a LAN, or through DirectIP, but the offering there is bare-bones at best, with only 3 gametypes and small handful of maps. There is a promised toolset to come in the future, so expect the community to dole out most of the online content and mods if you’re hoping to expand on your multiplayer experience.
Interceptor has accomplished a big achievement. An achievement that proves what one can do with the power of the internet: creating a virtual studio filled with people from different corners of the Earth without a central office, who then manages to develop a game from start to finish. The spoils of such an uphill battle are richer for it in my book. Do I recommend this game? Sure. But I do challenge those behind it to strive for greater heights in the future, should there be an Interceptor Entertainment afterwards.