Here’s a secret: I never played the original Rise of the Triad. I know that probably makes me a sinner.
Can you blame me though? I was four when it was first released. I doubt my parents would have let me run around shooting people before I even knew what videogames were.
Luckily there are companies like Apogee Software and Interceptor Entertainment that felt really sorry for people like me and decided to reboot the shooter for modern audiences. I now see what I was missing out on in the 90s—a time where stories were small or nonexistent, action was fast and violence was exaggerated and borderline offensive. More than anything, though, if games back then were anything like Rise of the Triad, they were a lot of fun and impossibly hard.
That’s the appeal of the old school. Games were infamously difficult, didn’t provide many checkpoints, and didn’t hold your hand even in the earliest levels. Since I started playing late, I’m used to being coddled. As somebody who didn’t touch her first shooter until the first Half Life back on the PlayStation 2, it took me a few deaths and restarts to get the feel of Rise of the Triad. It plays incredibly fast and doesn’t allow much time to breathe. My avatar runs at superhuman speeds and the enemies will empty their clips and reload within seconds. Each level in the single-player campaign is timed and factors into my overall score and ranking at completion. As many modern action games value strategy and stealth over the chaotic raging seen here, it takes some getting used to. The first time I tried to hide from the enemies was definitely the last time.
Despite the hectic gameplay, there’s still time to stop and explore. In fact, it’s encouraged. This contradiction is what sets Triad apart from other shooters, retro-styled or otherwise. Each level features many secret rooms and nooks where you can find weapons, power-ups and coins to increase your score and level up the experience. Those tired of the closed corridor, linear style of modern-day shooters will appreciate these complicated labyrinths where it’s easy to get lost but not impossible to finish. You can take multiple paths through doors and blow holes in the walls. It’s in these rooms where you find the game’s charm in unexpected modes like God Mode, bulletproof armor and the Drunk Missile (some of these are better in play than others).
Triad isn’t just an old-school shooter. It has personality and an absurd sense of humor that’ll draw in new players and maybe even convert them to this new fandom. The enemies explode when shot at, coating you in blood and body parts. If you get the timing right, you can get some eyeballs to the face. It’s not particularly pleasant by any society’s standards, but that’s not what videogames like this are for.
The multiplayer takes this nostalgia to the extreme. It features typical death matches and capture the flag-style rounds with up to 20 players. It’s easy to understand, but most players will be astounded by how terrible they are thanks to Triad’s speedy shooting and various technical problems that plague the game.
Triad offers great potential for long-term replayability, but it’s rough around the edges. There are a lot of glitches where the player can’t pick up weapons, for example, along with plenty of optimization problems even on higher-end PCs. The multiplayer mode, understandably, is even worse. There were many occasions where other players glitched in and out of my line of sight and movement was very jittery. While it’s still fun—and one of the fastest-paced shooters I’ve played—the technical problems make it hard to get anything done. I initially thought that it was my low-end PC or less-than-desired skills that were causing some of my problems, but after research, it seems to be more widespread. If you were thinking about making a purchase, try and wait until a patch gets released that fixes some of the bugs.
I don’t know about other players, but I’ll be awaiting the updates that’ll fix some of the worst problems. In the meantime, I’ll still be attempting to finish campaigns on anything but easy (and without using the endless supply of always accessible cheat codes). So yes, I never beat the game before writing up this review. I don’t think I ever will complete it, get all of the achievements, or perfect each level. I’m probably not going to win any multiplayer matches either. Games like Rise of the Triad remind me that I’m still behind the times. I missed out on a golden age of action games and should probably poke around eBay to see what I missed. I sense a lot of work in my future. At least I’ll have fun trying.
Carli Velocci is a freelance journalist in Boston, Massachusetts. She has written for DigBoston and Gameranx and isn’t afraid of anything. You can find her on Twitter @revierypone.