I may be a child of the 80′s, but it was the 90′s that would introduce me to a genre of video game I would never let go of. In 1994 my parents bought me my very first PC: A 486 DX4 running at 100 MHz. It had 4 or 8 MB of SIMM RAM, a Trident VGA video card and a Sound Blaster Pro compatible sound card. It came with an internal 33.6k dial-up fax modem.
All I knew was, it was better than my cousin’s 386 SX. And it meant that while his PC choked on Wolfenstein 3D, my mini tower let me play titles like Doom and Rise of the Triad. This was the rise of the FPS. The competition for players’ attentions was fierce and the name of the game was speed. Speed, gore, and heavy metal. We would stay up late into the night pushing one checkpoint further. One more key to grab. One more door to open. One more rocket to shove down our enemy’s throat.
Strap down and dig your heals in.
I hadn’t realized just how slow and easy shooters had gotten. With games pushing graphical fidelity and hamfisted drama above everything else, gamers — myself included — have gotten used to cover fire, regenerating health, and fewer and fewer enemies on screen. We’re told it’s all about pushing realism; Great care is taken to try and recreate the experience of watching “Saving Private Ryan” for the first time. We’ve gotten soft. We’ve forgotten how to run and gun.
The fine people at developer Interceptor Entertainment and publisher Apogee Software (Yes, that Apogee. Sort of. It’s complicated.) remember the shooters of old and they’re here to set us right. Rise of the Triad isn’t a simple HD port of the original title. It’s a love letter to the way FPS games used to play.
Prepare to kill them all.
30 people from around the globe put the new ROTT together, forming a virtual development studio. One person could be working on a firearm model in Japan, while another might be texturing that same model in a one bedroom apartment somewhere watching the sun rise. Driven by their collective passion, Interceptor put together a game with some 20+ levels in a year and a half with full multiplayer. All that and there are 5 playable characters at the onset, 2 of which are women.
It runs on Unreal Engine 3, which means the game’s no slouch in the graphical department. There are a number of options to play with, so if your PC is old and busted you can turn everything down and still get fast gameplay. On the other hand if your PC can barely contain it’s phenomenal power, there are plenty of effects to turn up. The soundtrack is a re-imagining of the original title’s, and original composer Lee Jackson (also known for his work on Duke Nukem 3D) even came back to advise the new sound team. You’ll want to turn up the sound. And hey, if you miss the old sound, I’ve got some news: you can enable the Classic soundtrack!
You’ll pull the trigger when it’s due.
There’s no sandbox gameplay here. Your inventory is limited. You actually have to collect health pick ups, which take effect instantly. The levels are mostly linear – but there are all sorts of hidden passages to find, and you might even find some classic ROTT levels ported in game complete with original textures. You don’t gain experience. You’re able to use any firearm you find without an in-game tutorial. You’ll have to collect keys and open gates. There are arena-style boss fights. If you’re expecting the next Call of Duty, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You’ll find no handholding here.
What you will find is a title that’s DRM free, has dedicated servers and LAN play. If you buy the game on GOG.com and your buddy buys it on Steam, you can still play over the internet together. Rise of the Triad is 100% moddable with a toolkit expected shortly after release. Interceptor has even committed to releasing free DLC in the future. Online multiplayer is fast and furious with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and CTF modes — everything an old school gamer could want. Community maps are supported, of course. And one little surprise that blew me away: The in game chat system features text-to-speech! So even without voice chat you can keep your attention on the fight.
By going back to basics, Rise of the Triad has returned to the gameplay that used to keep me up at night. I can’t wait to miss more sleep.