Rise of the Triad (2013) Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: August 8, 2013
Video games have changed a lot over the past twenty years, as more powerful computers could run more powerful engines and new ideas could be explored. As much as games have changed though, in some ways they have stayed the same, as gamers and developers fondly remember those titles from the past. Sometimes the developers just take inspiration from the classic games, but other times they just rebuild the game, taking full advantage of modern hardware. Such is the case with Interceptor Entertainment, as it has rebuilt Rise of the Triad in Unreal Engine 3.
Originally released in 1994, Rise of the Triad is a first-person shooter with about as much violence and gore as you could get back then. Because of how young I was at the time, I should not have even known it existed, but then I have an older brother who is interested in video games, so I got some game time in. After all these years though, I do not remember the gameplay much, but I do remember the ridiculous weapons. Don't want to spoil them here; you will have to check out the gameplay section for that.
If you are someone who should not be looking at gore, or simply prefers not to see it, you probably do not want to look at a number of the screenshots in this review. I play with the gore turned on.
Thanks to the passion of the developers, and continual interest from the community, Rise of the Triad has been reborn, with a near exact reproduction in UE3. Is this blast from the past a critical hit, or just another modern FPS to blend in with the others? Read on to find out.
Normally I say that graphics are among the least important aspect of a game, but in this situation they are somewhat important, as it is one of the aspects that make this remastering stand out from the original.
Running with Unreal Engine 3, the same engine behind many modern games, including Borderlands 2 and Bioshock Infinite, Rise of the Triad has a wealth of detail and effects, making the environment quite realistic as well as the characters and other elements. Unfortunately the combination of environment and element is not always that great. Lighting on bodies can look different than light on the ground and walls, making enemies look out of place. Blood splatters look more like stickers flung on walls and the floor and actual liquids, but then I am not sure if I have seen realistic blood anywhere. Fire, though, I have seen better, but I have also seen considerably worse. The worst flames I have seen from modern games are just animated textures placed on a curved model and the best look like actual volumes of fluid. Rise of the Triad is somewhere in the middle, with the flames being entire volumes, but they also look like they are just pre-rendered animations. Enemies, blood, and fire, though, may all intentionally look like this to invoke the graphics of the original title.
Surface detail for walls, guns, and the floor is very good. I am sure some of that detail is from high resolution textures, but the lighting on at least the walls suggests to me there are detailed normal maps to create realistic shadow maps. In many places, the ground looks to just be a texture and not have any advanced lighting solution to look more detailed. The guns are definitely beautiful with good textures and models. A close look will reveal vertices on what should be smoothly rounded objects, but it is not very obvious in actual gameplay.
Lighting is as impressive as in many other titles, though with a caveat. The impressive part is how lights will illuminate a volume of air and cast rays around objects. The caveat is I have noticed multiple issues with how light falls on the ground. In one screenshot you will see lights in a warehouse, lighting up parts of the floor, but not all. I have also seen shadows of traps being cast on the floor, even when the trap is retracted into the ceiling. Not exactly an issue, especially as you may not catch it while you play, but if you do see it, you know it is incorrect.
I am not sure if this would be considered points for realism, twisted humor, or just harkening back to the original game, but enemies can have some rather brutal deaths. Depending on where you shoot them, their bodies may just fall on the ground, with blood splattered everywhere, or they may fall apart, with limbs and organs dispersed around them. I have seen intestines lying on the ground as well as what I think are brains. If you kill an enemy with an explosion though, and are close enough, their eyes will fly out and hit your screen. By the way, you can turn gore off in the settings. Also, at least the removal of limbs can be done after an enemy is dead, and when you remove an arm or leg, the body spews out blood for longer than I think is natural.
The game also supports software and hardware PhysX, and as usual, if you can run it, you want to run it. Hanging flags will react as you shoot them, and glass, boxes, and barrels will shatter and splinter too. Of course it is mostly just eyecandy, but the developers decided to have some fun with it and added the PhysX ShmysX achievement for destroying 666 PhysX objects in the game.
System specs and performance time:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @4.50 GHz (45.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- PhysX: MSI GTS 250 1 GB
- G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
With this computer I was able to set every setting to the maximum, with two exceptions, and experience a solid 60 FPS in most areas, but sometimes a drop down into what looked like the 50s. Potentially those drops will be removed as the game is patched with better optimizations and new drivers are released. The two exceptions I mentioned are Motion Blur and Depth of Field, which I disabled as a matter of personal choice.
Importantly, all detail settings for graphics are controlled by a launcher and not in the game.
One setting that is in the game though is Field of View. The default is 90, but the slider goes as high as 120 and as low as 60. I eventually set it to 110 because I found 90 to be too constrained at times when I was looking around for the enemies shooting at me.
Another setting in game that I want to briefly mention is the resolution. The reason I want to mention it is that it is a whitelist of resolutions, so if you have a monitor with a non-standard resolution, as I do (2048x1152), the only way you can get the native resolution is by modifying a config file. Doing so however will disrupt some elements in the game. For example, the Rise of the Triad logo in the menus is rendered too large, so it covers some buttons, and the character selection buttons prior to entering a multiplayer match were hidden off screen. Of course these are issues most people will never encounter, but just in case you are not like most people, now you know what to expect.
Speaking of multiplayer, I will mention its performance here instead of in the gameplay section. Estimating the FPS in a multiplayer match, I would say it was most often in the 50s. Whether any lag was present, I cannot say with certainty because the players move so fast that we were already leaping around the map in the blink of an eye. This was less evident on the larger map I got to play on though.
As I normally mention it in the graphics setting, the sound has been updated to what you would find in any modern game. If your nostalgia is not satisfied with the rest of the game though, you can toggle an option to go back to the audio of the original game.
With a name like Rise of the Triad you would expect the game to have a story, but just based on the original game, I am not sure if I could tell it to you. This time around though, you get an entire opening movie, animated with a comic-book style that explains who you are and what you are doing.
You are a member of HUNT (High-risk United Nations Task-force) and have been dispatched to an island off the coast of California to investigate the Triad cult. While scoping out the island, your boat is spotted and destroyed, forcing you to storm the enemy base.
There are five playable characters: Taradino, Lorelei, Ian, Thi, and Doug. Each character has a little bit of background you can read in game, and different speed and endurance stats.
For most of the gameplay, you do not really have to remember a story exists; you just have to shoot the people shooting at you (or shoot them first). Why is there a courtyard with a mystical bat hovering in the center? Who knows. The bat explodes enemies though, so grab it!
By the way, the game features Stream Trading cards for different characters, which do include some biographical information.
Rise of the Triad has a little more than a save-the-princess story with its character backgrounds, but your only motivation for shooting and exploding enemies is that they are enemies, and it can be fun to shoot and explode them.
Now to what really counts and what made Rise of the Triad stick in my memory for so many years; the gameplay. Well, I already admitted it was the weapons, but I will get to those in a bit.
This release of Rise of the Triad is not what I would consider a reboot. It is more a remaking or remastering, as level design comes straight from the original game. However the two games do offer different experiences, which I will get to later.
The game is mostly a linear experience, with you progressing from room to room, killing every enemy you can find, but occasionally you do need to backtrack. For example, one level requires you complete four challenges before advancing, and others just require you deviate from a linear path to collect keys.
Levels typically have multiple secrets that hide coins, weapons, food, armor, and other power ups. Coins are just for points, food restores health, and armor is either for stopping bullets or fire. You can have both armor types equipped at the same time, and they are both shown with your healthbar. In a departure from the original game, armor is not on a timer but instead acts as a shield, absorbing so much damage before disappearing. There is currently a glitch with the armor and restarting at a checkpoint that the developers are aware of, though it may not be fixed for weeks. (If you had armor on when you got a checkpoint and then restart at that checkpoint, the armor appears with your healthbar, but does not actually stop any damage.) Other power ups, such God Mode and Dog Mode, are on timers.
In most other FPSs, God Mode just refers to being invincible and possibly having unlimited ammo, and is almost always a cheat. In Rise of the Triad though, it is not a cheat and makes you an actual god as you throw pulses of power from your hand to vanquish your enemies. As impressive as that may sound, my personal favorite weapon is the Flamewall. Firing it launches a burning projectile through the air, but when it hits the ground it explodes into a wall of fire that sweeps forward, burning every enemy it touches. When an enemy burns to death, its flesh burns away, leaving a skeleton to fall to the ground to the sound of a xylophone. This is straight out of the original game, but unlike the original, you may not be able to see the skeleton hang in the air before falling, as the graphics are too intense now.
Other weapons include the fire bomb, which explodes into multiple bombs in an X pattern, exploding a large area of enemies; drunk missile, which is like a Gatling-gun of rockets; split-missile, which fires one missile that will split into two; enemy seeking missiles; and of course a basic rocket launcher. Those are just some of the missile-class of weapons, but there are also bullet and mystical weapons as well.
Bullet weapons include a pistol, which can be single or dual-wielded, and the MP40 submachine gun. Technically this constitutes three guns, as you can switch between single and dual-wielding the pistols, and all three have unlimited ammo. Yes, you have unlimited bullets to mow down your enemies, and from my experience you do not even have to reload (though the animation for reloading the dual pistols is pretty cool).
An interesting mechanic I cannot say I recall from any other game is the ability for enemies to dash to you and steal a weapon. As I said, this is interesting, but in one way, unwelcome. The enemies are able to perform this dash from across the room, and immediately dash back to where they were. That just does not seem very realistic or balance when it is over a large distance. Another annoyance with this mechanic is that you will switch to a different weapon after this happens, even if the weapon you have out is not the weapon that was stolen. When you kill the enemy that took your weapon, they do drop it, so you get it back.
Likely as a remnant from the original game, there are no critical hits in Rise of the Triad. Body shots and head shots do the same amount of damage, so fire away.
Now the time has come for the review to go negative, because there are multiple negative aspects of this game. Some are best described as bugs, while others are design choices, and some exist somewhere between.
First negative that I have to mention is the mouse smoothing. I noticed immediately a difficulty aiming at distant enemies as the crosshairs would jump farther than I wanted to. Fortunately this can be easily fixed by finding the ROTTInput.ini file and switching 'bEnableMouseSmoothing' to false. As a consequence of this fix, the config file will be reset if you verify cache files or install a patch. This option really should be available within the game, but is not. Hopefully it will be added in the future.
Another design choice is actually, on its own, not a true negative, but the execution is so poor I must consider it as such. The original game allowed you to save anytime you wanted to, but this version uses a checkpoint system. As I said, on their own checkpoint systems are not a bad thing but when the checkpoints are too few, they are most certainly a negative. I have encountered multiple levels now with minutes of effort separating checkpoints, with multiple points during that time that would be ideal for checkpoints. For example, in one level you are required to platform over a pit of lava, so one miss and you die. I encountered this area after going through two distinct trap rooms, and a large prison-like room, each of which have their own ways of arbitrarily killing you, and you have to go back through all of it if you miss one jump at the lava pit.
Some of you may be thinking that it is just some platforming over lava, so what is the big deal. The big deal is that the platforming involves jump pads, which are, for me at least, exceedingly frustrating. In an earlier level I had to bounce from one jump pad to another, but because of how inertia works while in the air, this was far more difficult than it had to be. Also because of the limited vertical field of view, you basically have to choose between looking at where you are going to land to make sure you land, or looking at where you are going to next, which is necessary to successfully advance. There are numerous ways this could have been done better, such as restricting a player's speed so they cannot over shoot the platforms, or having the jump pads already push you in the correct direction so you do not end up bouncing in the other direction. None of these were employed, and coupled with the checkpoint system, it becomes very frustrating.
In fact, having realized that this one room invalidates any game time value I could give you, and that it is the only thing preventing me from advancing, I rage-cheated and enabled flight to get past it. (Actually, I had beaten the room's challenge at this point, but while leaving you have to take a floating platform from one area to another. When it arrived at the other area, I walked out to it, just as I had walked onto the platform to begin with, and ended up falling between the ledge and the platform, and could not jump up to the platform. Ultimately I ended up dying and having to do the entire challenge again.) However cheating does not work that way in Rise of the Triad. Naturally it prevents you from getting any score, but it also prevented me from advancing to the next level, so anyone in my situation or a similar one, with one challenge kicking you repeatedly, you have no choice but to keep trying or rage-quit and try again after you calm down. My response was the latter.
Another reason I cannot give you a game time is that I have not beaten the game yet, because I would rather not spend more time than most levels take getting past another jump pad area, and having to run through multiple rooms of enemies and traps for another attempt each time I fail.
Few more issues to mention, but these are not particularly important, just worth mentioning.
Physics in the game is very inconsistent. I mentioned earlier that barrels and boxes could be splintered with gun fire. They cannot, however, be pushed out of the way. Running into a destructible barrel will stop you immediately, but shooting it successfully moves it out of the way or destroys it. If it is against a wall though, and you shoot it towards the wall, it will actually clip into and through the wall. This is true of other physics objects as well, such as some boxes. While every barrel I have encountered can be destroyed, not every box and wood pallet can be destroyed. I honestly have no idea why this would be the case; why identical models would have different physics settings.
The enemy AI can be somewhat stupid, as enemies will stand there, being shot sometimes, and in one instance actually kept trying to run through a door, but got pushed back as the door closed. Made it a little easy to kill them, but was just awkward to watch. Also, one enemy type will leap around to avoid being shot. One time it actually leapt through a wall of bars, which the player cannot pass through, but luckily can shoot through.
After an enemy dies, its body will lay on the level for a while. Eventually the body will disappear in what must be a gore-y explosion. I am not actually sure because I have not seen it, but I have heard it. Gushy explosions coming from behind me are disconcerting to hear when I know enemies will simply appear in rooms I have cleared that have no entries. (Those enemies do not appear arbitrarily, but are spawned by a trigger, such as hitting a switch.) It is worse than hearing something go bump in the night because you know something is out to get you.
The multiplayer is a far better experience, however! The server selection screen shows you what servers are available, the total slots for a server and how many are filled, as well as the distance to the server so you can estimate ping. The distances are also color coded to better highlight the differences. When you select a server you can choose to join it, which takes you to a character selection screen, or you can spectate the match. Truly I have only noticed two things about multiplayer that are at all annoying. The first is that the high run speed of the players makes it very hard to see if there is lag, at least on smaller maps. Everyone is already bouncing around the map, making it hard to follow people's movements. The other annoyance is that the roster of playable characters come from H.U.N.T. and the Triad, which are colored blue and red respectively. Makes it a little confusing during a team match if someone wearing red is actually on the red team. Fortunately they do have a highlight added to their model to identify their team, and the color of their name is different, so you can figure it out without shooting them. As I said, these are annoyances, and not necessarily issues.
The multiplayer gameplay, especially the Capture-the-Flag match I played, was definitely fun. (Fun fact, which the game shares at loading screens, the original Rise of the Triad was the first game to feature Capture-the-Flag.) The individual death matches I played were also fun, but were on the smaller map, making it hard to follow where people were as we ran around, making the experience somewhat chaotic. Was still really fun to grab the flamewall though, and roast multiple people at a time.
Overall, the single-player experience is okay, but needs quite a bit of refinement. Making mouse smoothing an in-game option and adding a quick-save feature would be two meaningful steps toward that refinement. The multiplayer experience is much better, and hopefully will thrive until the map editor update comes and people can start adding their own arenas.
Single Player Screenshots:
After almost twenty years, does the Triad rise again? Not without stumbling more than is comfortable. The single-player gameplay is fun more often than not, but at times it becomes frustrating and almost punishing as a single challenge can set you back by minutes, with no alternative path to advance. The multiplayer is more consistently enjoyable, and once the map editor is patched in it should become even more fun.
To be fair to the developers, Rise of the Triad was built by a small team, spread out across the planet, and with no budget. Their passion for the original game is the only reason this new version exists. Of course that is no reason to forgive all the game's issues, but it does help put them in perspective, as well as how long it may be until patches are released to address some of the issues.
For its single-player, I am hesitant to recommend this game to anyone but original Rise of the Triad fans. Also the most dedicated gamers who will power through the unnecessarily difficult parts, such as the jump-pad platforming sections I mentioned earlier. As patches come to fix the games issues, my hesitation will vanish, but they are not here now, so I cannot comment on them.
The multiplayer I can recommend to anyone who enjoys crazy matches with missiles and fire everywhere. I found it to be very fun and I hope it thrives to see the map editor added, when it will be able to truly spread its wings.