RotT eyeballs, jump pads and coins

When the original Rise of the Triad was released nearly 20 years ago, it was a marvel of innovation. Originally planned as a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, the game was at turns brutally violent and utterly ridiculous. The image above sums it up really – eyeballs, jump pads and giant floating coins.

Interceptor Entertainment’s 2013 remake is an honest, unwavering ode to the original – possibly to a fault. Shooters have come a long way over the last couple of decades, and if you cast aside Rise of the Triad’s shiny new graphics, you’ll find a lot of the mechanics and gameplay underneath are essentially identical to the 1994 relic.

If you never played the original Rise of the Triad, or indeed any shooters from that early 90s era – you may want to turn back now.

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Rise is both nostalgia-inducing and immensely frustrating; a harsh reminder of how much easier things are for us today. Video games in the early ’90s were brutally unforgiving, often rewarding players for sheer tenacity and perseverance. Interceptor Entertainment have clearly tried to recapture that spirit, but they may suffer from not moving with the times.

There’s not much of a story to speak of, it’s more of a gimmick to move the action along at a brisk enough pace. There are no cut-scenes or quick-time events. There’s none of the “hide behind a crate for six seconds while your health regenerates” – it’s back to basics with percentage health which can only be regenerated by “eating” (walking over) food. Guns aren’t artfully placed in racks or on a table, they float an inch off the ground, enormous and glowing blue. Enemies explode into chunky, bouncing gibs.

"Clean-up on Aisle 4."

“Clean-up on Aisle Four.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is no quick-saves, platform puzzles that’ll have you pulling your hair out and plenty of tricky environmental traps. This is the real polarising aspect of the game; you’re either going to grit your teeth and play ’til the end like a demented masochist or uninstall after ten minutes.

The game automatically saves at checkpoints – there are no manual saves. These checkpoints are often sadistically placed right before a series of traps or platforms, which can result in some feel-bad situations where you jump eight platforms and miss the ninth.

Giant rocks and fall-away floors quickly teach you the rules of the game – nowhere is safe. There are also plenty of timing-based gauntlets, where you have to run at exactly the right moment to make it through a series of rising and falling sharp-edged nasties. Mess one of these up and yup, you’re back to the start again.

Caution: Not a turnstile.

Caution: not a turnstile.

It even has the classic boss fights, but once again these can be insanely hard, with some of the bosses feeling nigh-unbeatable.

This is going to be enough to put some people off, but I’m hesitant to criticise Interceptor for it. It hearkens back to the ridiculously ruthless era from which it draws its inspiration, where games didn’t come with tutorials, where it would set you up to fail and laugh at you when you inevitably did.

We’ve gotten so used to hitting F6 after every kill that I found the challenge of having to flawlessly complete entire sections in one go rather refreshing. It’s frustrating as hell, but it gives you an unparalleled sense of satisfaction when you beat it.

The enemy AI have apparently been extracted from 1994 as well. You won’t find barrel-rolling, ducking-for-cover, grenade-lobbing ninjas in this game, just a whole lot of dim-witted Nazis who prefer to stand their ground and fire or walk at you conveniently in single file and, rather perplexingly, speak English. It’s a bit like a zombie game really: the difficulty isn’t in enemy ability, but rather managing your health and resources.

The real fun to be had here then is with the guns. You get your run-of-the-mill pistols and machine guns (with infinite ammo and clips that never need to be swapped), but that’s not what you want to be doing. What you really want is the fully-automatic rocket launcher, the gun that fires off literal walls of moving fire, the staff that shoots lightning or that creepy green baseball bat with a living eyeball in it.

Somewhere in that fireball is a Nazi having a really a bad day.

Somewhere in that fireball is a Nazi having a really a bad day.

The remake brings all of the insanity of the original game, including bizarre power-ups like a mushroom that makes you high, “dog mode” which has you scampering across the floor nipping Nazi ankles and even a “bouncy” powerup that essentially makes you move like you’re covered in Flubber.

The Nazis swear in English, your characters crack weak jokes and the game occasionally mocks you while you play. It’s all part of the fun, really, and if you take this game seriously, you’re doing it wrong. You want to be sprinting around the maps, jumping around corners and firing off rockets and lightning, leaving piles of gibs and botched amputations in your wake.

The multiplayer mode is sheer insanity, like Quake III on a meth binge. Players fly around the map shooting each other with ridiculously powerful weapons, hitting jump pads and yes, turning themselves into dogs. A lack of options and functionality makes it a somewhat one-dimensional experience, however.

You might have heard some horror stories about the game’s poor optimisation. When I began playing the game I noticed the same, but a recent patch has bumped me up a cool 30 FPS, so it seems the issues have been resolved.

The bottom line is that you need to know what you’re getting into with this game. It’s silly, it’s frustrating as hell, it’s remorselessly old-school and it has a ton of flaws. It’s everything that makes these early ’90s games terrible by modern standards, but that’s exactly what it wanted to be.