Even the briefest of glances at the title image for this Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition review will tip off eager readers to the fact that this is a first-person shooter of a certain vintage. Originally released all the way back in 1995 when the likes of id Software’s DOOM ruled the FPS roost, Rise of the Triad is a fast and furious genre entry that prized fiendish level design and frankly nutty power-ups over just about everything else. Nearly thirty years later, Rise of the Triad makes its PlayStation debut and while it’s unapologetically crusty design sensibilities might turn off those who have gorged on a diet of more recent genre fare, there is indisputably an entertaining shooter here that still has a lot to offer in 2023.
Rise Of The Triad: Ludicrous Edition PS4 Review
A Crusty Though Fiendishly Entertaining Old-School Shooter
Befitting the era in which it originally released, Rise of the Triad follows a similar design through line in that you’re supposed to blast your way through each level, collecting coloured keys to unlock corresponding doors and, of course, collecting bigger and devastating weapons to get the job done along the way. The story, much like the premise, is also equally straightforward – there’s a big bad cult operating out of San Nicolas Island and HUNT (High-risk United Nations Taskforce) has been dispatched to resolve the issue as violently as possible.
Rise of the Triad however, was (and still remains) very different from the likes of DOOM and such differences are immediately noticeable as soon as you begin a new playthrough. For a start, you get a choice of four different HUNT operators that all have their various strengths and weaknesses which manifest in varying levels of three main stats – hit points, speed, and accuracy, with one character predictably being an all-rounder style character that has balanced stats. Honestly though, given how fiendishly challenging Rise of the Triad can be in its later levels, going for the all-rounder is probably the best option if you don’t like squeezing your controller to death.
Once into the game and again, it’s clear that this is a much older genre effort, with sprite-based enemies and 90 degree walls that seem like a far cry (no pun intended) from the more fully formed three-dimensional worlds that you would expect to see in more modern fare. That said, while Rise of the Triad certainly does look dated (this is a remaster of a game that is nearly thirty years old, after all), it does scream along at a super high frame rate and is immediately responsive to boot.
Likewise, there is no shortage of satisfying weapons to get your hands on too, from World War II style MP40s, all the way through to dual-handguns, bazookas and even occult weapons such as the Dark Staff and Excalibat (yep, you read that correctly) – magical bat that can knock balls of doom into your poor, hapless foes. Again, Rise of the Triad does something a little different here too. While you can’t collect and hold onto six or seven weapons as you can in the likes of DOOM and Duke Nukem 3D, you soon realise that all of the regular firearms that fire bullets actually have an infinite supply of ammo, while the magic and missile weapons meanwhile – of which you can only hold one at a time – have a finite amount of ammo and so must be deployed sparingly.
Arguably the highlight of all the power-ups you’ll collect in Rise of the Triad is Dog Mode, which is simply incredible. Why is it incredible, you ask? Well, if you haven’t already guessed, not only does it morph our HUNT agent into a trusty doggo for thirty seconds, but it grants them immortality for that time, allows the player to tear enemies to pieces with leaping attacks and can brilliantly, fire off a massive AoE attack known as the ‘BarkBlast’, which can turn a room full of enemies into a room full of juicy gibs. Beyond the substantial violent applications of Dog Mode, turning into a Good Boi also allows you to get into areas that you normally wouldn’t be able to, expanding the amount of potential new weapons, power-ups and other such secrets further still as a result. See, I told you Dog Mode is incredible.
What this means essentially, is that because you’ll never find yourself in a situation where you’re rushing around the place trying to scoop up odd bits of ammo to stay alive, you’re always able to keep the fight going and thus the pace of slaughter in Rise of the Triad remains reassuringly brisk. You know, as it should be in a game like this.
In addition to the various weapons that you can collect, there is an… interesting array of power ups that can be nabbed also. Indeed, the power ups you can collect run the gamut of super useful to super annoying, from God Mode which allow you to take no damage and destroy enemies with a wave of your hand, to Pegasus Mode which lets you freely fly around a level to ‘shrooms mode’ which essentially violently warps your perspective, making combat impossible. Bereft of interesting ideas, Rise of the Triad is not. There are other unusual touches which are brought to bear in Rise of the Triad too. Sometimes enemies can beg for mercy before death (and there’s actually a neat trophy for giving them mercy, getting shot and then killing them the next time they pull that trick), while it’s also possible to destroy some of the items in the environment by accidentally shooting them – something I have done too many times to count.
Speaking of the enemies, though they are a varied bunch, with all manner of differently ranked cultists and demonic fiends filling their ranks, it’s befitting the vintage of Rise of the Triad that the enemies also happen to be pretty dumb and as such, tend to stumble into traps a lot and have no inkling about cover or flanking tactics – though the human enemies will occasionally bust out a neat combat roll – which seems more like a pointless flourish than anything else. Perhaps the biggest way that Rise of the Triad feels meaningfully different from the likes of DOOM and Duke Nukem 3D is in the levels and the manner in which each is designed.
Quite simply, each level in Rise of the Triad is a death-trap that is filled with literal death-traps and where even the weakest enemies can sap your health to zero extremely quickly. From flaming walls, to spikes being pushed out of the ground, to rotating pillars with blades stuck on and so much more besides, Rise of the Triad feels less like a selection of connected levels and more like an assault course for FPS veterans, such is the level of challenge that is on offer here. Despite that, each level in Rise of the Triad feels fresh and is so stuffed with things that can turn you into a pile of red chunks that actually beating just a single level feels like an outsized achievement.
Where Rise of the Triad comes unstuck somewhat though, is in how its archaic game engine can make a number of things that we take for granted into today’s shooters more frustrating than they need to be. To get many of the secrets and extra gear that are hidden around each map, you often have to do a whole heap of platforming. Normally that would be fine, but in Rise of the Triad there isn’t a jump button, so the end result basically involves you running up steps, getting onto a ledge and then falling off haphazardly into where you want to go.
Another frustrating problem that seems to exist on account of Rise of the Triad’s antiquated tech, is that collision detection seems a little flaky where you can’t shoot some enemies but they can shoot you. Primarily, this seems to happen a lot where you can have an enemy stand underneath a set of stairs and although they are in a clear line of sight, they can shoot you, but you can’t shoot them. It’s super frustrating to say the least.
Of course, the ‘Ludicrous Edition;’ suffix to Rise of the Triad isn’t just there for kicks, but rather reflects the fact that this is for all intents and purposes the definitive way to play Rise of the Triad, not least because it packs in all of the expansions ever released, new content, upscaled visuals and remastered music. What rankles however, is that on PlayStation 4 at least, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition simply isn’t the definitive version of the game because it’s missing the hugely fun multiplayer modes and level editor capabilities of the PC version.
An unapologetically old-school shooter that has been brought kicking and screaming into 2023, courtesy of those remaster wizards over at Nightdive Studios, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is certainly one for experienced genre fans. This is in no small part thanks to its well-designed, FPS assault course style levels which will challenge even the most itchy of trigger fingers. However, despite the stellar work by porting studio Nightdive Studios, Rise of the Triad’s aging tech often ends up betraying itself, often resulting in frustration, while a less than comprehensive feature set makes the PS4 version feel incomplete when compared to its more fully-featured PC counterpart.
Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition releases for PS4 on September 29, 2023.
Review code kindly provided by PR.