1995 was an impressive year for the genre of First Person Shooters. Following the release of Doom 2, you can only imagine where the genre was going. Even so, I don’t think the world was ready to be shaken up by this. Developed by some of the key minds behind Doom, Rise of the Triad exploded onto the scene and created such a cult following people had been clamoring for a re-release for years. 26 years on and it’s finally happened with Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition. Just how ludicrous is it? Let’s find out!
Developers of Incredible Power
Quick history lesson: Rise of the Triad began life back in the 90s as Wolfenstein 3D II: The Rise of the Triad. It was directed by Tom Hall of Doom fame and produced by Scott Miller and George Broussard, two of the minds behind the infamous Duke Nukem franchise. Rise of the Triad was too much game for the Wolfenstein license to handle and Apogee Software decided to turn the game into its own franchise.
Running on a modified Wolfenstein 3D engine, Rise of the Triad started facing a challenge. By this point, the engine was 3 years out of date and fairly obsolete when compared to the new and shiny Doom Engine which had completely taken the world by storm. Despite hoping to differentiate itself from the crowd with a quirky sense of humor, mind-bending effects, and the dream team of Bobby Prince and Lee Jackson providing an absolute musical masterclass, Rise of the Triad was released with a whimper rather than a splash. Fortunately, the game went on to create a rather ironic cult following. It even saw a remake in 2013, which is generally considered to be when the resurgence of the “Boomer Shooter” genre happened.
Tales of the Oscuro
Rise of the Triad tells the paper-thin story of a special team called HUNT who are sent to San Nicolas Island where a cult has taken over led by the dangerous and mysterious “El Oscuro”. Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition contains all the official expansions, including the new expansion which follows on from the story from the previous add-on pack “Extreme Rise of the Triad”. You’ll find some new cutscenes that tell more of a story than the original games did here.
Well-drawn static cutscenes aside, you won’t be finding lore around the levels or having hour-long expositions. Despite Tom Hall being the mastermind behind the “Doom Bible”, this isn’t some grand narrative. It’s a classic first-person shooter with a team of badass agents fighting a grand evil, who is the cult leader El Oscuro. It’s 80s action in a condensed form where the focus is on the action and not trying to entice you in with narrative twists.
Rise From Your Grave
Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is very much a pure “boomer shooter”. Typical of the Wolfenstein 3D engine, it’s much more “maze-like” in nature than some of its peers of the time such as Hexen which was exploring a “Metroid” style of gameplay or Duke Nukem 3D which was fully interactive and featured set pieces and more intricate level design. Rise of the Triad is as old school as they come which works as both a positive and a negative.
Each level plays out similarly aside from boss levels. The general flow is you start the level, hunt around for keys, and trigger switches while you slowly chip away at the ever-growing mazes that are presented in front of you. The levels are quite cryptic but done in a way that you never really feel lost. There are hidden panels everywhere that move walls, letting you do some real map editing wizardry on the fly. It’s very impressive for the engine it is running on, even if it was dated at the time of release.
Aside from amazing mazes, Rise of the Triad did have something special up its sleeve, the GAD (Gravitational Anomaly Disk). This is used for platforming and level navigation, giving a pseudo-3D effect. It’s even more impressive than the level design when you realize that this is a 2D game, yet has convincing 3D fields due to GADs. This just adds to the unique charm of Rise of the Triad.
Another thing that makes Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition different than other first-person shooters of the time is the sheer amount of traps waiting to end your life. Doom has hazardous floors, but Rise of the Triad has wall-mounted flamethrowers, spinning blades, and crushing pillars in abundance. Heck, some of the stages will just downright allow you to fall out of it to your doom. All this not only adds to the fun and challenge of the stages, some of which are entirely comprised of traps and GADs, but it also leans into the “Supervillain hidden lair” vibe this game is going for.
Ho Ho Ho, I’ve Got A Machine Gun
While the levels are quite nuanced, the combat in Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is perhaps less so than some other titles. It does offer a massive challenge, especially with bosses and the monks who have far too much health. But the limited amount of weapons and lack of difference in enemy types does mean repetition can hit far too quickly and hard.
Your main weapon is either a pistol, dual pistols, or a machine gun. All of these have infinite ammo and you’ll need it as the game isn’t shy about enemy placement. Beyond that, you’ll find a selection of different rocket launchers, from your traditional bazooka to one that fires out a wall of flames that is quite the room clearer. Enemies all have “tells” so you’ll know what is up ahead and how to tackle them after seeing them a few times. Nothing quite causes panic as hearing “Here Catch” without seeing who said it; that usually means you have a grenade coming your way.
Something that alleviates the issue of limited weaponry and separates Rise of the Triad from the crowd is the sheer amount of crazy power-ups. You have God Mode which allows you to be an actual god with the ability to fire an orb of destruction and kill everyone, flight mode which gives you the power of flight, shrooms which sends you on a psychedelic trip, bounce which turns you into rubber, and my personal favorite, dog mode where you turn into a dog, complete with woofs and the ability to jump up at people.
Between the enemies, the explosions that turn your enemies into mush, the quirky level design, and the sheer speed this game runs at, it’s easy to see why Rise of the Triad garnered such a cult following. It’s a balls-to-the-wall, high-octane, maze shooter with a quirky personality and more than enough enemies to mow down. It’s not groundbreaking but it has enough small tweaks going on to create a unique experience within the genre.
So what makes Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition so Ludicrous I hear you ask? That’d be the sheer amount of content. A brand new map pack that was designed by previous map designers for the series, and genre iconic names such as David Syzmanski of Iron Lung and Dusk fame. The three different soundtracks, two of which were from the original releases. The ability to play the game with the 2013 Andrew Hulshult-powered soundtrack. These plus the many tweaks the developers have done to make the game run properly, the many different HUD displays newly created for this title, the new animations, and the restoration of cut enemies all add up. There is so much love poured into this title you can see that everyone who worked on this loved the original and worked hard to make Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition the definitive way to play the title, along with giving the game its console debut after a 26-year wait.
I played the Nintendo Switch version of Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition and found it runs brilliantly with no slowdown. The controls are fine and I would say the portable nature of the hybrid console is ideal for this title as you can jump in and out chipping away at the four mammoth campaigns, aided by the quick save and load function. It makes it an ideal quick hit for FPS fans and one that will last for a long time.
At the moment, only the PC version of Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition has multiplayer. Developer tweets are hinting at this being worked at for a future patch. Sadly the console versions are also missing the Return of the Triad campaign that was included in the PC version, this is likely due to the fact it runs on a completely different engine. This is not a massive blow to the package, but I felt it was worth pointing out for people who may be tempted to double-dip.
Sound and Vision
Rise of the Triad Ludicrous Edition has had plenty of work done to it to make sure it looks as good as it can on larger screens in HD. Additional work has gone into animating the weapons a little more and even looking up and down doesn’t have quite the nauseating effect it did in the original. The cut character models look fantastic and the new models designed for the HUD and death scenes are all so naturally done that it looks like they should have always been there.
Rise of the Triad has always had this unique look to it where it has quite realistic-looking elements such as the hands and enemy sprites but done in an almost goofy way. Heck, the last boss will surprise you in how he is handled but it just lends to the unique cult charm that this title has. On paper, it just looks like a run-of-the-mill FPS but put all the quirks together with this art direction and you start to see something unique.
The music is still just as iconic as it always was. Anyone who has played Rise of the Triad will no doubt spend a lot of time telling you just how good the soundtrack is and out of all the FPS games I’ve played, Rise of the Triad is the king of the mountain. This version is especially great. Should you tire of the midi-based tracks, you can switch over seamlessly to the heavy metal recreations by the insanely talented Andrew Hulshult.
Rise of the Triad Ludicrous Edition is hands down the gold standard of re-releases. It runs beautifully, it has every single officially released Expansion pack and a brand-new one on top of that. It even has quality-of-life tweaks such as “Nerf the Monk HP” and every version of the soundtrack you need. It is frankly the definitive way to play Rise of the Triad.
This is an absolute labor of love and if you are a fan of the older shooters this is an absolute treat. If you were a fan of Rise of the Triad back when it was released or even the remake then you need this game in your life. The love and respect the developers have for the original game just shine through every single pore of this title.
RISE OF THE TRIAD: LUDICROUS EDITION IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nightdive Studios for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk