The world’s fastest FPS is back as Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition gets a demo

Connoisseurs of the first-person shooter genre will be well familiar with Apogee Software’s Rise of the Triad. Originally released two years after the original Doom, the game drew some criticism for its engine not being nearly as sophisticated as Doom’s, but it nonetheless attracted a devoted audience who particularly enjoyed its presentation, gameplay and distinctly “gamey” feel. It also formed the basis for the Build engine, which would go on to power classics such as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood.

Rise of the Triad was initially intended to be a follow-up to id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, which was originally published by Apogee, but subsequently span off into its own thing where a counter-terrorism outfit was infiltrating the island fortress of a mysterious cult. While you can still see the original trappings of a more realistic setting — particularly through the digitised actors who form most of the enemy sprites — the game quickly establishes itself as something utterly ridiculous in the best possible way.

Rise of the Triad

We’re talking about a game in which “God Mode” is not a cheat, but instead a power-up that literally turns you into God for a few short moments, making you completely invincible, considerably taller than usual and able to kill people just by pointing at them. We’re talking about a game in which “Dog Mode” is also a thing, and it’s almost as powerful as God Mode. Plus you can take magic mushrooms, turn into a pinball and all manner of other silly things.

This isn’t even getting into the weapons, either; besides introducing the idea of dual-wielding “guns akimbo” pistols to the first-person shooter genre, Rise of the Triad features a strong emphasis on powerful, explosive weaponry of various types, all of which has a tendency to “gib” enemies into bloody chunks. And there’s some variety among these explosive weapons, too, ranging from the relatively basic straight-firing bazooka through the homing missile launcher and the chaotic “Drunk Missile” cannon to the devastating Firebomb and Flamewall weapons.

Rise of the Triad’s most distinguishing feature, though, is the sheer clip at which everything moves. If you thought today’s “boomer shooters” were fast on their feet, you haven’t seen Rise of the Triad at its maximum chaotic velocity. Clearly designed as an homage to classic arcade and console games, Rise of the Triad is incredibly quick — so much so that it takes a bit of time to get used to if you’re not accustomed to it.

Rise of the Triad

The game encourages you to fling yourself around the levels with gay abandon using jump pads and floating platforms, with tantalising collectible ankh icons providing incentive to explore. There are plenty of secrets to uncover in this way — plus the fact you’re so fast on your feet makes combat thoroughly enjoyable, too, as you can nimbly dodge even the most dangerous of attacks by the strongest of foes.

So why are we talking about Rise of the Triad right now? Well, it’s one of the latest remaster projects from Night Dive Studios and New Blood Interactive. The “Ludicrous Edition”, as the new release is called, is set to release on July 31, 2023 — and just ahead of that, as part of one of Steam’s regular “Next Fest” celebrations, a playable demo has been released, including several levels to try.

Interestingly, Night Dive and New Blood opted not to release the “shareware” episode of the game as back in 1995, but have instead provided one level from each of the campaigns available in the Ludicrous Edition, giving players a taste of both the classic and brand-new stages. The campaigns in the final version include the original shareware episode The HUNT Begins, the original commercial version Dark War, the expansion pack Extreme ROTT and a brand new episode known as The HUNT Continues. That’s a lot of game to get your teeth into — and the full version will also include multiplayer and a level editor.

Rise of the Triad

The enhancements to the Ludicrous Edition are subtle and not overbearing. The game still looks and plays like it did in 1995, but a variety of modern-feeling features have been added. Most notably, the game runs in widescreen with an uncapped frame rate, really helping to emphasise the speed and smoothness of the experience. New HUD options have been added to make better use of the widescreen display, too — but they’ve been designed to be in keeping with the original game’s low-res VGA pixel art.

The game now features mouselook and WSAD movement controls — though rather delightfully, it deliberately maintains the original engine’s limitations, meaning that the view distorts somewhat when looking up and down due to the engine’s inability to render vertical walls as anything other than straight vertical lines. While some modern players may baulk at this seeming graphical glitch, it’s completely authentic to the original, and certainly doesn’t hurt the gameplay — particularly because, as a game that never demanded that you look up and down in its original incarnation, it has extremely generous auto-aim.

The game will also feature cross-platform multiplayer, which is something that has a lot of potential to be great fun if it successfully finds a community. Rise of the Triad was noteworthy for featuring a variety of multiplayer games that went well beyond simple deathmatch, but in 1995 relatively few people had the opportunity to try it for themselves unless they had an office full of networked machines to play on. As someone who always wanted to try ROTT multiplayer back in the day, but never had the chance, I’m personally looking forward to trying some of the game’s stranger modes!

Thus far the demo for Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition has very much lived up to expectations. While newcomers may find the sheer pace of the game quite tricky to deal with — particularly with the game’s “Always Run” setting being on by default — it’s a distinctive take on the first-person shooter that is arguably even more worth playing today than it was back in 1995. Now, we can divorce it from the context that it’s “not as good as Doom” from a technical perspective, and instead simply enjoy the fact that it’s very deliberately doing something quite different.

If you’re curious, you can try the game for yourself up until June 26, 2023, after which the game will release in its entirety for PC and pretty much every current console platform on July 31, 2023.

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Pete Davison
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