Rise of the Triad – review

The unofficial sequel to the original Wolfenstein 3D has arrived on the iPhone and iPod Touch… can this retro FPS keep up with the new kids on the block, or is it time to collect it’s pension?

I have to say, when I was a kid playing these early FPS games such as Duke, Wolfenstein and DOOM I must have missed Rise of the Triad, until now I’d simply never heard of it. So, on fresh eyes this falls, and I have no  fanboy affinity with it whatsoever.

The game sees you play as a rag tag A-team style military unit known as H.U.N.T, which quite obviously stands for High Risk United Nations Task-force! You have been sent to a mysterious island monastery to investigate a strange cult hell bent on destroying LA. You can choose from one of five characters, all with slightly different abilities such as moving fast, shoot accuracy and armour. I found Doug to be most effective as while he moves slower he can take more damage before dying.

As with many games of this vintage, the gameplay is pretty basic, with you ploughing your way through various enemies until you reach the level exit. Unlike Wolfenstein which was very corridor and room based, and split by doorways, ROTT is a little more open plan, and more vertical. Many of the levels are large expansive spaces linked by huge industrial doorways. You can also climb stairways to higher levels to gain access to switches and power ups.

856087The enemies come in various shapes and sizes, they are not particularly clever and will stand around waiting for you to move into their line of sight. On easy it’s usually a case of strafing left to right while shooting to take them out without getting hurt. Occasionally they will beg for mercy, and then take their own life in a cult style… however don’t be fooled they are faking it, and will pop up and shoot you from behind when you are not looking… and nice touch to the gameplay. The bosses are trickier and pretty badass so luckily, and to the games strength, there are a multitude of weapons, from pistols to grenade launchers. With it being a cult monastery there are magical weapons lying around that allow you to fly or shoot energy from your finger tips… one particular strange and random weapon changes you into a dog, and you can claw and bite enemies. ‘Fido! Sick evil cult’s balls’!

On the iPhone and iPod Touch any FPS, even with a  great selection of weapons, is useless without good touchscreen controls. Gameloft are the kings so far, but some still fail as seen in Prey and Duke Nukem from Machineworks. ROTT though is good in this regard. I’m not a fan of the default set up, but you can choose from a range of control options in the pause menu. Option 3 is the best in my opinion, giving you a dual stick setup with tap the screen to shoot. It feels a little loose at times, but that’s more to do with the fast skate like movement of your characters than the controls themselves.

It’s not all good though… which brings me on to the look and feel of the game. Graphically it’s more advanced than Wolfenstein. Most obviously by the fact that it has  textured floors, ceilings and sky. However it doesn’t have the appeal that Wolfenstein had. The environments are stale with dark muddy textures and arranged in uninspiring blocks of walls. It doesn’t seem to represent a monastery or island in anyway. There are the odd religious object dotted around, but they clash with strange doorways and futuristic floating stairs and lifts. I’m probably being a bit harsh considering this game is around 14 years old. But compared to other games available around that time, this is one ugly game.

856087_3The identity crisis continues with the enemies that look more like SS soldiers than monks, though some monks do show up towards the end of the game. On reading more info on this game it transpires that it was to be a sequel to Wolfenstein, but was later changed to this instead. The odd characters and environments now make sense, but it’s no way to make a game by re-skinning it and adding a different story. Especially when the re-skinning looks unfinished, as if the designers gave up halfway through. The developers Appogee went on to become 3DRealms of Duke Nukem fame, so at least this game was a learning experience and stepping stone to later greatness.

There is some fun to be had in ROTT, as I previously mention the controls work well and there are some cool weapons to wield. But the lack of a consistent style really hurts it and stopped me as a player becoming immersed and caring at all for the story and characters. There are better FPS’s out there, retro or not. So unless you are a fan of this game back in the day, I’d avoid.


Rise of the Triad is out now for $4.99

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  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden

    Tried it, and agree fully. I now regret trying it as I have some great memories of playing it in my youth. Some games don’t age as well as others. The controls are better than those of Duke Nukem though.

  • Toyboat

    I always thought ROTT was awful. I remember playing it since at that time there weren’t many options for 1st person shooters. It was like an experimental modification of Wolfenstein but like you said it looks like they gave up halfway throught. Stay away.