Interceptor Entertainment's Rise of the Triad reboot will and does evoke an immense sense of nostalgia when you start playing it. From the moment you see the old Apogee logo come onto the screen, it's almost as if you're wearing slap bracelets and playing with Pogs all over again.
And then the double bass drums kick in and your eyes aren't accosted by brick-sized pixels and you realise that maybe a few things have changed. The graphics are modern, the game is running in Unreal Engine 3, and it's now 2012.
It's important to note too that the game has only been in development for five months with what Interceptor is hoping will just be an additional four months left before release. There are a few bugs and the single player is noticeably missing AI while running on top of the multiplayer component (timers and kill notices come up), but that's to be expected in the "delta build", as CEO and hair style icon Frederick Schreiber called it.
But they are just "silly bugs, not game-breaking bugs", in the words of marketing director Dave Oshry (who you may have seen lurking as Kotaku's occasional weekend guest editor). If you shoot off a leg and keep shooting it, multiple legs will spring out of the bloody stump. Sometimes when you reload the side-loading machine gun, instead of picking up a new clip after flipping the taped pair of magazines, you will just keep flipping them. There is something called "combat arms," where if you go into iron sights at the wrong time, you will instead come up with three arms where your tertiary limb seemingly juts right out of your chest.
And these rough edges are what make ROTT compelling, even at this point in development. The guns are unbalanced (though they are willing to work to make the game competitive), the movement is almost nauseatingly fast, and some bugs like the combat arms are likely to become features.
It's almost a sense of irreverence, but not in the same way that Saints Row: The Third was irreverent. Instead, Interceptor almost knows that they are releasing what will be a niche title and have decided to stick to their guns with what they know needs to be done.
You need to know you're playing Rise of the Triad but not know what to expect. This is most evidenced by the fact that level design was done in collaboration with original level designer Joe Seigler, resulting in stages where you'll have to collect keys and backtrack to progress. The team switches back and forth between the original and their reboot, showing how secrets and traps translate to the new game and how level designs have evolved beyond 90-degree walls and non-contextualized world elements.
But they also show that familiar elements remain. Lead audio engineer Andrew Hulshult has brutally metal-ified the original songs and turned them into purchasable and purchase-worthy tracks, though you can also opt to use the original sound effects and music. Jump pads and floating platforms still facilitate vertical movement and enable the discovery of secrets and the avoidance of spinning, bladed pillars, though they were redesigned by an electrical engineer to look plausible while remaining absurd. There is a score but now there is also a global leaderboard.
And old weapons are returning, such as the Flame Wall and the Excalibat, both of which seem to be deliberately designed and implemented to create as much chaos as possible. The Flame Wall pops out a little ordnance nugget. If it hits a wall, it will explode like a grenade, but if it hits the floor, a huge, wide wall of flame shoots up and rapidly moves forward. It actually moves at the same speed as players and is just barely low enough to jump over (for context, you can jump like 20 feet in the air), but enflamed players will linger about for three seconds before exploding and killing anyone nearby, so expect this to clear out rooms very quickly.
The Excalibat works mostly like the energy sword from Halo. I say mostly because if you charge it up, it unleashes a handful of explosive baseballs and holy hell do they do some damage. Gibs will fly, my friend, gibs will fly.
And in the spirit of living and breathing within its own community, the game will be fully moddable via Steamworks when it releases for PC later this year/early next year for $US15. You can break it, tweak, it, do whatever you want to it. And the team will be doing the same with free DLC post-release where possibly Dog mode, the Hand of God, and more will reside.
Interceptor seems to know what they're doing. It just seems to be an issue of getting it done in time. Their turnaround time is ridiculous for any team and any project and they all mostly work from home, only occasionally coming together in Denmark for sprints and milestones. But they are keeping the spirit of ROTT intact, and that is what is important.
The rough edges show a scrappy, irreverent side to the game that I hope they don't lose in the final product. Hew a stone too fine and you end up with a pebble and not a statue.
A bloody, limbless, exploding statue.
Tim Poon is a writer from Dallas, Texas, with a deep, almost illicit love for computer science, video games and dodgeball. Take the first step towards becoming best friends at his blog, on Twitter or Facebook.