I didn't get really into gaming until the early 2000s, so I missed a lot of the classic stuff that some people remember about the early days of gaming, including Apogee. They eventually turned into 3D Realms, but they put out some stuff before then that people really liked like Wolfenstein 3D, the Blake Stone games, and Rise of the Triad: Dark War. ROTT was a prime example (at least from what I've heard) of the old school style of shooters, with crazy enemies, weapons, and power ups. Also you could turn into a dog. So it would make sense that someone would want to reboot a franchise like this. It's unfortunate that they had to reboot like this, because it's not very good.
In the new Rise of the Triad, you once again slip into the leather boots of H.U.N.T., the High-risk United Task-force, consisting of Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley. They are sent to San Nicolas Island off the south coast of Calfornia, which has been taken over by a terrorist group/cult called The Triad. Once there, the team gets discovered and their boat is destroyed, meaning the only way off the island is to fight your way through the Triad. And beyond that I honestly couldn't tell you anything more. The only story bit I saw was at the very beginning of the game. It was told in a motion comic style cutscene, complete with pretty decent artwork and absolutely terrible voice acting. You'd think that last bit would be a negative, but it got me really excited to play the game. While some of the characters' voice-work was just the bad kind of bad, most of the main five have the kind of bad voice acting that just makes laugh and feel good about things.
Then we get to the actual game part of the game. You can play as any of the five characters listed above and each come with their own stats, like endurance or speed, meaning some guys are tougher while other guys are faster. But honestly I couldn't tell you the in-game difference between any one of them. All of them seem to take the same damage, which is really inconsistent depending on where you are, and they all move at one speed, which too fast to be playable. Every character moves at half the speed of sound and the mouse is so sensitive even at 50% that trying to look around while walking down a straight becomes a huge ordeal that will probably end with you running into a wall repeatedly or being stuck on some piece of the world geometry. The movement speed is especially crappy for searching for and collecting coins and secrets, which the game scores you on. A lot of times they are on walkways or platforms that you have to jump to or use jump pads to reach. Since you're in first person the entire time, you can never see your feet to judge when you're above it. Add on to that that your movement in the air is just as fast as when you're on the ground, it becomes a game of trial and error trying to get these items. If you want to avoid these annoying platforming bits and forget about the collectibles, some levels force you to platform in order to finish a level. To top it all off, some of these sections result in instant death if you mess up even once, meaning you have to go back to the last checkpoint, which there are only two of in every level.
But you don't come to a game like this for the platforming, you come for the guns and shooting which kind of work. You got your standard stuff with your pistols, machine gun, and rocket launcher, but then you have some of the cooler stuff. You've got the heat seeking missiles, which home in on enemies. You've got drunken missiles, which can be fired like a minigun or just flying off in random directions. You've got the heat wave, which shoots out a wall of fire that incinerates your enemies. And you've got Excalibat, a magical baseball with an eye in the center of it that kills enemies in one hit and fires energy balls. The weapons themselves are actually kinda weak and don't really have any kind of punch behind them, but they can make the game bearable for a brief few moments. But these weapons come with very limited ammo and once you run out, so long interesting weapon. You can pick up more of them and if you know where to look you can be rolling with these for a good chunk of the game. If you aren't looking carefully, though, you can miss these weapons and be stuck with your standard stuff. The pistols and machine gun are total jokes, with enemies soaking up bullets and barely even reacting to being shot by these guns over and over again. It makes you feel completely powerless and these weapons, along with all the other ones I mentioned, can be stolen very easily by the enemy leaving you with a solitary pistol until you can find something interesting again. The cool thing I will say about the pistols and machine gun is that both of them have infinite ammo but you can still reload them. So you can just stand there for twenty minutes reloading your dual-wielded pistols with an awesome animation. It won't affect anything and is entirely pointless, but it looks great.
The enemies will be shooting at you, too, so you'll need to know where their shots are coming from to find them. Good luck with that, because the damage indicator is a joke. It barely reacts when you're being shot, so you only get a notification when you're being shot every fourth or fifth time. It also doesn't dynamically move to show where the shots came from relative to the way you're looking. Combine that with the movement speed problem and you will have no idea where most shots are coming from unless you stand still and just wait while you're getting shot to find the enemies. Also, have fun finding the enemies. All of them dress in grey and brown, and since this is an Unreal Engine game, all of the environments are grey or brown, so enemies can very easily blend into the background while spinning around trying to find them. It gets especially fun in the poorly lit corners when the only way to see them is their muzzle flare. Plus, enemies can just randomly spawn in. Multiple times throughout the game I'd be walking along and all of a sudden an enemy just appears before my eyes.
Speaking of environments, they are quite bland in this game. Every level I played was interchangeable with every other level in a given area, just with a different layout. Because of this it can be difficult to figure out which way you're supposed to go. A few times while playing I got turned around and ended up running back to the start of the level before I realized I was going the wrong way. From what I've seen of later levels this gets better, but they still look incredibly boring. One of the later levels gets lava and it looks just awful.
This game is also bugged up the butt. I already mentioned the enemies magically appearing in front of you and being caught in the world geometry, but that's just the tip of the iceburg. Many times while playing through the game, I was forced to reload my machine gun. The machine gun, need I remind you, has infinite ammo and no need to reload. But still, I would walk in to an area, running out of my rocket launcher or special rocket launcher ammunition, and switch back to my machine gun. I would click to fire, but instead I would reload, giving the enemy a chance to shoot me to death.
The cheats are bugged as well, because yeah there are cheats. Twice when I was in god mode, you know, the mode that makes you invincible, I was killed. And this wasn't an instance where god mode just randomly turned off (although that happened a couple of times, too). I was in the middle of a god mode massacre, when all of a sudden this big new enemy or boss would show up, fire off one shot, and kill me instantly. Even if I wasn't in god mode, I was at 100% health. Either those enemies have one-hit kills or I got screwed. On top of being buggy, the cheats just aren't really that great to begin with. Sure, god mode and no clip and stuff like that is fine, but all of the cool stuff brought over from the original game are just power ups, even with cheat codes. The god mode power up is way better than the god mode cheat, but that and dog mode and every other cool thing from the original game can only be used for a short amount of time before they run out. Then you'll have to jump back to the command console, which doesn't pause the game when you pull it up, enter in the code again and pick up the power up it spawns. That is, assuming it even summons the power up at all. I've had to enter codes four or five times to get the power up to appear.
Finally there's multiplayer. But I couldn't tell you anything about it. I waited in the lobby for 10 minutes while the game searched for servers. It never stopped searching.
Rise of the Triad is not a good game. It is a pretty bad one. While some of the weapons and power ups are kinda cool and it's nice to play this style of shooter again, the game is buggy and bland and too damn fast you to enjoy any of the nostalgia this kind of shooter will invoke. If you're a huge fan of the original, I can maybe see you getting some enjoyment out of this. But you have no love for the original and are just looking for a fun, old-timey shooter, DOOM, Serious Sam, and Painkiller are all available on Steam. Get them. Don't even bother looking at this game. it's not worth your time.
In this day and age with people shouting from every mountain top and soapbox available, it should come as no surprise that a game like Never Alone exists,a game based on and around another culture and its mythology where you play as a young girl on top of everything else. It’s something that we're probably going to be seeing a lot more of and I'm all for it. I just hope those other games don't skimp out on the "game" part of it all.
Never Alone is based on the lore of the Alaskan Iñupiat. In it you play as a young girl named Nuna and a magical arctic fox. After saving her from a polar bear, the fox starts following the girl around through a giant blizzard. The entire game is narrated by a person speaking what I presume to be the Iñupiat native tongue, and it gives the feeling of listening to your grandpa tell you a story around a campfire, which is fitting. In between all the in-engine bits we have cutscenes drawn to look like old paintings you would find in caves and on native art and whatnot. All of this really helps sell the idea that this is another culture's story being told to us by another culture, and not filtered through white people.
When we aren't in the native art style, the game looks kind of weird. The fox and the polar bear look like they don't have enough fur on them, with their coats fading out as it gets further from the body. It gives them this balding effect and I can almost make out the naked model underneath it all. The girl looks fine, but I have a hard time figuring out if the trim on her coat is supposed to be frozen hair, animal bones, or it just glitched out. There are these huge triangles all over the coat and they look like something wasn't coded properly.
The environments don't look that much better. Sure, when you get to the caves and wooden areas, everything looks fine. But when things are covered in snow, it gets bad. The snow never looks or acts like snow. It looks like white dirt that the character models just clip through. And that's a real shame, because it looks like some effort was put into the game in regards to the snow. When you walk on ground level snow there's a slight bit of dust up, and when the snow gets deeper Nuna does a small hop with every step, which is how a small child walks in snow. Believe me, I'm Canadian, I would know. The snow never feels like anything more than a big texture, and it really bugged me.
But snow aside, where the game really falls apart is in the gameplay. You control two separate characters, Nuna and the fox. I think this game was meant to be played in co-op mode, with one person controlling Nuna and one controlling the fox. But I don't have any friends to play games with, so I had to play it solo. You can switch between the two of them at any time, and when you do the other character becomes AI controlled. Unfortunately, the AI is kind of stupid. So many times throughout this game my AI character would die or screw up puzzles because I had no way that I knew of to tell them to stay put or come or not be stupid. There was a level where I was controlling Nuna and had to jump between blocks of ice that were smashing into the ceiling (because video games). So I jumped and ran across the ice block to the safe area. The AI then did one of three things. He either ran into the safe spot with me, caught up to me then ran back into the crushing maw of death behind me, or overshot the safe spot and fell into the gap between the platforms and drowned. This happened so many times I almost gave up and stopped playing the game. But I eventually made it through there and made the jump to the final platform, completing the level. Or, I would have, if the fox hadn't missed the jump and drowned. Pushing us back to part where one of the previous three things would happen.
Speaking of jumping, it doesn’t feel great in this game. Like a lot of polygonal platformers nowadays, turning around takes off a lot points right off the bat. So many times I tried to make jumps but my character wasn't facing the right way, so I went a foot forward (or backwards) into a bottomless pit. When you do get the jumps right, you have to make it a decent way on to the platform or you will fall back on to the ledge and have to sit through the climbing animations. And then you have the wind to deal with, which is always fun. When it's first introduced, you're given the ability to brace yourself so you don't get thrown back. But almost every time you encounter wind after that first time, you're supposed to use the wind to propel yourself forward to make jumps. It's never really clear on when you're supposed to brace or use the wind, and since the place I'm supposed to be jumping to is blocked by the camera which I have no control over, I'm just sitting there cowering from the winds trying to figure out where the hell I'm supposed to go next.
Also there's the bola. Oh boy, is there the bola. You get this from a magical owl man who may or may not be your grandfather and it's absolutely terrible to use. What you do is, pull the right stick back to charge it up, then flick it forward in the direction you want it to go. There is no precision aiming with this thing. You just fling it and hope it's going in the right direction. And it's dependent on which direction you're facing, too.
The fox can scurry up some walls and wall jump, and it works fine enough. He can also somewhat control spirits. This is entirely dependent on his position on top of the spirit, which basically serves as a platform. When you get to a specific on the spirit, it will move. But, since you probably had to control Nuna to get her up on the platform, you will have to switch back to the fox to move him the quarter of an inch forward to get the platform to activate right. It never feels right doing this stuff and it really pulls you out of any kind of experience when you have to move that damn fox into the proper position.
I believe games being developed by and about people of other cultures is a good thing. I don't really go out of my way to learn about this stuff, but a game could get me interested and teach me something I didn't know before. Hell, this game even has a documentary series in it about the Iñupiat. But the game around all the learning stuff needs to be good. And I don’t think Never Alone is particularly good. The graphics and platforming aren't great, and the computer controlling the other part of your twosome is terrible. Maybe I would have had a different experience with the game if I had played this with a friend or, failing that, the fox that hangs out outside my house howling at me all night. But I didn't. I was alone in this, and I did not enjoy it.