Command and Conquer: Renegade
It’s a bold move when a game developer turns its hand to a genre it previously has little experience at. Certainly Westwood is more flexible than most software developers, as aside from having single-handedly created the modern strategy game, is has over the years released some passable titles outside of the select and direct world of Command & Conquers toy soldiers. In fact, before it rose to become the biggest name in strategy gaming, Westwood was the crown prince of role-playing, having created both the Eye Of The Beholder and Lands Of Lore trilogies. In adventuring circles too, Westwood is fondly thought . of, if not for the Kyrandia series,then for the still worth playing and comparatively youthful R. Blade Runner.
Not that we’re for one moment suggesting Westwood has the Midas touch. Closer to a nugget of poo than gold was the online-only C&C: Sole - Survivor, a prequel of sorts to the very game we’re here to evaluate. It was a very bad online version of Ikari Warriors, basically, and even though it bore the C&Cname, it probably wouldn’t garner more than a few cursory lines in the 'Authorised History Of Westwood Studios’, if such a book existed. The point is that while Westwood hasn’t been afraid to dunk its potatoes in other pots of paint, the finished picture hasn’t always been worth sticking to the fridge door. And with FPSs especially, there are so many masterpieces around that there was a very real danger that C&C: Renegade could well be, well... a bit knob.
Cry Havoc And Let Slip...
Renegade is two years past its original release date and clearly from what we saw more than three years ago, it hasn’t quite kept up with the leaders in terms of looks. Back then it looked stunning, the Al showed immense promise, and there were plans to let players fly around in C&Cs airborne vehicles. From that wish list only a few features remain intact; the name of the game for one, an optional third-person view and the fact that you can drive a few ground-based vehicles.
Evidently much has changed over the course of the game’s protracted development and, for better or worse, due to technical limitations or whatever, Renegade doesn’t quite offer the same level of realism or interaction it once hoped to. But it has to be said, for all the underwhelming features we are left with compared to other games in the genre, Renegade does at least feel like you are a part of the C&Cworld, as if in fact, that far above the maps across which you fight, there is a spotty young commander sitting at his PC dragging invisible boxes over the units around you and watching the war unfold across a 2D map.
Though there isn’t much in the way of commanding or conquering to be done, Renegade is cloaked head to toe in the trademark Command & Conquer uniform. For one thing, you play as one of the GDI’s specialist commando units, so devastating in the strategy game that they could complete some missions unaided. Here of course you control one such commando, looking upon the world through his own eyes rather than from above. Captain 'Havoc’ Parker is his name and despite the switch to 3D, he’s about as onedimensional as they get.
As is the case in film, to enjoy a game, especially one such as this, it is imperative that you can either relate to or sympathise with the character you are playing. For all his inane musings and constant gurning, Max Payne at least had motivations above that of iust dealina death to anyone who got in his way. Here you’d get the feeling that even John Rambo would be a bit embarrassed to know Mr Havoc. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save prisoners, sabotaging Nod buildings or killing hundreds of enemy soldiers of course, that’s what soldiers do after all, it’s just that in this case Havoc has so little else to his character that it won’t be long until you wish you could just join the other side. Unfortunately you can’t, you’re stuck with him and it helps things considerably that it’s only during the game’s cut-scenes that you’ll have the opportunity to want to put your fist through the screen, so relentless is the game in terms of pace. One minute you'll be running across open land gunning down Nod soldiers, another you’ll be hopping into a tank taking helicopters out of the sky. Though the game is far from cerebral, there is at least enough to do to keep you entertained, albeit at a very basic level. Be prepared to leave your brain in the jar on the mantelpiece and you’ll be happily dribbling onto your keyboard, that’s all I'm saying.
As has been the case with all of Westwood’s strategy games, Renegade comes complete with a suitably mundane storyline. Set just after the original Commands Conquer, you are sent to find out what The Brotherhood Of Nod are up to, having captured three leading Tiberium scientists for some secret project, which, inevitably, could change the course of the war. And so it’s up to you to traverse the impressively large maps, either by foot or in one of the many vehicles either lying around or airlifted in especially for you, inevitably and gradually filling in the gaps in the story until the final showdown. Along the way you get to fight alongside your old Dead-6 commando unit, meet up with your ex-girlfriend who had the good fortune to see sense and join the other side (no doubt after having met you) and of course plant your trademark C-4 explosives in Nod buildings to put them out of service.
Now despite claims of offering both all-guns-blazing missions and those where you might need to take things a little more quietly, for most of the game there is very little need to go around on tippy toes. Thanks to some pretty basic Al in fact, even in those instances where you might think you’d need to keep to the shadows to avoid being seen, it’s rather fortunate for our gung-ho hero that the Nod soldiers have very little battle training. It’s almost as if the Nod commanders have gone around their troops and said to them 'You stand there and if you see any of the enemy, either run towards them or shoot them. If possible, both.’ That rather basic strategy seems to be the case for the vehicles as well. Occasionally a soldier may turn tail and run back around the corner, but not for any determinable reason other than they might have left the iron on.
This was on the medium difficulty setting, but even on the harder of the three settings there seems to be no discernible difference to how the enemy reacts to your presence. They might be more numerous, have more health or have hidden ammo, but apart from that, difficulty doesn’t have much bearing on how intelligent the enemy are.
But rather than be disappointed by the very crude intelligence exhibited by the enemy, it was in a sense just how it should be. The Command & Conquer strategy games have hardly been the most challenging of games. If you’d care to whip off your rose-tinted spectacles you’ll remember how early CSCtitles were dogged with poor pathfinding. Even Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 were both rather basic in terms of Al; the computer's only real advantage in battle being its obvious dexterity when it came to giving orders. True to form, here the enemy fights by the adage that it’s quantity rather than quality that will win through, yet like every other seemingly substandard feature of the game, because it is Commands Conquer, we’ve become so used to its over-simplified world that you automatically forgive it if its failing. It’s a bizarre thing to point out, but if the Al was as good as Half-Life, it just wouldn’t feel right.
It’s exactly the same story with the graphics: The sky is blue, grass is green, Nod wear bright red and the Tiberium looks like fluorescent snot - just how C&C should be: garish and distinct rather than realistic and engine is hardly what you’d call cutting edge, to which the fact that Westwood had to take out player-controllable aircraft is ample evidence. The overly angular terrain in particular stands out as a sore point, as does the fact that Westwood has yet to grasp the concept that human beings need to move their feet in order to turn on the spot. If I didn’t know any better I’d say Renegade was using the Quake II engine, such are the few graphical features that make any positive impression. On the plus side, there is always plenty going on and even our rapidly ageing Pentium 733s managed to keep up with the pace.
You Can Play Nod
In terms of the weapons and vehicles, like the rest of the game in fact, you could easily point out that there are better examples of each in a variety of other games. All the weapons are flimsy and unconvincing and one or two next to useless (the grenade launcher being a perfect example). Unlike much of the game, the weapons don’t seem to follow the same C&C rules; in that you can’t take out a tank with a pistol for example. Fair enough, but neither is a rocket launcher particularly effective against a human. Very odd that. But apart from a couple of strange inconsistencies with C&Creality, the weapons do their work, and at least it is a typically diverse arsenal, from the auto and sniper rifle to personal ion cannon. Nothing really stands out in isolation however, so let’s move on to the vehicles.
Considering how tight pretty much all the levels are, the vehicles have been worked into the game very well. In most cases they look suitably authentic and move as you would expect (although for that real C&C flavour you really shouldn’t be able to move and turn at the same time), plus they aren’t treated like pithy rewards as vehicles so often are in first-person games. Most important of all is how important the vehicles are to the multiplayer game, specifically CSC mode.
CSC mode is where Renegade shines, and when I say it shines, I mean without it we’re talking a 60 percent-ish score. CSC mode is the reason why people will buy Renegade, and it’s the closest we’re probably going to get to a real 3D CSC battle. How it works is each side has a base, made up of a barracks, Tiberium processor, power plant and vehicle factory, plus the assorted faction-specific gubbins like defences and such. The aim is simple, to get a beacon into the other side’s base and call in an Ion or Nuclear strike. The more popular way of winning is to score more points, which usually involves keeping the Tiberium flowing in, revenue from which you can use to buy vehicles, change to a better character and so on. It is arguably the vehicles themselves that make C&C mode stand out. Tribes 2 had them of course - ones that even flew, but they were little more than crude shapes effectively made out of Duplo bricks. Here the battle is on the ground, up close and personal. Unfortunately it’s not the full fried breakfast, since you can’t add any new buildings to your base, neither can you destroy the enemy's base beyond making buildings inoperative. Worst of all there isn’t anyone taking charge, which kind of makes a mockery of the name Commands Conquer mode, since everyone just seems to do what they want.
The End Bit
Westwood has always said that its aim was to create a game true to its real-time roots; one that fans of the C&C arcade strategy games would take to like a GDI hovercraft to water, while at the same time provide enough of a challenge for seasoned first-person purists to enjoy. To that end Westwood has only been partially successful. I can’t speak for everyone, but as both a CSC fan and someone who has played every first-person shooter ever made (even South Party, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed playing Renegade and yet, had I not played it I wouldn't really have missed much. Renegade has pace, plenty to do and for C&Cfans especially it really does bring the C&C universe to life, but compared to other first-person shooters it isn’t a particularly amazing game. The Al is laughably basic, the graphics unsophisticated, the interface overly complicated and the characters cliched and wooden. Perhaps the best thing about the game, apart from the multiplayer mode, is that someone saw fit to include the playable demo of Medal Of Honor on the disc. However, though it may drive many to buy what is an infinitely more accomplished game, fear most will be making an exchange before too long rather than parting with more cash.
Download Command and Conquer: Renegade
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It was only last month we took a more detailed look at Renegade's online game, and since then it has received a rather significant update in the form of the 1.03 patch. In it, along with a few bug fixes and support for third-party mods, are two new maps, across which players can now take to the sky.
Big deal? Well in some ways, yes. Some of you may recall that originally aircraft were meant to be in the game, but they were removed 'for the sake of gameplay' a few months before release. Despite the panning the game has received since, it is with some thanks that Westwood has stuck by its fans and continued to update and upgrade what is an enjoyable multiplayer game - lesser developers might not have bothered.
There are in fact three aircraft to choose from: the NOD assault helicopter; the GDI Orca and the transport chopper, which is identical whichever side you fly for. Like the ground vehicles they're pretty sluggish to control and although they use the same keys as all the other vehicles, strafing and altitude controls are somewhat inconvenient. Despite - or rather because of this - the aircraft are far from overpowering and compliment the fast-paced nature of Renegade's arcadestyle combat. However, the two maps aren't so special: the first a dusky urban figure-of-eight map, the second a rather basic desert scenario, though it won't be long before some quality maps appear, if they haven't already.
While it may be stretching it to say this patch turns Renegade into a must-have game, it certainly improves its already broad online appeal. While the single-player game is beyond help, the multiplayer game is gaining momentum. If Westwood can see its way to including real-time base-building we may finally have cause for celebration. But for now Westwood deserves no more than a pat on the back.
Wait! Before you snort like a Frenchman and skip to the next review, there's something you should know.
Despite all our predictions to the contrary, C&C: Renegade, Westwood's attempt at shoehorning the C&C formula into an FPS framework, is not dead. Yes, the single-player game was a widely acknowledged cock-up, but thanks to the efforts of some die-hard modders, the multiplayer game is still enjoyed today.
Now, I'm not suggesting you buy the game for this reason - if you haven't played it by now you've probably missed the boat. But the people behind some of the best mods for the game are now working on a Ftenegade-inspired mod for Half-Life 2, with a full single-player campaign and multiplayer game (called A Path Beyond and The Dead 6 respectively). It could be great, it could be the first-person C&C we always wanted. Unfortunately for Sold Out, it's also a great reason not to buy this game.
As Stinkers go. Renegade's single-player game is right up there with a cabbage and baked bean vindaloo follow-through. One of our main gripes about it was its Al. Or lack of it, like jeeps following an identical oval path in a vain attempt to run you over. Unforgivable. However, take out the Al and throw in some live bait, and these criticisms get defenestrated faster than an extra in an old-skool Western. And believe it or not, once you've filed your nails down to a set of useless carbon stumps waiting for one of several hundred packed-to-bursting-point servers to load, you'll find that under the glitches lies a highly entertaining multiplayer lark.
Renegade is certainly one of the most popular new online FPSs for a wile, and its class-based similarities to TFC is obviously capturing the imagination of fraggers the world over. And after a few minutes it's easy to see why. Choosing one of two sides (NOD or GDI), you must defend your base while trying to take out the enemy's. However, rather than a basic CTF principle, you actually have to take out key buildings (Runways, Weapon Factories etc), just like in a C&C RTS.
During each round you earn credits for kills, which can then be cashed in for a multitude of character upgrades (engineer, heavy gunner, sniper etc) or used to buy vehicles which you can hop into and drive (including Mammoth Tanks). Sadly, though, many of these are infuriatingly hard to manoeuvre. Things aren't helped by some atrocious lag (even with an ADSL connection) and severe clipping problems. Patches are needed, and fast.
If you're going to buy Renegade, then make sure it's for the multiplayer game. As a team game it works extremely well and its already massive fanbase guarantees an abundance of servers all day long. Don't expect to be enthralled, but do expect to be entertained.
Captain Nick "Havoc" Parker bit off more than he could chew. After infiltrating the Nod base, he discovered a plan by General Gideon Raveshaw to use kidnapped GDI scientists to launch the mysterious Project: Re-Genesis. Now as Capt. Parker you've got to stop him, free the scientists. Unfortunately Raveshaw isn't the only one you'll have to worry about; you're going to also be facing up with your ex-comrade Sakura Obata, a former commando with an attitude and Raveshaw's safety in mind.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Command and Conquer Renegade is one of the most original takes on a first person shooter to come along in quite a while. The game's clever blend of shooter and real time strategy almost warrant dubbing CCR a Real Time Shooter Strategy.
In the game you play Captain Nick "Havoc" Parker, a Special Forces commando dropped into sticky situations to accomplish a laundry list of mayhem. The single player mode of the game features about 10 hours worth of game play broken up into a dozen missions. Each of the missions are pretty sizable, having you cover pretty huge maps and accomplish a lot of killing and destruction before the day is done. Overall CCR accomplishes its goal of turning the Command & Conquer series into a first person shooter blend.
The enemies and support staff you run into throughout the game come straight from the real time strategy game. You even get to commandeer a number of the vehicles and tool around the map, annihilating enemies and structures. From heavy to light tanks, to machine gun-mounted Humvees, extreme vehicular homicide is brought to bear. The weapons provided come from the special characters in the strategy game as well, things like flamethrowers or sniper rifles.
Unfortunately the game's AI is just not up to snuff. Enemies tend to do a lot of standing around, unless you're within sight. Once they see you they charge blindly ahead, taking heaps of damage without doing much to avoid hits besides the occasional weaving. Sometimes you'll even see a flock of bad guys hung up on a table or chair. Luckily there are three difficulty settings in the single player mode and cranking it up to the hardest tends to make the game worth playing for shooter veterans.
CCR relies on its very own 3D engine, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. While the graphics go a long way to put you in the world of the original Command and Conquer, they also tend to remind you that it's only a game. CCR's graphics have more of the cartoonish feel of a First Person Shooter like Serious Sam then it does of the lately ultra-realistic releases like Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but it's something you need to know going into it. The game doesn't really focus on splendid graphics, although they are certainly passable, even good at times. Instead CCR is all about fast-paced, team-based FPS, which is a good thing.
The sounds in CCR seem to come straight from the real time strategies. In multiplay, you'll hear that feminine computer voice telling you when units are ready or buildings are under attack. In single player missions the main character's quips will remind you of the commando's surly comments in the original game. Unfortunately, much like with graphics, the sounds seem to be more there to capture the feel of the C&C line of games than to add an important element of realism. Guns don't sound as intimidating as in most shooters and the vehicles just don't offer the complexity necessary to capture an authentic feel.
This is where CCR truly excels. Multiplayer mode is supported either through Westwood's servers or through Gamespy. Once you log in and set up a free account you can start a quick match or hop over to the multiplayer game list, pick a game and start playing.
In Multiplay you fight for either NOD or the GDI. Like in the original game, both groups have totally different looking units with essentially equal abilities. Unlike most shooters, CCR isn't about killing lots o' people. Instead you have to destroy the enemy's base, as in all of their buildings, before they destroy yours. The biggest difference between CCR and other shooters is that this game makes the buildings a very important part of the game.
Throughout the game your team's harvester will be making regular trips to pick up Tiberium. Once the Tiberium is deposited in the refinery it is doled out equally to that side's players. The players can then run into a building and buy vehicles or character upgrades. Character upgrades change the types of weapons, amount of health and armor a player has, so you can become a sniper or a chemical warrior or even an engineer. The engineer, a weak almost unarmed character, is essential to the game because it can heal other players, buildings and units.
A team's selection of upgrades can be severely hampered by destroying a building. Take out a barracks and no more special characters; wipe out a weapons factory and no more vehicles. The other buildings affect Tiberium intake and can also wreak havoc on an enemy team if destroyed. Because the buildings are so important in the game it ends up forcing players to play as a team, assigning some to repair or guard the base while others carry-out attacks.
This is probably the most effective team-based shooter I've ever played, forcing gamers to actually think about their actions instead of just running around shooting stuff. As if that weren't enough Westwood seems truly dedicated to making the multiplay experience something that will be around awhile and still loads of fun. They've already had at least one patch to fix some multiplay issues and are currently working on adding flying vehicles to the game. Now that's going to rock!!
Pentium II 450 or equivalent, 64 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 3D accelerator, 16 MB VRAM and 500 MB disc space.
I really loved this game, but I have to say it was quite frustrating that the instruction book had so little information on mulitplayer weapons and vehicles. Instead you have to just try them all out to figure out who does what and why it's better to have one person over another when attacking a tank. It's really quite irritating, and frankly bizarre that Westwood wouldn't bother to better explain the best feature of their game, multiplay.
Command and Conquer Renegade isn't for those interested in realistic battle or high-end graphics. But if you're looking to have a lot of fun and hoping to try a different approach to first person shooters, this is your game. Let's hope the sequel concentrates a bit more on sound and graphics while maintaining the same gameplay elements.