Two genres of PC gaming tend to take the forefront in the popularity: real-time strategy and first-person action/adventure. Command & Conquer Renegade, the latest release from Westwood games, attempts to merge these two styles of gaming together into one nice and neat package while still keeping the theme of C&C alive. Though the resulting amalgamation is interesting and fun at times, have the developers at Westwood corrupted the sanctity of one of the most popular RTS gaming series to date? Check out our review for more info.
Anyone that can consider themselves a serious PC gamer for the last decade or so would have to be at least somewhat familiar with the Command & Conquer family of strategy titles. From the original release back in the early 90's to the more recent Red Alert and Yuri's Revenge expansion packs, Westwood Games have consistently produced quality RTS titles based upon their own unique view of a parallel world. With C&C's unique economics, weapons, and political systems (not to mention its intense game play and story line), captured the attention and delighted gamers from all over the world. The gaming series also opened the floodgates for other developers and game companies to expand upon the RTS genre, creating a slew of great titles for fans of the genre to gobble up and play. Almost 10 years after their initial release of C&C, the developers at Westwood Studios have decided to take their parallel world into a slightly different arena of game play. With the release of Command & Conquer Renegade, fans of the original game can actually take part in the classic RTS game action, but from a slightly different point of view. Instead of commanding the various armies and units from the overhead 'God' perspective, players are immersed into the C&C world via the first-person perspective. Now, fans of the Westwood series of games can actually see first hand from the ground soldiers point of view what combat was truly like during the more intense scenarios surrounding C&C.
For those unfamiliar with the game, the story line behind C&C is rather simplistic. Events surround a furious worldwide battle for domination and control of Earth between two major powers. Players take control of one of two armies: the nice-guy forces of the GDI, or the domineering evildoers known as NOD. As with most RTS titles, each army has their own unique set of units, weapons, and structures that can be upgraded and improved upon during combat. In order to generate money for the various campaigns, players must mine and refine the ore known as Tiberium (which also makes for an interesting weapon as the game progresses). Renegade's single player game continues the story line found in C&C for the most part, but does center around the exploits of Major Havoc (pun intended by the developers) the wisecracking GDI commando from the original game. As a hybrid first- and third-person shooter, players must use the unique combat talents of Havoc and the massive armies and arsenal of GDI in order to defeat the Brotherhood of NOD and their evil plans of world domination.
As with most FPS titles as of late, Command & Conquer Renegade is comprised of two separate games: the single player game and the multiplayer version. Each game contained its own positive traits, making them enjoyable in their own respect. Unfortunately, both games also had their fair share of problems and bugs, making Renegade as a less than perfect gaming experience. The single player mode of the game loaded up effortlessly, after a hefty 1 GB installation. (we knew it was going to be a large game file after opening up the game's package, finding a setup disk and a game disk). Though not the steepest set of requirements for game play, the developers of Renegade have opted for the high road, requiring at least 96 MB of RAM and 16 MB of 3D-video acceleration in order to play. After the opening cinematic (showing our Havok running amok), players are immersed in a sharply designed futuristic/computerized menu system, giving the various start-up choices for Renegade. For those unwilling to read the gaming manual and instructions, a very nice tutorial can be selected from the startup that gives an extremely detailed walkthrough of all of the games systems, controls, and GDI weapon choices (you'll have to learn about the NOD weapons from in-game experience). The problem however was that it took us two reboots and reloads to get the tutorial to actually work properly: for some reason, it just kept freezing up. When it did run smoothly, the tutorial was found to be extremely interesting and useful, giving players pseudo-missions with target dummies in order to learn and become proficient with the various weapon systems that can be found within the GDI arsenal.
After mastering the tutorial mode of the game, jumping into the main single player mode was a rather simple task. As far as FSP go, Renegade plays pretty much like any other on the market today, with the basic 'blow the tar out of everything' motif. The action is quite heavy and intense, which should keep fans of the FPS genre happy. The controls are rather easy to use, save for the extremely rudimentary crouch commands and the real lack of a 'jump' button. Perspectives can also be switched from the first-person mode to third-person at will during the game if a player so chooses. Renegade's game play is set up as a set of missions, where players must complete specific sets of goals in order to finish the level and move on to the next map. Secondary goals are added to the game as it progresses, but are not always relevant to the completion of the current level. Each level has a back story written for it, preceded by a nicely written and rendered cinematic that keeps the story line moving flowing from beginning to end in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion. Maps for the levels found in Renegade are for the most part extremely large, detailed, and varied, giving players many different locales to perform their special brand of mayhem within. Battlefields rang from war torn European villages, to beachfront resort communities, snow-laden mountaintops, and even onboard huge tanker/carriers. Again, each map is extremely large, adding quite a bit of diversity to the path of exploration that players can engage in while trying to finish up the current level.
Though most of Renegade plays out like your run of the mill FPS, it does have quite a bit of unique attributes inherit within it, making it stand out among the crowd. For example, some of the weapons used in the first-person combat mode are quite brilliant in their design and use within the game. The sniper scope has a microphone attached to it that can pick up conversations from the enemy at great distances. The Ion Beacon (along with its little brother, the Ion Blaster Cannon) have some of the most destructive in-game abilities this reviewer has ever witnessed in a FPS title: watching the beams converge to take out an entire building was one of the coolest things I've seen in a game. Vehicle use also stands out as a unique feature of the single player FPS game. Through Tribes2 and a scant few other have incorporated vehicle play in their team based play, Renegade took the time to incorporate this gaming aspect into the single player mode. Gamers can (at certain points in the game) jump into an unused vehicle, and spread the wealth of damage around at will (including running over enemy troops, lobbing shells at fortified positions in the distance, etc.). Not only can players utilize GDI vehicles, but they can also jump into unfamiliar NOD armor units, giving the enemy a dose of their own medicine.
The single most unique aspect of Renegade comes from its overall Command & Conquer gaming structure, something that other FPS games simply do not have. Though it is a shooter, Renegade takes place during what can be considered a typical C&C campaign: weapons factories are churning out weapons, Tiberium is being mined for money, barracks facilities are training new soldiers, etc. Strategic hits at locations (including Tiberium mining units, armories, etc.) can be useful in keeping enemy production down, which in turn makes it easier for you to complete missions. Enemy placement during the game also mimics what would happen during a strategy campaign, with NOD officers calling in for more infantry, deadly Obelisks protecting key locations, and friendly reinforcements sent out to help you out during crucial moments. All in all, Renegade does end of giving off the impression of what a ground soldier would be up against during a game of Command & Conquer. The multiplayer game play aspects of Renegade turned out to be slightly more disappointing than the single player campaign, as a whole. The first snafu we ran into was the lack of firewall support directly from the retail box, which caused quite a bit of frustration when trying to log onto Westwood's server initially. The game itself crashed after attempting to log on without the needed changes to the firewall software as well: unfortunately, it took us several attempts at loading the Multiplayer game before we realized that this was the problem. Trying to locate the proper info for changing the configuration of the firewall software was also a difficult task, forcing us to search through several different online pages in order to locate the correct ports to open up. Hardcore computer gamers looking for that edge in their online game playing were some of the first to access the fledging broad band internet resources a few years ago, and today its almost commonplace for people to utilize DSL or Cable modems for their systems. You'd think that gaming companies would actually take note of this, and make the experience of setting up a multiplayer computer game that much easier.
After finally connecting to Westwood's Renegade server, we found that there just weren't that many sites to log onto. Also, the ones that were readily available didn't have enough players to make it worthwhile, or, had such a high ping that game play was almost impossible. Floating over to Gamespy's server site proved more fruitful, however, allowing us to jump into several low-ping and populated Renegade servers for at least a short period of time. One has to admit the fact that Renegade is a unique form of team based multiplayer combat that definitely stands out amongst the crow. Still based around the C&C theme, Renegade's multiplayer game continues the struggle between the forces of the GDI and the Brotherhood of NOD. Both teams face down one another in an attempt to place an Ion Beacon (a very destructive satellite based weapon) within the home base of the opponent. The first team to successfully do this wins the match and game. Each side of the conflict has their own working base, with a weapons factory, barracks, defensive structures, and Tiberium refinery. Teams must not only battle the enemy, but must also coordinate resources in order to build combat vehicles, repair damaged structures, and upgrade character classes. Protecting Tiberium harvesters is a must, since most of the money generated comes from this process. However, destroying enemy forces and structures can also accumulate money.
Multiple character classes are available to play in Renegade, ranging from the standard foot soldier, to the flame-thrower units, heavy weapons soldiers, snipers, engineers, and even specialty character that were seen in the single player missions of the game. Character upgrades are purchased at various terminals found throughout barracks and weapon facilities within the players team base: however, if you don't have the cash, you don't get the upgrade. Varied armored vehicles are also available to purchase, ranging from Humvees to Mammoth Tanks, APC's, Stealth Tanks, and even mortar launching units. A couple of interesting notes about the vehicles: several players can ride in one vehicle at the same time, with one player controlling vehicle direction and another weapon control. Renegade's multiplayer game was definitely designed to be used with a large amount of players at the same time. The arenas of battle are extremely vast and diverse, giving lots of room for multiple armored units to drive across, or for bands of nasty little snipers to sit in wait for an ambush. With the diverse numbers of characters available to play, each time a player connects, they can expect a whole different level of game play. Again, the only major drawback with Renegade was the lack of stable servers in which to game on, or lack of people to play against at any given moment.
All in all, Command & Conquer Renegade was
an enjoyable game, even if not the best FPS title on the market to date. Its
unique game structure based upon the classic C&C theme mixed with some
interesting weapon designs and generous ground vehicle usage made up for the
other obvious flaws in Renegade's single/multiplayer game design and execution.
Though fans of the classic C&C title will no doubt have more appreciation
for this title, fans of FPS games and team based multiplayer combat should find
a wealth of enjoyment and hours of fun with this interesting FPS.