Reviews From The Backroom: Command & Conquer - Renegade
Whenever someone brings up the name "Westwood Studios", the first thought that most gamers have is of one of the most influential Real-Time Strategy game producers. Westwood created Command & Conquer and Dune II, both of which defined the genre. Beyond that, they made several movie tie-ins, both RTS and otherwise. For the most part, Westwood's games were something to look forward to. They were well put together, the cut-scene's were mind blowing, and their ties to the fan-base were legendary.
So, in 2002, Westwood decided to give fans of the Command & Conquer series a treat: have them take control of the fan-favorite unit, the commando, in an action-based FPS.
Everything was already there for the developers, and yet...
Renegade is set during the closing stages of the "First Tiberium War", the setting of the first Command & Conquer. The story goes that Dr. Ignatio Mobius (a character only briefly used in C&C), the head researcher of Tiberium, is kidnapped by the Brotherhood of Nod (the main enemy force in the C&C universe), and your mission is to locate and rescue him, his daughter, and another researcher who was also captured.
From the start, it's clear that this is a game with great potential. You're playing as an already well established character, the enemies and locations are both numerous and already thought out and presented in previous games, and the game universe already has a clear, concise flow.
All of this leads to just one question: If everything is already set up for you, how could you possibly make this game so god-awful?
Well, the start of it is actually the gameplay style itself. Renegade took a step away from the usual offering of a C&C game, and was released as a First Person Shooter. Gameplay is heavily based around the completion of single objectives presented throughout each mission, all revolving around a main objective. For the play style of an RTS, this formula is acceptable, and works rather well. When it is applied in this game though, it has a massive breaking point. When each objective is presented to the player, everything feels disjointed and disconnected, as if everything was thrown in at the last second. Many of the objectives feel arbitrary, and end up looking and playing like some last minute game padding.
This is most obvious in the third mission, the largest in Renegade. You are asked to side-track several times, just to advance the gameplay. You're asked to do things such as "take out this random convoy", "kill this guy WAAAYYYY over here", "capture these otherwise useless and unimportant houses", and my favorite: "Go running around this dam in the middle of nowhere, shut down the power plant you see on the horizon, blow up this OTHER building on the OTHER horizon, and then MAYBE this door will open". This isn't helped by the fact that you are forced to take and use several vehicles to go through different parts of the level. You go from using a Humvee with an almost useless chain-gun and pathetic armor, to being crammed into a tank with the world biggest cannons that moves at HALF of your already slow walking speed, and are then forced to drive over many miles of boring, empty road.
There is something incredibly wrong here.
Most of the gameplay is forced, the objectives are non-nonsensical; for the most part, this game is just one big grind.
ALSO not helping the fact is how the game challenges you. The A.I. in this game is an absolute insult, with enemies walking right into you and past you without noticing that you're even there. Most of the players time is spent waiting for them just to fire a shot at you. In order to make up for this, Renegade spams enemies at you in a never ending stream. Among the random aircraft constantly flying over-head are many, many helicopters dropping troops.
That said, it's not as if the game doesn't hold your hand all the time anyway. Everything that you need to do is told straight to you, and every situation is so dead-set that there is really no room for improvisation. There is absolutely no re-play value strictly because of this. Besides that, the enemy forces are so poorly represented that they lose all of the feeling and mystique that the RTS games gave to them. Everything that is considered "Not Friendly" is colored in a bright, retina-shattering red that can literally be spotted across the map. The vehicles are red, the jumpsuits are solid red, the buildings are red, EVERYTHING that you are supposed to shoot is RED. Hell, even the random items lying around inside the buildings are RED. It feels like the game is saying "Hey shit-head, point it here".
I hate to go off for something that would seem so fan-boyish, but they absolutely destroyed the Brotherhood of Nod. In C&C, they were intelligent, they looked and acted similar to regular troops, and sending one Commando into a base would get his ass killed faster than you could blink. Everything is so dumbed down that this game has almost no connection to C&C besides the characters and locales.
So, does this game have ANY redeeming qualities? Surprisingly, yes.
For starters, the levels. Some of them are taken right out of maps used in the first C&C game, and for the most part, they just work. Whether inside a tanker, invading an island stronghold, or fighting through city streets, the levels all feel very distinct. Each provides its own challenges (often by putting things in the enemies favor), and besides that, each level is absolutely immense. Most players will spend an average of 30 to 40 minutes just on one map, even just rushing through it.
You get to run around inside and shoot anything you want. Woohoo!
Most of that time is spent on the random objectives given to the player, but even those have a certain charm to them (occasionally). Most of them involve having the player destroy a building or find a key-card, and to do this, the player must infiltrate the building itself. In order to do this, Renegade seamlessly integrates interior and exterior locations. Walk in, explore, find, destroy, exit. Besides that, the inside of the buildings, though not very visually appealing, feel thought out; as though they were made with the structures intended purpose in mind.
To top everything off, this game has an odd feel to it as it goes along. During many of the later missions, the player gets an actual feel for how good this game really could have been. The enemy force by that time is so varied and numerous that it actually feels like you're fighting a decent opponent, rather than just blasting up the cannon fodder. By the end, the levels feel more closely set to the C&C universe, and gameplay actually follows it. Unfortunately, it's just too little, too late.
In the end, the best game play that Renegade has to offer is not in the single player campaign. The multiplayer offered in this game is arguably still some of the best to be had. It involves players starting off in either a GDI or Nod base, with orders to destroy the other side's structures. Vehicles can be ordered in, weapon and character choices are vast and unique, and the use of cooperation and strategy is well intertwined. Unfortunately, this rather ignored 2002 release is only supported by individual servers, and finding a decent place to join a game is difficult, to say the least.
Renegade really could have been something great. The story is there, the universe is there, the characters are, for the most part, already there. The thing that kills this game is that the presentation, look, and overall feeling of disconnection remove any shred of redeeming value. It just plays too poorly for ANY game, no matter who made it or where it came from. As for the multiplayer, it is unsupported; and even if it was, it wouldn't be enough to carry the cost.
Avoid this one.
If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! And if you have any suggestions for future games to get for my back-room, let me know!