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March 2002



- Excellent presentation of the classic C&C universe

- Solid Multiplayer

- FPS conventions are all here

- Good soundtrack and graphics



- Fun multiplayer games if you have enough people

- Enemy AI needs to go to school

- Limited exploration

- Which CD do I put in?



Review: Unreal Tournament 2003 (PC)

Review: Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza (PC)

Review: Halo (XBox)



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Command & Conquer: Renegade

Score: 7.4 / 10


What would a real-time strategy Half-Life look like?  How about a space sim set in the Space Quest universe?  A massively multiplayer Leisure Suit Larry game?  A tycoon game set in Land of the Dead starring Manny Calavera?  I can almost guarantee that the gaming world will never see games like these (and arguably they should never be made).


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Taking a known game property and translating it into another genre hasn’t been tried to any deep extent.  There are games like Super Smash Brothers Melee that pit cute and fuzzy Nintendo characters against each other in fights to the death, and there was an attempt by Blizzard to create an adventure game set in the Warcraft universe, but for the most part the “genre transplant” hasn’t been tried.  This is why I approached Command & Conquer: Renegade with some skepticism and a bit of excitement.  Would the transplant work?


Renegade puts you in control of Havoc, kind of a one-man army, loose cannon that leads a group called Dead 6 for the GDI forces against the brainwashing machinations of the Brotherhood of Nod.  While Havoc is the leader of the Dead 6, most missions are of the 1 on 1,000 variety – Havoc against wave after wave of Nod soldiers equipped with all manner of weapons and vehicles.  Occasionally GDI will drop some gunners or grenadiers to help out, but their effectiveness is limited by their intelligence.





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All round AI is lacking.  Enemy AI is laughable at times – walking toward you backwards or standing still while you spray them with the flamethrower.  Or they run toward you as you steer your Mammonth Tank toward them.  Running over enemy soldiers is fun but some of the enjoyment is taken out of it when they practically throw themselves under the tank treads.  On the higher difficulty settings, their basic behavior doesn’t change but there are more of them and 


you have less armor and health while they have more. (And ammo is hard to come by.)  Some of the indoor combat is marked by some changes in AI though, with the occasional unit running out of a room if it’s taking heavy damage. (He usually just stands outside the door and waits for you to finish him off.)  Their attack of choice is swarming while laying on the fire.


Havoc’s arsenal is extensive and consistent with the C&C universe.  The most devastating is the Ion Cannon beacon, but owed to the extremely limited supply you can’t use it willy-nilly.  There are the usual host of Tiberium-powered weapons, rocket and grenade launchers, sniper rifle (which has a zoom factor of about 1,600), and C4 explosive.  It’s mostly standard FPS weaponry, but each weapon has varying effectiveness.  Using the chem sprayer on some enemies actually increases their health. (One boss encounter, I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t taking any damage.)


To complement the weapons Havoc can also access a sampling of the C&C vehicles, including the Nod Stealth Tank and GDI Light Tank.  The vehicles are implemented to good use and it helps to further the feeling of being at ground level in a C&C RTS game. (Plus they're easy to control.)


Levels are huge and manage variety without straying too far from the C&C settings.  There are towns, enemy and friendly bases, a Nod ship, and snowy resort bungalows to explore.  There are many structures recreated in 3D and probably most menacing is the Prism of Light which is usually located around corners to blind side you.  For a fan of the C&C RTS games, exploring the nooks and crannies of buildings like the Hand of Nod is cool – especially the mock battle ground in the basement.  Design leans on the linear side of things.  It nearly leads you by the nose for the most part, but there are opportunities to explore your own paths, which is essential to avoid Flame Tanks in close quarters street fighting.  Renegade also takes it upon itself to limit where you can go.  For example, a simple railing will be impossible to jump over.  The designers don’t want you going that way so they slap up an invisible wall in some areas to bar your exploration.  It’s a little annoying. (Especially when tiny little barriers stop your tank cold.)  Mission objectives range from destroying structures to escorting Dr. Mobius as you attempt to escape from the bowels of a Nod research facility.


Stringing the levels together is a straightforward story about Nod conducting experiments with Tiberium and kidnapped scientists, namely Dr. Mobius.  The story is mostly conveyed via the cutscenes, which break from the traditional FMV (that Westwood has become known for) by presenting everything “in engine.”


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The engine itself may not be as kick-butt as Quake III but it does an excellent job rendering the classic C&C universe with big bright colors and smooth animation.  There are scripted sequences – none too hair-raising but they add some variety.  The opening sequence is especially good – Havoc takes part in an assault on a Nod base with lots of air support flying overhead and units scrambling around for cover.


Multiplayer, fast becoming the be-all end-all of gaming, is good – with one qualifier: enough people.  Have enough people and multiplayer can be loads of fun.  It can be compared to Tribes 2 in that regard and in level size, which is usually huge. (Renegade is far more stable than Tribes 2.)  Nod vs. GDI is a load of fun on a good server.  A harvester goes out and continually builds up your supply of credits that gives you access to varying units and vehicles.  Each map has specific objectives for success, but you can still do some of the things so essential to the RTS C&C, like harassing harvesters.  It’s during these matches that it really feels like you’re taking part in a traditional C&C game at eye-level.


Probably my biggest gripe with Renegade is that I never did figure out what CD I was to put in when booting up the game.  There are two CDs and no matter which one I put in, half-way through the start-up process it asked me to insert the other one.  This may be some kind of copy protection thing, but it was damn annoying.


Command & Conquer fans will find a lot to like about Renegade.  The 3D representation of the C&C universe is dead on and the multiplayer is fun to play.  The single-player experience is marred by dumb AI and the feeling of being funneled everywhere.  That being said, I still had lots of fun with the single-player game and even more with multiplayer, but that’s influenced by the fact I’m a C&C fan.  The music, the graphics, the weapons and vehicles all blend to give that distinct C&C experience – the transplant is mostly a success even though the gameplay doesn’t always hold up.  Renegade doesn't bring much new to the genre, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have some fun.


- Omni

(March 22, 2002)


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