Command & Conquer: Renegade

Tiberian Sun turned into an FPS? What?!

10It was an interesting premise. Take the story and setting of the original Command & Conquer, and plunge you face-first into the action against the Brotherhood of Nod. Renegade’s strongest asset, and what keeps pulling you through even as the missions get tougher and less inventive, is the way it conveys the feeling of being at ground central in a huge, raging war. The introductory mission has you rappelling in to save an ambushed convoy, and the action is hot and vibrant right off the start.

Nod soldiers swarm out of the very mountain. A vehicle explodes, you take a hit from the right (indicated with a flash on your HUD), then the left…you’re frantic, firing wildly, and succeeding only when you take stock of the situation, breath deep, take aim, then rip the little bastards to shreds. And that’s just the beginning.

Through most of the opening missions, GDI reinforcements drop in, and better yet, you get to drive a bunch of vehicles. Along with the GDI Humvees and APCs, you also requisition Nod buggies and light tanks. But the highlight is being handed the keys to a Mammoth Tank and going on a blinding (if somewhat slow-paced) trail of destruction — be it shooting down Apache helicopters, pulverizing gun emplacements and turrets, or squishing Nod infantry.

Every unit, vehicle, and building in Renegade is pulled straight from Command & Conquer, and it’s a thrill for old-school fans to find out what it looks like inside a construction yard or Nod barracks. The attention to detail is obsessive, and builds a sensible cohesion to the buildings: the barracks have showers, a weight room, and an armory; the refineries have control rooms; and the power plants have flashing panels. All of them, fortunately, have a master control terminal that destroys the entire operation when Havoc detonates C4 there.

11And destroying Nod structures quickly becomes one of the major mission objectives among the familiar run-and-gun tactics. In a further nod to the C&C legacy, the voice that informed you of attacks or reinforcements arriving in the original strategy game does the same here. The AI, unfortunately, hasn’t changed much since the game’s RTS days. While it’s nice having companions, they die quickly from enemy fire — if you haven’t already wasted them yourself for just getting in the damn way.

It works out, then, that the enemy AI also sucks. These guys really are appalling. Some spot you whenever you pop your head around a corner; others can stand nose-to-nose with you and still not realize that they should be firing. One mission fakes a stealth operation but breaks down quickly due to AI simply incapable of acting beyond set individual parameters. This problem hurts more when you’re escorting dumbass AI characters in mission objectives. In the later missions, you have to watch your protectee race into a hail of gatling gunfire — which quickly ends the mission.

Deeper into the game, the missions themselves also lose the war-ravaged luster of earlier encounters. The vehicles disappear, as does the war, and you’re just a lone commando infiltrating bases. It wraps up with a rushed ending that has you fight a battle that’s tough, but without any obvious indication that this is it.

5Renegade’s entertaining single-player experience is certainly greater than the sum of its weaker individual elements. There’s around 30 hours of total gameplay, including 10 to 15 really good hours, and FPS purists will just have to deal with the lackluster enemy AI and deteriorating plot focus. (Seriously, the game ended so abruptly that I didn’t realize it was the last mission until Havoc winked and headed off to the transport chopper in the end-mission cut scene.) And then the credits rolled, and then I remembered I had other stuff to do.

There’s nothing revolutionary about Renegade as a first-person shooter, and a lot of its appeal stems from its portrayal of the classic RTS line. Thus, it’s not a game that can stand on its own by itself, but for fans of the series – whom this game definitely targets – it should offer plenty of nostalgic fun. That because, in the end, it’s still a Command & Conquer game.

System Requirements: Pentium II 266 MHz, 96 MB RAM, Win96

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