More noise than signal

Command and Conquer: Renegade — Pc

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Every once in a while, a game comes along that’s revolutionary. Despite being little more than an advance on the Dune series on a superficial level at least, Command and Conquer was one of those games, bringing realtime strategy to millions and engrossing them in the battles between the GDI and NOD forces.

After Westwood’s absorption into the EA collective, expansion of the franchise into other gaming realms seemed inevitable and the concept of a first person shooter set in this now firmly established gaming world didn’t seem like a bad one. Panned and ignored on its initial release, the game is proving to be one of the more successful budget titles of recent times. Rightfully so, as while it’s not without a number of significant flaws there are enough points of interest to make it worth a fiver of even the casual FPS fans cash.

Set sometime in the seemingly eternal wars between terrorists and the coalition of the willing, you step into the combat boots of the GDI’s most dangerous commando, codenamed Renegade. As good an excuse as any for some one man vs everyone else killing. There’s the usual forgettable linking device of a plot, something about a kidnapped scientist and tiberium research and mutants. Mutants with guns. Needless to say, they must be stopped.

In doing so, you’ll have to traverse the game’s unique selling point – some of the biggest maps seen to this day in a first person shooter accompanied by a near unheard of phenomenon – load times that are to all intents and purposes negligible. Anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of trekking through the especially awful Postal 2 and its quarter hour waits round every corner will appreciate this concept. Perhaps the downside of this is the occasional long slog through mostly empty terrain, but this is still a novel experience and that’s not something to be taken lightly in this day and age.

Critics would point to the mildly sparse texturing and occasionally basic geometry of the buildings entered as huge flaws, which I always thought a tad churlish. In truth, it’s not that bad and as far as I can see it’s not far off state of the art, at least on its 2000 release.

More disappointing is the A.I. routines used by Westwood’s codemonkeys, as in truth they’ve little in common with intelligence. Sniper rifles provide the usual fun ‘n’ games, but it’s a shade disappointing to surgically down one guard from a handy vantage point to have his mate standing nary five feet away, looking directly at the bloody scene to steadfastly bat neither eyelid. While it’s not alone in the substandard A.I. routines by any stretch of the imagination, when something as geriatric as the N64’s Goldeneye can get it right ninety percent of the time it’s sad to see later games get it wrong ninety percent of the time.

Renegade is graphically and sonically decent without ever hitting the realms of spectacular, which I suppose has to count against it in the final analysis. In this day and age it’s easy to become blazé about the quality of games, as we’re absolutely spoilt rotten. Like most people who’ve seen the bulk of the computer gaming revolution unfold under our very thumbs it’s only on the rarest of occasions that we take stock of how far thing have progressed since Pong.

Given that this is a FPS where you can run along vast outside landscapes, enter buildings, clear them room by room, blow the smegger up and hijack a tank for your escape, shelling guard towers from a safe distance, remaining unimpressed seems almost churlish. It’s a testament to how many excellent games there are out there that even something as technically impressive as Renegade is regarded as merely ‘alright’.

It must be said that I’m a bit of a sucker for FPS games. I’m also a complete sucker for the Command and Conquer games, so an FPS set in the C & C universe, single handedly achieving what ordinarily took a small army to do was always going to be in danger of floating my boat. While it’s far from perfect, there’s more than enough goodness present for most casual FPS player to pick this up on the budget labels and not be disappointed at all with the investment.