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Command & Conquer: Renegade



2002 EA Games (Westwood)



Renegade is the lone first person shooter in the Command & Conquer series. The game follows Commando Nick "Havoc" Parker on a series of missions to rescue a group of kidnapped scientists from the Brotherhood of Nod. Some of the missions seem to be taken from the last few missions of Tiberium Dawn (and indeed are supposed to actually be those missions in the storyline.) In the game you get access to many of the weapons, vehicles, and buildings seen in the RTS game, plus you get to snipe a bunch of fools and run people over with tanks and stuff, which rules.

The single player missions involve completing a set of primary, secondary, and tertiary objectives, although only the primary objectives are needed to advance. Primary objectives are the big important stuff, such as escorting a reduced scientist to safety, blowing up a critical structure, killing the boss, etc. Secondary may be something like blowing up sam sites, disabling buildings, rescuing prisoners. Tertiary objectives (or bonus objectives) are hidden rather well, and may be anything from making contact with civilian resistance or infiltrating a hidden weapons cache. You will get instructions for primary and secondary objectives but for the bonus objectives you have to figure them out on your own. After each mission you get a screen that shows your "rank," which is determined by a number of factors, including how many objectives you've completed. This does well for replay value as you can always go back and try to get a perfect score.

The single player game actually plays pretty close to many other fps that have come since (The Outfit on Xbox 360 comes to mind.) You start the mission and get audio instructions throughout that basically lay out where to go and what to do. These missions are all pretty straightforward and the maps are somewhat linear, although the later maps have large buildings and alternate routes. This was one of the first games to allow the player to go into interior environments and back out rather seamlessly, with zero pauses for loading in-mission. Many of the missions also involve you commandeering enemy vehicles (such as light tanks, Nod buggies, or Flame tanks.) This may be pretty standard today but back then seamless vehicle combat in a fps was a big deal.

Each mission is introduced by a FMV cut scene. These cinemas have not aged very well, actually they really didn't look good in 2002 when this game was released. They're somewhat grainy and the character models are of a low-poly count. Thing is in certain parts of the game FMA (full motion animations) using the in game character models are used. What's the difference? Since these particular cut scenes use the same models that are already loaded in memory they look a lot cleaner (and more consistent to the actual game.) The clincher is that the FMV sequences also use the same in game character models as well. So why not make all the cut scenes FMAs and have them look better? The characters do have lip synching and facial expressions which are handled well. However Havoc's face just looks.. wrong. His mouth is too low on his face, like his face was put through the wringer and came out all elongated and stuff. Actually Havoc is the only character who has this long face problem, as faces for the other characters (like Sakura for instance) look pretty decent. The acting in these cinemas is pretty cheesy and filled with cliches, Havoc is the typical loose cannon type who disobeys orders and treats his C.O. like crap, Sakura is his exgirlfriend who wants to kill him but later switches sides, the betraying scientist, the "I work alone" attitude, etc. They are played out with a sense of humor though, and are pretty funny in their campiness, almost like it's making fun of all those Rambo/Commando movies of the 70s and 80s.

The actual game thankfully looks a lot better than the grainy cut scenes. Outdoor environments are very nice looking, without much fog or pop-in (actually most of the levels are constructed in a way that the horizon is hidden by cliffs or buildings, thus most problems of this type are hidden from view. The one level where fog is evident is on a Snowy Mountain top and thus doesn't look too bad.) The levels are filled with little details, the interior of houses have furniture, lighting fixtures, and personal effects, the various towns and such have posters on the walls, street signs, and the like. Levels have hidden areas to explore where you can overhear conversations between characters, snipe people from across the level, etc. A lot of attention was paid to the interiors of Nod buildings. Each room inside one of the buildings seems to have a purpose. Inside the Hand of Nod you'll find the general barracks, mess hall, locker rooms, bathrooms and showers, even a training facility made to look like it's outdoors. All the while you pass computer screens, security cameras, control panels, and wall posters spouting Nod propaganda. You can tell a lot of work went to creating the "world" for this game and it all works very well.

Flames from a flamethrower have a tendency to show through walls. Also you can get damaged while behind a rock or wall or something if a tank shoots the other side of it. I don't know what's up with that.

Controls are pretty accurate and configurable to your liking. You can crouch, jump, and interact with things (like control panels and vehicles) with the E key by default. You can aslo switch from a first person to third person perspective on the fly. The missions have a decent learning curve and start out pretty cake. By the end of the game the aim of the typical Nod solider improves considerably, whereas before taking out a whole room of bozos was standard procedure in the last few missions confronting more than two soldiers at a time is suicide. For instance in the very last room of the game, where all I had to do was go up an elevator and walk about five steps there is a spot where various types of enemy soldier respawn automatically, and by this point thier aim is so good they can kill you in one shot. I must have reloaded at that point 50 times before I managed to get it and finally win the game. The learning curve is steady however, and most of the missions are passable with dedication (the exception being the escort missions as the computer A. I. has a tendency to get itself into trouble too easily, and is in fact, stupid.)

However once you get to multiplayer all of this changes. Multiplayer here is an entirely different game altogether, it plays out like a First Person version of the RTS game, where teamwork is needed if your side is going to succeed. The point of the game is to destroy your opponent's base either by disabling each building one at a time or by planting a nuke or Ion cannon beacon on a pedestal in either the GDI barracks or Hand of Nod (doing so counts as an instant win.)

Each player has the option of choosing several different characters who each have their own specific weapon, although on servers that allow weapon spawning it's possible to take the weapon of a slain opponent. These characters are highly specialized and encourage teamwork, some of them (like gernaders, rocket solders, or flamethrowers) are useful against vehicles but are pretty much toast in close combat, snipers like Havoc or Sakura can nail a lone soldier from across the map but are meat when confronted at close quarters with two or three assailants. Each side also gets an engineer or equivalent who is armed with a "repair gun" that can repair buildings, vehicles, or even other soldiers. The engineers actually become the most important character in the game as they are the only ones who can keep critical structures from going down.

In the interest of fair play your weapons from the single player game have been reduced in strength considerably. While in single player you can 86 a tank with two or three well placed rocket impacts here you'll empty all your ammo into it and be lucky to get it down half way. The average soldier also seems able to take a good half clip before going down. You die more often from getting run over by a vehicle or taking a stray tank shot. However there are characters with one hit kill weapons (snipers Havoc, Sakura, Patch, and the Black Hand sniper) as well as two other characters who's weapons are designed more so to be used against vehicles (Ravshaw and Sydney Mobuis who is armed with a "personal Ion cannon.") The drawback to these characters is that the weapons are easy to dodge and have a low rate of fire. "Tougher" characters like Havoc or Mendoza can actually survive one sniper shot to the body. However all characters will bite the dust with a direct headshot with nearly every weapon, even the default pistol at short range.

Buildings are very important to keep healthy, and serve the same functions as in the RTS games. Barracks and The Hand of NOD allow you to choose top shelf characters, weapons factories and airstrips create vehicles, the Tiberium refinery gathers money. Disabling a building removes it's function from the game and puts your side at a disadvantage. Usually the first side to loose a building looses, however it is possible to come back if you've got sufficient teamwork going (and money.)

The relative toughness of the characters makes multiplayer noobie friendly as it's easy to stay alive if you stick with your teammates. No particular character is strong enough to destroy a building on their own so in order to win you have to work together. Some very intricate team strategies have been developed for the multiplayer game, some that shadow stuff you can do in the RTS games (like tank or engineer rushes) others unique to this incarnation (such as placing multiple nuke or Ion Cannon beacons all at the same time as to confuse the other team.)

Overall the game is very well presented. Single player does a lot to expand the C&C universe with diverse environments and long, complicated missions. Some of them require stealth, which doesn't quite work (your walking speed is just too damn slow,) also later missions are serious hell to get through, but none of them are impossible. Multiplayer shines with unique gameplay that hasn't been seen before or since, and even four years after the game's debut it's still easy to find a game with lots of people. I highly recommend this game for any fans of C&C or team based FPS.

Unit lost.

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