Back in 1995 when Westwood released the original Command & Conquer it almost instantly became a classic. It was groundbreaking in several ways, and was just plain fun. Seven years have passed; the genre has changed from real-time strategy to a first person shooter game, but have Westwood along with Electronic Arts managed to make a game as groundbreaking as the original? Let's find out!
As some of you probably know, in the Command & Conquer there are two sides, GDI and NOD. The GDI are your regular group of good guys, out to keep world peace etc, sort of like the UN. The NOD, being the bad guys who want nothing more than to control the planet and earn money from tiberium harvesting don't like the GDI a whole lot. In short, it's the eternal battle of good versus evil, as there is in two or three other action games out there, and yes, I'm being ironic.
The GDI obviously have some pretty talented soldiers in their ranks, and one of them is named Havoc. That's you, a general tough-guy, of course with a real attitude. Havoc isn't a fan of neither the NOD, neither of authority in general. He is on the other hand a fan of blowing things up and making a lot of holes in enemy soldiers. Perhaps he's a friend of Duke Nukem?
The mission objectives in the game mainly ranges from blowing up the enemy base to saving people and to smite down any sign of NOD activity. In short, you shouldn't expect to defuse sophisticated bombs with a toothpick and a pocketknife.
The engine used in Command & Conquer: Renegade, which Westwood will use a modified version of in their next-generation real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Generals struggles to impress. First off, the textures aren't especially crisp and look downright boring. Secondly, the level architecture isn't much to brag about, even though some areas are okay. The walking / running enemies and friends you bump into are animated in a simple way. The vehicles you fight or drive are somewhat better animated, but then again, vehicles aren't the most difficult things to animate.
One thing I did like though was the movie-sequences that you watch after having completed a mission. They are pre-rendered movies that aren't of that high standard, but they're longer and contain more action and other cool stuff than what's usual in other first person shooters. I wish they could've made the characters less blocky and the lip-sync look more real. Regardless, it's nowhere near the quality of the movies in games by Blizzard, or various role-playing games.
Performance-wise the engine doesn't do too badly. 1600x1200 works relatively well and that resolution also makes the textures look less jagged than they actually are, so you can at least compensate that way.
The Sounds / Music:
I'm sure most of those who have played either the original Command & Conquer or Tiberian Sun know the kind of music used; the futuristic semi-techno music, which tends to get annoying after a while. All I can say is that those of you who for some reason liked that music and have plans to play C&C: Renegade will be pleased. In my ears it is pretty much the same music. I didn't really expect Westwood to incorporate completely different music in this title, but it wouldn't have taken a whole lot of work to raise the level of quality and to actually add a few several tracks so that it doesn't get so annoying.
The sounds of the various weapons aren't particularly better either. In fact, the flamethrower and some of the other more "different" weapons sound dreadful and metallic. They sound like 5$ pc speakers do, after rough treatment. I did pay 100 times as much for my speakers though (not including the amplifier etc), so this isn't good at all! The weapons that fire bullets on the other hand sound reasonably good. They sound like any other similar weapon in any other similar first person shooter.
Now, the voice-overs are of a nice standard. When in the game mainly the only voices you hear are the soldiers slightly cursing over the fact that you're killing them, and when you're talking to squad members etc. The movie-sequences that I mention earlier have realistic voices, making the atmosphere better.
So, let's start with the AI. In fact in Command & Conquer: Renegade it should be named AS, for Artificial Stupidity. The enemies are often totally clueless to my being next to them and they only seem to wake up after I've shot them a couple of times. It seems as if the enemies usually have to be in a certain spot before they manage to shoot you, so that if they're going up a stairway they often have to go the entire way up and around the corner before they can shoot. It's really sad to see top-trained bad-guys who aren't able to deviate from the most basic movement rules. Also, there's no real groups of enemies that work together, so for the most you encounter one or two enemies who don't lift a finger to help each other out against the insane killing machine that you're playing.
Now over to the movement, which doesn't feel natural at all. You do move around basically like you do in any other first person shooter, but when Havoc isn't able to jump over things that a five-year-old can it strikes me as peculiar. Sure, he's carrying perhaps 10 huge weapons, filled with crates worth of ammunition but other heroes have done it before, so why does Havoc lack so much gym practice.
One of the major innovations in Command & Conquer: Renegade is the addition of vehicles. You can climb into a bunch of big brutes, ranging from Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and other smaller vehicles to gigantic tanks with enormous firing power. It's actually pretty fun to drive over soldiers, since even with the massive power of the tanks you still have to fire several shots to kill even the normal soldiers. Driving over people humoured me in the strategy game too, when I come to think of it.
When the demo of Command & Conquer: Renegade was released, a while before the actual game release it helped build the expectations for the then upcoming release. The demo was and still is popular because of the original concept, base versus base in first person. When starting a game you are assigned to either the GDI or NOD. Each base have their own unique units, advantages and disadvantages. You start as the most basic soldier, armed with a pistol and the automatic rifle. As long as you stay alive you slowly earn credits, but if you kill enemy units or destroy enemy buildings you get a lot more credits. In one of the friendly buildings you can enter a terminal where you have the option to purchase equipment and vehicles. So, in terms you can go from being a tiny soldier to a tank driving disaster waiting to happen, it's your choice!
You have the ability to play over the Internet, over a local area network or to practice on your own. I was gladly surprised that they included the ability to practice on your own, which is something you don't see in every first person shooter nowadays. Granted, the artificial intelligence leaves much to be wanted, but still it's a nice feature. All together there are 10 levels to choose from and it's easy to choose a "playlist", so there's definitely potential for LAN-fun.
I was a bit surprised that there's no regular deathmatch or team deathmatch, but I'm sure you can be entertained by the one mode they included.
In the beginning of the game I thought it was fun to see the various units that I remember from the strategy games, but for me it became boring after a while regardless. Why? You might ask. Well, as I've already said, outdated graphics, cheap sounds and boring music isn't really something that's liked by many. The multiplayer part of the game is pretty fun on the other hand, especially if you play with and against human opponents. Therefore the only people I can recommend this game to is die-hard fans of the original strategy games, and people who have fallen completely in love with the demo. This is not a game that will be remembered by a lot of people in a year, since hopefully a lot better games are released by that time.