Hello all! Last week’s game was a prequel that maybe didn’t live up to expectations. It really couldn’t, but it ended up being pretty fun.
Today’s game is in a similar vein; it’s part of a long-running series, yet it’s an extreme departure from that same series.
Command & Conquer: Renegade is a first-person-shooter, which is weird, because Command & Conquer is, of course, a real-time-strategy series. Alas, in Renegade you play as a Commando named Havoc, fighting the Brotherhood of Nod on behalf of the Global Defense Initiative and...
...well, it’s basically the same plot as the original Command & Conquer, except you’re playing as a badass commando character and there’s no strategy to be found here. There’s a basic plot at play, involving biological weapons developed by Nod (zombies, basically) and essentially no twists and/or turns. Basic action hero, let’s-kick-ass plot.
That mindset naturally extends to the gameplay; there’s no stealth or planning or whatnot. You drop in a level and shoot everything that moves. You have a decent if basic variety of weapons that all fall into the usual pistol/machine gun/rocket launcher categories; occasionally you get to use an ion cannon beacon that calls down a blast of ion energy from space. It’s a lot of fun, to put it mildly. Mostly, it’s for destroying bases; some objectives in the main campaign task you with eliminating enemy structures, like what one would do in a main C&C game. This amounts to going inside and destroying a main computer or two, which (somehow) destroys the entire building.
The whole game, frankly, is destroying things and shooting enemies that are perfectly content to stand around and get shot. AI is almost nonexsitent; enemies don’t try to flank you or work together, nor do they take cover, or...they in fact behave like their RTS counterparts—stand and shoot—which is strange for a shooter. Part of what makes a shooter fun is the tension that results from you, the player being outmatched, whether by numbers or by intelligent foes, and Renegade doesn’t feature either of these aspects. The campaign gets pretty dull after a while as a result, and the plot is (likely purposely) too thin to make you care much about seeing it through. There’s a couple of good levels, but I struggle to remember others, despite having just replayed the game. I don’t think it’s super great to forget parts of a game you played last week.
I first heard of Renegade through a friend (it was 2001 or so and I didn’t follow that much gaming news save my Nintendo Power subscription), and I hated the sound of it. I loved C&C back in the day, and a shooter version sounded like a terrible idea. I couldn’t fathom how the tactics and strategy of C&C would translate to an FPS (as it turns out, they didn’t translate at all). However, as a couple of friends had the game, Renegade was the first game I bought for my new 2002 PC (256MB RAM, Geforce MX 420, Pentium II processor, shut up it was good for the time), and I found myself enjoying it at the time, mostly because I could see Command & Conquer from “ground level” here. Both GDI and Nod structures and vehicles were lovingly created in glorious 3D polygons for the first time, and I could walk up to them and touch them, drive them, and blow them to bits. That aspect is hard to hate for any fan of C&C, regardless of how you might feel about Renegade.
But that novelty wears off. Once you get past the whole “I’m in Command & Conquer!” aspect, what you’re left with is an at best mediocre game. I mean, like I said earlier, I enjoyed it at the time, but that was due to my own C&C fandom as well as my ability to play the newest PC games, which I had previously been unable to do. I had convinced myself that this game was fantastic, when later on I would see it as flat with a couple of good moments. Replaying it recently just reinforced the belief that this game was never great. Maybe fun in bursts, but not great.
There’s a lot of games we tend to look at with rose-tinted glasses; we remember some games as better than they actually were. Renegade, I think, seems better in our heads due to the sheer amount of Command & Conquer in it. But it’s a facade that wears thin over time. The paint chips off, and what do you have left? Not a whole lot. When discussing a game like Renegade, one tends to bring up how cool it is to fly an Orca, to drive a Nod tank, to watching an Ion Cannon blast descend from the sky and obliterate the Hand of Nod. It’s cool! But it’s superficial. The game leans on its franchise a bit too hard, dazzling you with references and callbacks without doing anything to stand on its own. Those endless references are primarily why Renegade seems better than it ever was; at its core, it’s a highly uninteresting, boring game to play. Yet stomping around Nod bases as a macho commando character seemed pretty cool, right?
Take GoldenEye, for example. GoldenEye came out years before Renegade and features a ton of memorable moments and levels that stick with you forever. Ask someone to name their favorite GoldenEye level and they’ll answer immediately. Ask the same question for Renegade, and, well, you’ll likely get a quizzical look.
I kind of enjoy Renegade as a curiosity more than a game; a neat experiment by Westwood Studios, who had never done a shooter before. When my friend explained Renegade to me, I wondered if it would work. The answer is technically, yes, but the reality of the game is far removed from the perception. On the other hand, I’d probably play a game starring Sakura.
Thanks always for reading! I have a Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me!
Next week, I play a Western! And not the popular one. The one before that one.