Westwood studios... poor Westwood studios....
They live in Vegas, yet they're expected to work. Not only that, but with Dune/Command and Conquer/Red Alert under their belts, things like Dune2 and Tiberian Sun have knocked them from their once-lofty perch as RTS innovators, and dropped them down a few pegs. Not flops, but not any real innovation, just enough bad mixed with the good to somehow give Westwood a tarnished reputation without a negative connotation, like Blizzard without the support of Korea.
The good news about Renegade is that it won't hurt Westwood. It's by no means a bad game. But, unfortunately, it probably won't break them into superstardom.
Simply put, Renegade is a good-but-not-great FPS set in the C&C universe/timeline, right around the last four or five missions in the first RTS game, starting around the kidnap of Dr. Mobius and ending with the ion strike on the Temple of Nod.
Since Renegade was originally concieved in about 1998, the graphics are about UT-level. Not bad by any means, but not spectacular. Similarly, the environments, scripting, and features are somewhat behind the times too, usually consisting of canyon, narrow village street, or low-detail indoor tunnel/base.
However, the game conveys the C&C universe extremely well, if a bit unevenly. Transport helicopters drop in troops over and over, right near unmanned antiaircraft emplacements. Tanks are airdropped in right when you need them. Enemies uniformly drop health and armor pickups whenever you're damaged and ammo when you're not at a full pack.
Speaking of enemies, they follow the mold of good/bad just like the rest of the game. In a clever nod to C&C, each unit has a health bar. While positional damage modifies your shot effect , some units are just tougher than others, straight out high-hitpoint/high armor toughs, though headshots can make such encounters anticlimatic. The other cause of anticlimatic behaviour has nothing to do with your weapons. It has to do with AI. Sometimes baddies act intelligently, laying down cover fire and moving in squads. Other times, they stand blankly or run around a corner. Add in the flailing/staggering effect caused by weaponsfire, and they can sometimes be pushovers, hardly firing back as you keep the lead on them until they keel over.
Other times, the darth-vader hiss of a chem trooper and the clicking of a rad detector amps up the fear response as a green-suited tiberium-trooper steps around a corner and hoses you with toxic, corrosive tiberium that chokes and melts you dead in a second or a Black Hand Chameleon suddenly appears from nowhere in a shimmer of stealthing and a fatal blast of laser-rifle fire at close range. Friendly AI is about the same. Occasionally they're an asset, other times they run into the center of a room and stop, sucking damage and cowering. Fortunately, most friendlies have immense health and armor, so it's rarely a huge problem.
The second type of enemies are the vehicles. By and large, they are more of set-pieces than actual enemies.
"Parked APC blocking path. Step from cover, shoot with rocket. Duck behind cover, reload. Repeat." tends to be the order of the day, especially with tanks, whose turrets are located far enough back that you can sometimes simply unload rockets into the glacius plate (front bumper) without exposing yourself to fire.
Still, when that APC comes to a screeching halt and unloads four or five flamethrowers while peppering you with the chaingun turret, Renegade really shines.
Driving hijacked vehicles is fun too, though they seem unusually weak, and stretches where you can actually run at full throttle are too rare (and due to the above weakness, too short).
Plot and gamingwise, renegade is without qualification "good". Not great, not bad. A nice, well rounded "good". The storyline is good, not terribly complex, but executed well, and has a few nice twists. The graphics might be a bit low-poly, but they fit. C&C was always basically a cartoony GI Joe rip, and everything works great to get you into the mood.
Foremost, even above the reuse of noises and characters and vehicles, is the buildings. God what buildings. Consider a smallish and mildly antiseptic Quake or Half-Life map, grafted inside a large Ghost Recon map. The first time you venture down inside the comm center in the second mission, you'll be amazed at how big it is. Before reaching it, you'll have trudged through a huge outdoor map. but then, you open the door and start going down. And down. And further down. The third map features the interior of a Hand of Nod that dwarfs some retail maps from Unreal, and once again comes at the end of a huge bloody hour-and-fifteen minute alpine map over two kilometers long. The only gripe with the buildings is that they come in two flavors- multiplayer model and plot model. The former is the same structure as found in MP games, and due to space and time, much smaller, usually only one or two levels, and a bit of a let-down from the latters' enormity, but helps keep the plot moving and load times down in missions with several such structures.
A few maps are different, featuring a "Metal Gear Conquer" mechanic that doens't quite feel stealthy (you can use the chaingun to take out troopers, so long as no-one escapes to raise the alarm), though the supressed pistol+headshots does make suspension of disbelief passably possible.
Lastly, I should comment on the weapon selection. Every weapon seems to have a great idea behind it, with some enemies being resistant to their own guns (tiberium mutants= tiberium weapons, flame troopers=flamethrower, chemtrooper=chem sprayer) Unfortunately, some of the guns are worthless, while others are just wrong and poorly executed.
For example, the grenade launcher. (for that matter, all the explosives, though the rocket launcher is rare and touchy enough to be reserved for antitank use only, and the C4 to short-ranged and rare) The grenade launcher is worthless. It shoots an ugly, inaccurate grenade that has an indistinct and too-small explosive radius, a hard-to-aim arc that leads to under-shooting, and fires slowly. To kick it off, it's supposed to bounce. I does not, at least not reliably. It sometimes bounces pathetically off a wall and lands ten feet down the corridor, or explodes in your face. Fifty fifty chance of either, with none of the control you can get with a grenade in Quake.
Another example of a letdown weapon is the Sniper Rifle. It's satisfying, slow and powerful, but reloads far too slowly and has tiny clips of only four rounds, making it worthless against more than one unwary enemy at long range.
Other weapons that are off-balance are the Laser Rifle, which is not only immensely powerful and accurate, but fires fast and has an enourmous clip, and the Chaingun. Seemingly every enemy past the fourth mission is a Nod Officer, armed with a chaingun. Where did the enlisted go? and why am I supposed to use an inaccurate chaingun with a 100 round clip when my assault rifle is more accurate, more appropraiate, and otherwise just as equal. In later maps, notably the village resistance map, partisans carry chainguns! In repeated incidences, you'll see the generic five-foot-six hundred-and-ten-pound woman in a pink sweater carrying a freaking [i]minigun[i] as she hoses down a Nod trooper.
This reminds me of a similar inconsistency. Far too many of the twelve missions are repeats. In at least four cases, one mission is insertion, and the next is extraction. In other words, run the mission path in reverse with different enemy placement. It's a bit of a letdown, and stifles the sense of grandness and accomplishment from beating a level when you have to backtrack it immediately after.
Still, for thirty bucks, Renegade is a bright and fun FPS that doens't try to be the next big thing, has fun with the universe and features some great multiplay.
I reccomend with a 8.75 and a happy face. Now where the hell is my Nod Expansion Pack. Stupid GDI-only. I must aid my brothers!
I serve Kane! I serve the Brotherhood! I serve all mankind!