This review is written for Renegade running on a high-powered Windows 7 PC.
To say that games have had a profound influence on me would be a gross understatement. My experiences with interactive media have informed the vast majority of my tastes in the non-gaming world, and no one game has had a greater impact on me than Command and Conquer Renegade. Don’t take that to mean that Renegade is somehow an incredible, life-altering game; in reality it is a relatively middle-of-the-road shooter. However, in one way or another Renegade has influenced my stance on online gaming, my knowledge of computers, my opinion of writing as a hobby, my early teenage taste in music and much more. For the most part its effect was due to the period in my life that I played it, but regardless of any nostalgia I feel, the things that Renegade does are still impressive to this day.
As I’ve already said, the core gameplay in Renegade is fairly rudimentary. It can be played as either a first- or third-person shooter and offers a huge assortment of weapons and vehicles to choose from. The on-foot shooting, while satisfying enough on the easier difficulties of the single player, is nothing to write home about, and enemies often tend to simply be bullet sponges for you to dump lead into in your quest from one objective to another. The vehicles, on the other hand, are much more fun, and there is enough variety between them that commandeering a new one is always a fun proposition. The split between the two forms of gameplay is roughly fifty-fifty, so whenever one style starts to get stale, it’s usually not long before the game with switch it up on you.
|The conversion from 2D to 3D is done extremely well|
The story of the game is practically non-existent. You play as Nick “Havoc” Parker, a GDI commando who is tasked with taking down a Nod special forces unit in order to rescue a group of captured scientists. The plot has a couple of “twists”, but it’s all so thin that it can largely be written off. That said, the cutscenes can be pretty funny simply in that Havoc is such a gung-ho, macho dude that he feels like a mature Duke Nukem, and it makes the attitude of the game relatively lighthearted.
The interesting thing about the single player is the fact that this is, in fact, a Command and Conquer game. The games plot, units and structures are all based on the original 1995 game, and while I personally entered the series with Tiberian Sun, the reverence to the source material is still pretty cool. The transition of the tiny thumbnail-sizes sprites from the RTS are fully realized in Renegade, and if you have any fondness for the C&C franchise it is extremely fun to see everything in gigantic 3D models. This is particularity true for the structures, as one of the most interesting aspects of the game is to explore the bowels of the monoliths to uncover hidden items and weak points in them. While it may be easy to write off Renegade as a cash-grab towards those with C&C nostalgia, the game is treated with enough reverence that those involved in its development clearly knew the source material.
|Teamwork is both present and essential to winning online|
This is normally where I would tell you whether or not the game was worth buying, but the simple fact is that the single player is the weakness of Renegade. I don’t typically like emphasizing the multiplayer in most games, but here it is the bread and butter of the game. The only mode in the game is C&C mode, in which both teams (GDI and Nod) are given an assigned base to defend while trying to eliminate the opponents. The layout changes from map to map, but you typically get structures like the Refinery that earns your team credits, the Barracks that grants purchase of over a dozen different character classes, and the War Factory where vehicles can be purchased. The genius of Renegade is just how many different options there are for how to play online. You could be a basic soldier skirmishing with those on your opponents team. There are engineers that can repair buildings and vehicles that earn the player credits. Snipers and anti-vehicle troopers are in play as well. Even the vehicles range from long range artillery to heavy tanks, troop carriers and even the occasional aircraft. On top of all this, while GDI and Nod have many overlapping or similar units, both sides have many unique troops, such as Nod’s stealth units versus GDI’s aptly named Mammoth tank. While many games offer both asynchronous and class-based gameplay, the way Renegade meshes it all together while also throwing a few completely exclusive features into the mix.
|The Red Alert TC is at least as fun as the core game|
You may be wondering why I’m harping on the multiplayer of a nine-year-old game, but that’s because it is still incredibly well supported. While only a few hundred people are ever online at a time, there are always that many people, which is more than enough to max out the top servers that run 24/7. And while there may not be a huge, widespread appeal to Renegade, those who like it really, really like it. The main login servers for the game, which allow the multiplayer to even exist, are run by the community. In addition, two fan-made “core patches” have been released that address remaining balance issues as well as adding new animations and features to the multiplayer. Also, an updated scripts file has been released that improves the graphics along with adding features that the engine previously could not support, and as of the time of writing and new set of scripts is actively in development. On top of that, EA put out official modding tools for the game, which were taking to the extreme. I’ve heard enough to know that Unreal has always been the gold standard for the open game engine with crazy community-made content, but having never been in that scene, Renegade has be covered. Not only have hundreds upon hundreds of excellent maps been made, but a number of total conversion mods have been created. These include a largely complete and playable Red Alert mod, and partially complete Tiberian Sun mod and an early in development Red Alert 2 mod, and that’s only within the C&C framework. As with most community-heavy games, the vast majority of these TC mods never really come to fruition, but a number of truly high quality entries are playable and many, many more are still being slowly plugged away at after nearly a decade.
I unabashedly consider Command and Conquer Renegade to be one of the greatest games of all time, even considering the reasonably major fact that the gameplay isn’t really all that great. The fact is that Renegade shows not only what online gaming is, but it explores just how incredible a devoted fanbase can be and it makes a compelling case for why PC games still have a reason to exist in a console-run world. The game itself is practically free at under $5, or you could get it as part of the excellent First Decade bundle for less than $20. Plus, it’s old enough that even with the graphical enhancements it will run perfectly on just about any system. Even if you don’t find the shooting especially compelling or you don’t play a lot of multiplayer games, you owe it to yourself to give Renegade a shot, if only to see what kind of unique, inventive and outright fun games can be completely overlooked by the general public.
Images captured by author