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Command and Conquer: Renegade

The rush you experience from ordering squads of tanks and soldiers into an enemy base makes for a memorable time- just ask any Command & Conquer fan. Westwoodís renowned real-time strategy franchise has captivated gamers for a long time, even though the game has become a little light on the ìstrategyî side when compared to other games. As other RTS games focused more on micro-management, complex formations and the like, Command & Conquer continued to deliver the fast-paced missions and entertaining cutscenes that made the series so popular.

Apparently the developers eventually decided that something innovative was needed to keep the C&C respected, but more importantly, lucrative. Thus, Command & Conquer: Renegade was born! Instead of commanding an army you play as an individual solder amidst the battle. The overhead view is replaced with first-person in-your-face action, but the results are painfully mixed.

The world of Renegade is loosely based on the first C&C game. In the near future, the GDI (a new name for the U.S. military) and the evil NOD are waging a war all throughout the world. The NOD brainwashes, tortures and kills hapless people. Theyíre so evil that one of the characters is an obvious allusion a Nazi. It doesnít get much more evil than a Nazi in the videogame world.

In the single-player campaign you play as Havoc, a badass GDI commando with a devil-may-care attitude. Havoc constantly disobeys direct orders, dishes out delightful one-liners and recklessly rushes into battle with guns blazing. Every time one of the wildly entertaining cutscenes shows up and the paper-thin plot moves on, I couldnít help but picturing someone Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger or Stallone in a movie based on the character.

Havoc must play through twelve somewhat lengthy missions in hopes of taking down NOD once and for all. For the first half of the game I found it to be very enjoyable. The adrenaline was pumping due to swarms of bad guys and an arsenal of intriguing weapons to take them out. Thereís standard weaponry like the sniper rifle and grenade launcher, but then thereís more exciting weapons like the chem sprayer and the enormous chaingun. Reinforcements are also sent in at certain points, so you arenít always an army of one. To make things even sweeter is the ability pilot and variety of vehicles which include three different tanks, a Hummer and a couple others. Itís hard not to have a good time when a bunch of weaklings armed with machine guns try taking out your Mammoth Tank and you just blow them all up.

At the time of its release, Comand and Conquer: Renegade had some of the largest levels ever seen in a FPS. Many of the levels also contain secret objective and multiple paths. While itís nowhere near the level of open-endedness of Deus Ex, itís a step up from most other games. The objectives seem varied at first, ranging from escort missions, boss battles and destroying enemy buildings (which are large enough to be levels on their own). The buildings should seem very familiar to people who have played C&C games before. The effect of finally being able to see the inside power plants, Hand of NODs, Tiberium refineries may be lost if you havenít.

There were really only two problems I initially noticed. First, the A.I. was awful. The bad guys just sit there as Havoc sniped their friends or just barely missed them with a rocket launcher. This should have been greatly improved by the time the patches were released, but alas, it wasnít tweaked at all. Another annoyance was that NOD soldiers would sometimes spawn out of nowhere. Theyíd appear right behind Havoc after he cleared a whole room. At least the good still outweighed the bad for a while.

However, after playing about halfway through the game, I had a feeling of dÈj‡ vu. A few minutes later I realized it wasnít dÈj‡ vu, it was just plain repetition. Most of the objectives were rehashes of past missions, while only a couple of levels were still fun. Havoc had to go into the exact same building to destroy it every other level. All the enemies started to feel the same, despite their varied weaponry. Eventually I found myself struggling to keep on playing this game. The repetition became too much for me. The only thing that kept me going was the cool cutscenes and the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from beating a game. Finally, the last level was completed.

While the single-player does not completely succeed, the multiplayer was far more engaging. Unlike the single-player campaign, this mode actually resembles C&C games. There is one base for each side on the map, and within each base you can buy new soldiers to play as or vehicles to control. The main goal is to destroy the opposing base, much like it is in a RTS. Itís quite a sight to see half a dozen tanks and a dozen soldiers slowly moving into an opposing base for the victory.

Thereís also some actual strategy involved. You have to work together with your teammates to find the perfect combination of defense and offense. Each person will have to be different soldiers since some are more effective in certain situations than others. Best of all, multiplayer is addictive, especially when compared to the single-player campaign. Each player is ranked, so becoming a top-ranking player may become an unhealthy obsession.

Much like the gameplay, the graphics are pretty much hit-and-miss. On one hand the levels are enormous and the character designs are great, but on the other hand a lot of the levels are barren and look monotonous. The cutscenes are done using the in-game engine; although itís heavily modified so it looks more appealing. One of Renegadeís strong points is the excellent voice acting. Havoc really does sound tough, and the supporting characters sound equally appropriate. There are also some subtle touches that heighten the gameís experience. My favorite is the random feel-good messages repeated over the loudspeaker in the NOD base. To compliment the action there are some intense electronic tunes, but there are also some generic heavy metal music that is distracting.

Itís interesting to notice how more recent titles, such as Savage and Battlefield 1942 have expanded on some of Renegadeís strongest features. The huge levels, the strategy involved in multiplayer, and the controllable vehicles are in all three games, though since Renegade is the oldest, it is also the weakest of the three. However, if you value a good online experience over the single-player experience, then this is the game for you. While the single-player campaign is fun for a little while, it quickly devolves into a tedious experience. Despite the flaws, the cheap price of Renegade makes it a solid title to pick up for the enticing online play.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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