Blog 726: Tiberian Renegade

It seems to me that everything Westwood touched turned to gold. They were most famous for their real-time strategies — the pinnacle being Tiberian Sun itself — but they seemed to diverge from that mould more than history would have you believe and come up roses all the same. Foremost of course was their stab at the hack ‘n’ slash RPG, which produced one of the greatest games of all time, Nox.

Over here, though, we have their first-person shooter. Set in the Command & Conqueriverse, occurring some time during the original C&C, this answers the age-old question that haunts every strategy franchise — what would it be like to be in one of those battles?

Command & Conquer: Renegade

And it really is like being in one of those battles, although instead of troops and vehicles pouring out of equal but opposing barracks, the narrative takes you universally on the offensive. The game begins by surrounding you with huge assaults, hovercraft landing up the coastline to deposit friendly vehiles and helicopters parachuting in allies and supplies to spur you on into the enemy badlands.

In terms of actual moment-to-moment assault, it’s pretty flexible, as befits its strategy heritage. The game follows a linear narrative but levels are mostly pretty wide, giving you loops and side paths from which to approach your enemies; even though the main objectives are always in one direction there’s plenty of space to try it your own way.

Optional objectives are scattered along the road too, completion of which generally rewards you with more health, armour and ammunition… Plus you get a warm fuzzy feeling in the post-level stats screen when it says “4 of 4 completed”.

The cinematics are in-engine rather than live action as you’d expect from a C&C game, but the facial and movement animations and voice acting are really really good to make up for it.

The flood of enemies you’ll have to fight through is pretty massive, and I wasn’t even playing it on hard mode. Enemy soldiers are not necessarily clever, but they come with the same variety of weapons you can use — and they’ll be para-dropped in as much as your own allies, so you have to keep your wits about you when thinking it’s safe to proceed, lest another group sneakily appear behind you.

Luckily, your arsenal contains a lot of weapons that will stagger your opponents and stop them from returning fire. Weapons like the flamethrower and chemical sprayer allow you to hose down large groups and even though these weapons don’t kill instantly, the constant streams will keep your targets locked in position (unless they are themselves flamethrower or chemical troops wearing hazard suits, in which case, try the opposite one).

It’s time to clean house.

The weapon progression is slightly odd, though, in that it drops several weapons very early, then gives you nothing new for ages until the run up to the finale. Your starting assault rifle, for example, is joined almost instantly by the sniper rifle, the sort of weapon that generally lurks further on through a campaign — though here that’s a blessing, as it allows you to pick off enemies across the sprawling battlefields without exposing yourself to turret fire.

It takes much longer before you get to the rocket launcher that allows you to fight back against vehicles, and it’s even further after that when you finally grab the rocket’s lesser sibling, the grenade launcher. The grenade launcher seemed like a bit of an afterthought to be honest, I’m not sure why they added it at all.

Splash damage is a little bit janky so the rocket launcher is pretty much reserved for large or stationary targets.

Then, right in the last few levels, there’s a veritable deluge of cool weapons. The Personal Ion Cannon is a one-shot-one-kill powerhouse (looks and feels more like the railguns of Tiberian Sun than an Ion Cannon but we’ll let that slide), and soon after your first fleeting glimpse of that you’ll find your first laser rifle — which cleanly supplants the more basic weapons by causing the same staggering as the flamethrower but with the accuracy of a sniper rifle.

The laser rifle is an odd one, though, because it is soon joined by the gatling laser rifle… which inexplicably uses different ammunition. I mean, it’s nice when you’re running low on one and discover you still have a full sack of the other, but the two weapons fire the same projectile (just one does it faster), so it would make sense for one to literally replace the other and consume the same juice.

Another odd weapon design decision is that you get the Tiberium Auto-rifle, a lovely toxic shard-spitter, at the stage of the game where Tiberium-infused mutants are doing the rounds and get healed by those projectiles. You hardly get much opportunity to use this gun before the game comes to a close.

Kane is not directly involved in the plot, but he occasionally crops up on communicators and taunts you.

Of course there is another set of weapons available — those mounted on vehicles. Vehicles are not as freely available as you might hope considering the scale of the battles that generally rage; while enemies and allies duke it out with their heavy armour you can only get into a vehicle that has been parked and left unlocked (or helicoptered in as a reward for completing an optional objective).

As this is C&C1 era we are limited to GDI Humvees, Medium Tanks and Mammoth Tanks, and Nod Attack Buggies, Light Tanks and Flame Tanks, rather than the Tiberian Sun Titans we so dearly desire, but it’s a start. The usual rules apply, with vehicles providing speed and light weapons or armour and heavy weapons and letting you squish troublesome foot soldiers.

Destroying harvesters has no appreciable impact on anything but damn, it feels good. Take that, enemy economy!

After vehicles comes the final item on the strategy game roster — buildings. You don’t get to build anything for yourself, but buildings do exist as things in Renegade rather than merely as terrain decorations. They’re nestled properly into the landscapes instead of plonked down on a grid, but they still have recognisable shapes and they will spawn soldiers and vehicles until demolished… just like the real things!

As a foot soldier, though, your damage-dealing capabilities are fairly limited. That means, of course, that you have to go inside.

This building looks damn re-fine-ery.

Maybe this is one of the places where Renegade‘s conceit starts to wobble. The idea of Going Inside the Buildings is well cool, but the internal arrangements are often confusing and lose any sense of the external shape. Rather than having rooms that fill the visible outline of a building with a few decks and control rooms, they tend to do one floor on the surface and then send you underground into less meaningfully connected spaces.

The Hand of Nod in particular has a confusing warren beneath it. While there are fun elements like a gym and a fake forest training area, scrabbling around getting lost in that maze of tunnels looking for the way to the Master Control Terminal isn’t always fun — and because buildings are standardised they get to repeat this set-piece several times, varying only the loot you find and the enemies hiding inside.

Ah well, if you can track down an Ion Cannon beacon, you can always plant that outside the front door and watch the fireworks instead.

Stand back… for justice!

The Verdict

I loved it. The narrative is a good-natured ham-fest and the action is top notch. Maybe your movement speed is a bit slow, and maybe the engine is a little bit janky around the edges, but overall it’s an exciting romp with a satisfyingly chunky campaign.

I guess the only regret we have now is that we never got to see a Renegade 2 set in the Second Tiberium War…

Hoo rah etc etc etc.

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3 thoughts on “Blog 726: Tiberian Renegade

  1. Every C&C game has it’s own fan base, Renegade has one of the largest. It’s how I entered the community. Multiplayer games are far less taxing and a lot more fun. There are still fan servers for the original game running with a fairly large player base of 50 to 100 people.

    As per usual, there are quite a large number of mods for the game, most of these take another game in the C&C franchise and port it over into Renegade. I first started playing “Tiberium Sun: Reborn”, as the Tiberium Sun era always seemed that more compelling than the Tiberium Dawn era. As a result, I ended up playing quite regularly. W3D Hub also hosts “Red Alert: A Path Beyond” currently their most polished, sadly “Tiberium Sun: Reborn ” has become rather unplayable recently as the game became increasingly imbalanced, it is currently in the middle of a rework.

    W3D Hub is also working on several other mods, ” Battle for Dune “, “Expansive Civilian Warfare”, think “Grand Theft Auto” mixed with “Renegade” and “Red Alert 2: Apocolypse Rising “. As a tester, I got to play all of them their lots of fun. Feel free to download the launcher, game night is on Friday and “Red Alert: A Path Beyond” is what is usually played.

    https://w3dhub.com/#news

    Otherwise ” Renegade: X ” is a community remake of the original Renegade in the Unreal 3 engine. It has bots (they’re rather stupid) and an active community. They released Tiberium Sun vehicle pack a few years ago. Overall their game is the most polished. Wolverines are ridiculously awesome.

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      • I had a feeling you would say something along those lines. There only two mods with a single player campaign that with your while. “Mental Omega” and “Twisted Insurrection”.

        Mental Omega has 50+ new single player missions and their well executed sadly their very difficult so that’s most likely not an option especially as there is no save and load function.

        Twisted Insurrection, on the other hand, is far easier, it’s set in an alternate Tiberium Sun universe, the first 10 missions for each faction are easy and that atmosphere is great. So that’s the only mod that I can think of that would fit your criteria . The only problem I think you may have is the slight changes in atmosphere and the direction of story telling. Basically, Kane is dead and the Brotherhood of Nod won the first Tiberium war.

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