Renegade has undoubtedly been Westwood's most ambitious and most hyped product; complete with an official Demo and a USA Tour, WW has done an excellent job marketing and promoting this product, this is evident in the sales results placing Renegade as the top grossing game from February 24 to March 2. But Renegades financial success, doesn't necessarily translate into a successful game. There are huge, glaring problems with Renegade and I think the public has been brainwashed by WW with all the hype and publicity that they gave Renegade. I will examine several areas where I think that Renegade flopped in.
The Two-Disk System A breakthrough technology for the WW, start with one disk, play with the other. No other game or at least FPS or RTS game I have ever encountered has had such a ridiculous thing. WW has gone too far in their attempt to stop sharing and pirating of their software. That is why they did it; don't let them lead you to think otherwise. You may say: Well Renegade is a big game it needs two disks. That's the lie they want you to believe. And if they really needed two CD's why not use one disk for installation and the other for game play. For example Commando's 2 came with three disks: Two for installation and one for game play. This system or a similar system is employed with the Myst series. Several disks for different areas of the game. But still do you not need a disk to start the game. Now I know your out there saying: So?? What's the big deal? Just change it and get on with it. If it were only that easy. Well it would be easy except for my computer rejects that idea and I'm sure that mine isn't the only one. For, if the exchange of the disks is not done in the precise manner, I get everyone's favorite blue screen of death. This process often requires several reboots and sometimes can take up to five minutes. In five minutes I'd be in the heat of battle in any other game I own. And time is very important to me. I have very little time to spend playing game, so I have to make the best of it and because I know how long it can take I usually opt for another game instead of Renegade.
Environment/Graphics If I had to describe Renegade in one word it would be Plastic (see plasticity). I've seen more detail on a toy tank than with the vehicles in Renegade, this is a major SNAFU for the WW camp. Most games I have played have had better detail than this game did; it looked like the development team @ WW threw this together at the last minute so they could get it out the door ASAP. Casual observations by my on looking roommates have even taken notice of how "porous the quality is." Another area or lack there of, is the environment. The development team paid the same attention to detail as with the tanks...none. The quality of a FPS game no matter how much it isn't like every other FPS, but the fact that not only do we have to drive in plastic vehicles, but do we live in a plastic world. When I am playing a FPS I want to feel that I am actually there, this should be a combination of visual and audio, the Graphics suck and the audio is less than convincing so when I am playing Renegade I know I am sitting in my dorm room, not on the battlefield. However, when I switch over the Return to Castle Wolfenstein I actually get some sense that I am really there, the great detail given to the cities and terrain is excellent (example). The audio completes the package with living environments, footsteps, fires, conversations, doors; I mean I could go on and on. Not to say that Renegade doesn't have these feature they do or at least some of them, but the ones they have are few and not as great quality. No matter how great the game play is if the graphics totally suck, then the game will suck no matter the game play. And on the flip side just because it has great graphics doesn't mean its going to be a good game (i.e. Final Fantasy).
Where's the Blood?
Another mark of a great FPS, and yet how much WW claims that Renegade is not just a FPS it really is, is the realism of the combat. The FPS games I regularly play Half-Life/TFC and RTCW exemplify this, with lots of blood squirting out after a bullet to the head or the body exploding after a sniper round (example). The one feature that Renegade does have that the aforementioned games don't have and that is "damage tracker" which basically tells you were you are getting shot at from. However, is more annoying than anything most of the time you are getting shot at from so many different ways it doesn't matter, it also gets rid of the of a good sniping nest without effort. You should have to find the SOB that shot you, that's half the fun. I don't know if WW thought that going light on the blood would increase sales by appealing to more people or if it is just the sign that this was their first FPS game, but whatever it was it shows. Here are some thoughts:
Hand grenades - Where are they? How can you call it a combat game without these bad boys?
Mobility/Speed - The characters in Renegade are less than mobile, their jumps are pathetic and there is no real way to get on top of anything in the game which limits game play. Speed is a factor also, each class should have different speeds like in TFC, as best I can discern the foot speed of each character is about the same.
Explosion Reality - In C & C games when a building is destroyed it usually blows up, but not in Renegade the building just sits their taunting your about failing to protect it. I attribute this again to WW's inexperience with FPS.
Purchase Terminals - Another worthless addition to Renegade. I love having to go all the way back to my base to buy stuff, re-heal, etc. I am not saying that you should be able to build a tank and get it right in the middle of the enemy base, or change into a better unit. I suggest a bar navigation system like in TFC (see here), with after the upgrade an infantry unit that you respawn in your barracks, eliminating the travel back time.
A.I. - Or again should I say lack there of, the nod goons in Renegade have the I.Q. of my desk. While slaughtering helpless minions is fun, its still better to have to think and hunt your prey. I know I always get wasted in RTCW when I go to reload they always come right around the corner and light me up. Too bad you don't have to worry about this in Renegade
On the back of the case Renegade came in it says "Teen: Blood, Violence." I have still yet to see any blood.
Strategy WW's claim to fame, "the first FPS/RTS hybrid" well I have a different theory. WW claims that you must use "strategy" in order to accomplish missions, well doesn't any FPS game? No FPS shooter game I have ever played allows you to go Rambo style on every mission. Well some of them you can but that's fun in its self, but if you are on a righteous crusade about using "strategy" in FPS I suggest you look at the Rainbow Six series. Probably the best, most realistic strategy FPS ever made. Not only do you have limited forces, but have to create your execution plan before you start which can take a while if you use commands and techniques correctly. Not only do you have to protect your own player you have to protect your entire team, no health or ammo resupply, you get what you come with and that's it. Talk about having to manage your forces well. Another game that involves real "strategy" is Force 21 (ironically made by Red Storm Entertainment, the same company as Rainbow Six). Which requires you to manage your tank, helicopter, and armored vehicle companies against vastly superior forces. This game has superb terrain detail and forces you to use planning, terrain, and real strategic thinking as what would be involved in a real war. But I realize that people don't always like the realism, I know I don't all the time it, but my point is that WW claims that its games are so "strategically" involved when in reality they are not.
Westwood Alliances This part has doesn't really have that much to do with the overall success or in this case failure of Renegade, it is just some interesting thoughts I have come up with:
Performance Analyzer - According to the NVIDIA System Anaylzer my system is 14% below the minimum requirements for Renegade gameplay (see here) and shouldn't run Renegade at all. Guess what when I can get Renegade to run, it works, surprise, surprise. The minimum requirements on all systems are a load of trash. Sure your game probably wont run on a Apple(the old green machine), but as long as you have a system with in reasonable quality of the "requirements" the game should run fine, and if it is a little sluggish you can always reduce the quality of the graphics in your options menu. They don't want you to know this, even though it is in the manual, come on how many of us actually read it? Now all games have minimum requirements, however, the way that WW has teamed up with NVIDIA has me wondering if the "Performance Analyzer" and the jacked up requirements isn't just a ploy to get unknowing customers (the non-computer geeks) to upgrade to expensive and necessary hardware.
Conclusion When gamers last year heard about the release of Renegade many of them were clamoring about how great it was going to be, the best of both worlds of RTS and FPS. I feel this was unjustly assigned. First, WW up until Renegade had never created a FPS game, so how could people expect it to be great? Sure WW makes great RTS games, but I hate to tell you but, RTS and FPS are a lot different. The hype and buildup surrounding Renegade was a successful campaign to convince the public that Renegade was going to be a great hit. Even I was convinced that Renegade was going to be special, however, when I finally played the game I found out otherwise. We were all naive to think that Renegade was going to be great. Despite this all is not lost from WW's experiment, it was as I have said before their first attempt at such an endeavor and should be commending for doing so. History is chalked full of people who did things differently and few of the great tools that we have today would simply not be if it weren't for their boldness and courage, and WW has clearly demonstrated this. Yet, I think they tried too be at bit too bold in combine too much, separate FPS and RTS are great genre's, however, combined the reveal the worst of both worlds not the best, as seen in Renegade. Will I play it? Sure...if I can ever get it to work. But I won't lose sleep if I don't get to play it once a month. Thank you WW you have removed all doubt that these genre's need to remain separate, perhaps in a few years something like this could be tried again when the graphics and technology are even better, but until then WW's focus should remain on RTS and lets pray that C & C Generals wipes away the stigma Renegade has left in my head.