Retro Requisition would like to draw your attention to a classic video game of old that we shall be formally requisitioning to be reborn, revisited, rebooted, or remastered. We will explain what makes each game such a timeless classic still worthy of attention, pitch what it would be all about and get all realistic by discussing the possibilities of it actually ever happening.
“We, the most awesome and fabulous team at That Not Current, have decreed in all our wisdom and obsession with the wonders of retro gaming, that the following game should be brought back to life and hereby submit this formal request to make it so:”
Command & Conquer: Renegade (2002)
THE PLAYERS: Westwood Studios, EA Games
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Command & Conquer: Renegade is the result of a very simple question: what happens when you make a first-person shooter game set within an iconic real-time strategy world?
Westwood Studios had given the world the iconic Command & Conquer series in the mid-90’s, and following their buy out by EA in 1998, there was an emphasis on franchise-building the IP into other genres. From this direction, the idea to create a FPS set within the narrative of the original Command & Conquer game was born. Assuming control of elite GDI commando Nick “Havoc” Parker in the final days of the first Tiberium War, players are tasked with rescuing three scientists after they have been abducted by The Brotherhood of Nod. Taking place in multiple locations throughout the World — similar to the plot of Tiberium Dawn — Renegade featured a different perspective of the many iconic buildings and vehicles from the original’s game. It included the ability to drive many of the tanks, attack vehicles and even the Orca helicopters, along with wielding many of the unique weapons in both a FPS and third person perspective. Packaged with a thumping score from long-term C&C composer Franck Klepacki and littered with great one liners, Renegade is an all out boots-on-the-ground version of Command & Conquer, capturing the essence of the series perfectly.
Aside from the campaign game, Renegade also featuring a before it’s time online multiplayer option called “Command & Conquer Mode” which allowed for two teams to go head-to-head in various game modes and battle between GDI & Nod. With each side having a base to defend and produce vehicles, it felt even closer to an RTS experience. It was Battlefield before Battlefield was Battlefield, only set in a well-established gaming universe.
Upon release in march 2002, the game was generally well received, with special mention to the strength and originality of the online multiplayer. The solo campaign was a little more polarising; praised for its tone, humour and all-out action while being criticised for it’s repetitiveness, bugginess and lack of conformity to traditional FPS games. However, it was universally accepted that it was a “must buy” for fans of the series. Unfortunately, the sales figures never appeased Westwood’s new corporate overlords and ultimately set the studio towards its demise, being closed and consolidated by EA the following year. This tragedy ended up cutting off a lot of support for the online side of Renegade, but it also blossomed the rise of a mod community around the game which was still very much alive and well in 2018.
WHY DOES IT NEEDS TO BE REBORN?
One thing that was amazingly overlooked back in 2002 was just how blisteringly unique and original Renegade was. It took an established RTS game and created a FPS within that environment — something that should have been much more lauded upon release. It is a case study in franchise building an IP and a “how to” on branching out from a specific genre. While it was revolutionary to the C&C series, it still maintained the core fundamentals that could immediately distinguish it as a C&C game. Like many, I feel this model has way more to give and the Renegade template could have been applied to later games in the series. That alone is enough reason to have the series rebooted.
The multiplayer was way, way ahead of it’s time. It took a traditional multiplayer FPS death-match and evolved it with more strategic elements typical of a Command & Conquer game. While it was limited in potential by the technology of the time — many people still using dial-ups — what it could achieve with today’s technology and infrastructure is mind-boggling.
Looking at the bigger picture, Renegade marks a distinguishable turning point in the Command & Conquer franchise. It was the last game that original designers Westwood produced, and from that point on it was a downward spiral to the absolutely sacrilegious Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight as EA slowly butchered everything that was unique about the franchise. Therefore, in my eyes Renegade is the last C&C game with that something special about it and part of me wishes we could go back to that moment in time and reset the franchise. It would have been incredible to see where Westwood would have taken it. Maybe a traditional RTS where you could assume the role of specific units? We will never know.
Yes, Renegade was only born as a result of direction from EA to branch out, and in all likelihood, minus EA’s involvement, this game could never have existed. However, by pushing Westwood into their first FPS game they brought a special rawness that overflows from the game. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it has that C&C DNA running through its veins and that’s what makes it so damn special.
Granted, had this been produced by a studio that specialised in FPS games then it would have been a much more polished game. But a better game? I’m not so sure.
It is a genesis point of how to bore a FPS from a successful franchise, and no reason it couldn’t be applied to similar games. An Act of War or Rise of Nations FPS sounds most interesting.
WHAT WOULD WE WANT TO SEE IN ANY REBIRTH?
I think in this case a reboot or sequel is the way to go. A rebirth doesn’t quite work for FPS games as they tend to be very linear.
No question the game has aged poorly. It has the box face graphics of a terrible time where visuals were stuck between traditional computer design and face-mapping with an end result that is, well, horrific. On top of that the animation is really sluggish to the point of turning gamers off, so an overall visual upgrade is essential. I would also drop the third person element unless it’s in a vehicle as it detracts from the experience.
As for content? When you are dealing with an IP as deep and rich as Command & Conquer there is an unlimited amount of content to be mined out to form the basis of a diamond of an FPS game. In theory, every mission in the RTS could potentially be a template for an entire game.
No question that the jewel in the crown for Renegade was its multiplayer and with online gaming far more advanced there is great scope to revamp this FPS/RTS hybrid model for the modern age.
I mentioned it before, but the basis of Renegade is very special and it has already inspired other games to mix FPS with RTS. However, no classic RTS game has tried it and that is something that may be worth exploring. If we can’t get a new Renegade, I’d gladly accept a Starcraft 2 FPS as an alternative.
But the greatest thing we could ever hope for from any return to Renegade? It can be explained in a very simple formula…
Renegade + Red Alert + Tanya = “Shake it, Baby!”
IS IT LIKELY?
Under EA’s ownership? The repetitive ruiner of franchises?
Not a chance.
The fact they have already obliterated C&C as a franchise holds little faith for the future. As a whole, Command & Conquer is currently in a state of purgatory — stuck between the prospect of never seeing the light of day again or being resurrected as yet another blasphemous, soulless money grabber that insults its predecessors.
Due to the perceived poor financial return of Renegade, EA will have washed their hands of this one and consigned it to the history books as a punt gone awry. When — and if — a Command & Conquer game reappears it will be RTS, no doubt about it. In all likelihood a freemium online-focused travesty, but that’s another article.
Fortunately, the aforementioned modders have come to the rescue, with a duo going by the name of Toten Arts building a remastered version of Renegade’s multiplayer as a mod for Unreal Tournament 3, released in 2009. It proved to be so popular that they turned their focus to a standalone version, including single player campaign. The first mini-campaign, Operation Black Dawn, was released in 2012 and an open beta for their multiplayer game, entitled Renegade X, followed in 2014. Still officially in beta today, it is constantly being worked on and has evolved more into a successor to Renegade’s revolutionary multiplayer mode rather than a remake. It has garnered huge critical acclaim and the next chapter will be the inevitable legal challenge from EA when it comes to being ready for release.
At least with Renegade now part of the Command & Conquer: First Decade Collection, fans can quite easily revisit it and rejoice in simpler times when Westwood was still in control of such an iconic series, and pushing the boundaries of what was possible with it.