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Command & Conquer : Renegade

On Tuesday afternoon Gestalt infiltrated Westwood's heavily defended base at ECTS, examined Renegade up close, and then half-inched their last press CD... Here's his report.

It's been five long years since Command & Conquer first introduced us to the Global Defense Iniative, the Brotherhood of Nod, and Tiberium. Its success helped spawned the whole real time strategy genre, and along with Red Alert and all the various mission packs and bundles that followed it's managed to shift somewhere in the region of 10 million units.

This year finally saw the release of the long-awaited C&C : Tiberian Sun, but Westwood already had another surprise up their sleeves - C&C : Renegade. Commando Remix

Renegade takes the Command & Conquer series into the third dimension for the first time, up close and personal. Instead of controlling an entire army of tiny sprites you'll be taking charge of a single GDI commando and viewing all of the action from a third person perspective similar to Tomb Raider's.

During the game you'll carry out a series of 15 objective-based single player missions. For example, in one mission you will have to find a Nod base and then "paint" a building with a laser targetting device to guide in an airstrike.

It's quite a drastic change of direction for Westwood, but if you're worried that this means the end of Command & Conquer as we know it, don't panic! Westwood are intending C&C Renegade to turn into an entire new franchise, and future Renegade-style games will be developed alongside the more traditional RTS games rather than replacing them. Welcome To Paradise

Although it was announced only weeks ago, Renegade has been in development for two years .. and it shows. The physics are detailed and vaguely realistic (in a fun sort of way), and the graphics engine is a work of art, handling huge outdoors areas effortlessly.

The terrain is remarkably detailed, but you can see for miles in every direction. Using the sniper rifle you can zoom right in on an enemy who is standing so far away that there's a noticeable delay between you pulling the trigger and the high velocity bullet finally reaching its target.

And the level of detail code means that while you are zoomed in on your target you can practically see his nasal hair, but when you zoom out again all you can see is a low poly speck on the horizon. The models all look very detailed up close, the skins are high quality, and the animations are fluid and realistic.

All of this graphical splendour comes at a cost though - the game is hardware only, and will require something in the region of a P2-300 with a Voodoo II or better graphics card. But Direct3D, OpenGL and Glide are all supported, and the game should also support the Transform & Lighting acceleration available from the next generation of graphics card like the GeForce 256. Which is nice.Punish Your Machine

Renegade might be taking a different slant on Command & Conquer, but it's still the same familiar world. During the game you'll see many familiar buildings and units from the original Command & Conquer, and best of all you'll actually be able to drive many of the vehicles!

As part of our demonstration the player was guided to a Nod buggy, climbed in and drove off in it. The buggy was modelled in great detail, right down to individual shock absorbers that moved as the buggy scrambled its way over the terrain. Getting out and climbing into the buggy's other seat allowed the player to take control of its gun.

There's also talk of capturing a harvester and using it to sneak into a Nod base, or even taking over an Orca. Although we didn't see any of this for ourselves, if Westwood can pull it off it should add a whole new dimension to the game. Red Team

Where the use of vehicles will really pay off though is in multiplayer. Imagine climbing into a buggy with a couple of your friends. While you drive one of your mates will be controlling the gun, and the other will be sat in the back with a rocket launcher. With all the vehicles from Command & Conquer being recreated in Renegade, the possibilities for team play are almost endless.

And although you only get to play as GDI in single player, multiplayer will allow you to play as Nod as well. Westwood are aiming to have about 15 to 30 players in each game, and the whole thing will be run through the Westwood Online service, so finding a game should be relatively straightforward.

As well as the now standard team play and CTF options, Renegade should also offer goal-based missions similar to those in the single player game, giving it an almost Team Fortress feel, but with the added bonus of driveable vehicles and the depth of the Command & Conquer universe. Conclusion

From what little we saw of it, it looks like Renegade could be shaping up to be one of the most exciting games of next year.

The graphics are crisp and detailed, the terrain expansive, the multiplayer options intriguing, and of course it's got the Command & Conquer name, which means that even if by some miracle Westwood manage to foul it all up in the next few months it will still sell by the bucketload...

Expect Renegade to rock your world next spring.

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