on Sunday, January 11, 2009
Shakespeare’s immortal line bears repeating: “Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.”

When it comes to Command & Conquer: Renegade (Westwood Studios and Electronic Arts), havoc is the operative word. Major Nick “Havoc” Parker possesses major attitude and major firepower. This mission-based program continues the fine tradition of the C&C series, and delves again into the struggle between GDI and the terrorist organization, the Brotherhood of Nod.

The C&C legacy launched in 1995, and since then has produced some of the most successful real-time strategy games. But unlike previous incarnations, Renegade treads new ground –this is a first-person shooter product, with emphasis on the shooter.

This is a game with arcade features (power-ups and weapons that you collect as you go), as well as the element of strategy, weapon load conservation and brute force (as in the one with the biggest weapon wins). Havoc will be enabled to drive several vehicles (the tank does a nice job of running over folks instead of wasting ammunition), collect a wide variety of weapons, and shoot an endless stream of bad guys. Oh yeah, he also gets to rescue some folks along the way, and gets an occasional bit of help.

The battle, essentially, is for control of the planet and the dwindling power source known as tiberium. Nod possesses the same level of technology (though it takes different forms – such as nuclear as compared to an ion beam, which is equally as devastating), has an equal number of soldiers, but steps apart from GDI (the Global Defense Initiative) in that it is ruthless. This time around the enemy is a division within Nod known as the Black Hand. They are a group of exotic assassins, fanatical and capable of anything.

It is up to Havoc to discover just who they are, and stop them. Easier said than done, even though there is computer interface known as EVA, which will help him pinpoint objectives, and uses a radar-type screen to display where the enemy is.

If there is a drawback to the game it lies in that the AI is not overly strong. Considering that the enemy is engaged in a firefight of enormous proportions, running straight into a gun, or standing immobile with backs to the approaching shooter seems a little ridiculous.

The control elements are mouse and keyboard-based. Anyone who has ever played this style of game will immediately recognize the pattern of movement controls. Targeting is done with the mouse. The left button is for shooting, or in the case of explosive elements, to plant the explosive. The right button detonates explosives, or activates the sniper scope when you are using that particular rifle.

The sound is exactly what one would expect from a game with a highly trained soldier who likes to play by his own rules, and the brusque officers he rubs the wrong way. There are one-liners, idle but harsh-sounding threats, death screams as well as the usual assortment of explosions and other battle sounds.

Graphically the game is very well rendered. The mapboards seem enormous and the environments are interactive – to a degree (you can shoot holes in an overhead light, and though the bullet holes are visible, the light remains on). The effects and animation are both very good.

This game is rated Teen for blood and violence.

Command & Conquer: Renegade is the kind of game that is immersive simply because of the non-stop action. It will challenge players of different skill levels, does provide its share of eye candy and a few chuckles. While it may not be the best C&C title released, it is entertaining.