‘Renegade X: Black Dawn’ Review – X Marks The Spot
If you give a child the keys to the chocolate factory, one of two eventualities may unfold. Either the young sprog’s youthful exuberance and imagination will cultivate the production of tantalising confectionery that’s almost comparable to the stuff the pros makes or, alternatively, the little runt will stuff his or her face and ultimately soil themselves.
So it is with the modding community; a vast ocean of mediocrity and effluvia occasionally illuminated by a rare beacon of genuine quality. Renegade X: Black Dawn might not quite be one of those eye-popping beacons but, by golly, it comes close.
A first-person shooter built using the hallowed Unreal Engine, Renegade X takes place in the wild fracas of the Command & Conquer universe, with the player character joining forces with the GDI against the iconic baddies of the real-time strategy realm, the Brotherhood of Nod. Reprising the role of Nick “Havoc” Parker from the original Command & Conquer: Renegade, it’s up to you to strike a golden arrow through the black heart of the Brotherhood’s campaign of terror by severing its defensive spheres of influence at their core during a series of short, snappy single-player campaign missions.
Or maybe it’s about shooting people in the face. A lot.
OK, that’s probably not entirely fair. Although Renegade X places a hefty emphasis on bullets and firepower as the solution to your problems, it’s nicely interspersed with vehicle sections, desperate scraps against the clock and, yes, even the dreaded escort missions.
The vehicles handle awkwardly at the best of times and the escort missions are, well, escort missions in all their frustrating, haphazard glory. Luckily, though, neither of these elements are significant enough components of Renegade X’s overall package to mar the overall experience. You’ll spend most of your time ploughing down Brotherhood scallywags with a satisfyingly bulky arsenal of guns, revelling in gleeful mirth as you duck, weave and claw through the muddled chaos of the battlefield.
It’s the battlefield that ends up being Renegade X’s biggest strength. Massive in scale and packed with hives of activity amongst NPC warriors, the game’s landscape is a collage of dynamism that masterfully captures the intensity and human sacrifice of advanced technological warfare.
Impressive enough as this may be, its merits are accentuated by the engaging mission structure. Though still a virtual blip on the radar of butchered humanity, Havoc’s still a commando, and Renegade X does a fine job of emphasising the magnitude of the task at hand whilst balancing it with the protagonist’s pivotal role in turning the tide of the battle.
Slapping on a fine exclamation point to proceedings is the game’s excellent audio-visual design. Renegade X looks beautiful for a fan-made mod, with the trees, beaches and skylines brought to life through a rich palette of luscious vibrancy. A few minor hiccups in the voice acting department, particularly in terms of the occasional instances of forced, stilted dialogue, shouldn’t detract from what is undoubtedly a powerfully realised soundtrack, an endearing facet that takes the game to levels far beyond those of the average user mod.
Inevitably, Renegade X comes somewhat undone when compared with the advances made by big-budget shooters of recent memory and it’s impossible to notice occasions on which a greater level of design resources would have helped matters substantially. Enemy AI is the most suspect of these wobbles, with opposing soldiers often doing little more than running straight at you like linebackers on a quarterback fresh from fornicating with their spouses. While this may be something of an immersion breaker in the game’s expansive outdoor environments, such flaws become virtually unassailable during the rare indoor skirmishes, in which strategic thinking is thrown out the window in favour of a more turgid, inflexible affair of trigger-happy madness. This, coupled with the regular stutters in performance as the frame rate struggles to keep up with the action, threatens to take away a great deal of the fine groundwork laid down in Renegade X’s superb production values and, though an understandable symptom of monetary restraints, it’s a stumbling block of an irritating ilk.
With that said, though, you’d be hard pushed to find a better example of heartfelt gaming execution and loyalty to existing source material than Renegade X. It’s attractive, cathartic in execution and, at just over an hour, longer than most fan-made projects out there. If you’re the proud owner of a relatively powerful rig, set aside an afternoon and let the mayhem begin.
Download Renegage X: Black Dawn through its official site, where you can also find out more about the game, along with details of an upcoming multiplayer release.