It starts off as comically bad and ends as some kind of punishment from god. He has looked upon gaming and he has seen our endless parade of FPSs, our fetishisation of macho caricatures, and he has delivered this unto us. Look upon his judgement, mortals, and weep for your salvation.
This is Command & Conquer: Renegade, and it slew Westwood Studios just as it has slain your belief in a just and decent world.
Back in 2002, Westwood Studios were riding high. Their little strategy game had blossomed into a megahit with a star sequel, and a veritable chorus of voices were crying out for an FPS set in the universe. Sadly, every single soprano, tenor and baritone came from a studio executive, because this game fucking bombed.
But don’t feel sorry for this game, dear reader, as it languishes in the bargain bin of time. This fucker deserved it. Command & Conquer: Renegade holds the dubious honour of having worse writing than every other game in the series.
It kept the terrible one-liners, the hammy acting and the ridiculous plotting that the games were famous for, but cut out the delicious sense of camp that overlaid it all; like the icing sugar over a perfect Victoria sponge. Presumably fun had too many calories for the developers.
If I seem to be struggling for words, it is not without reason. This game is awful in a way that befuddles the senses.
“Begin with the dialogue, perhaps…?” I mutter. “Or the enemy AI, which once charged towards me arse-first, firing at its own captain. The difficulty curve which ricochets up and down like a yoyo?” I cast aside another, then another. No. No. No. All dreadful in their own right, of course, but none of which quite illustrate the terrible beauty which shines within the heart of this game.
I sleep and I dream of it. The lead sneers as his commander asks him if fighting his ex will create a conflict of interest. “Conflict of interest? No.” He turns to look at me, eyes boring into mine. “I got interest in conflict.” And his face begins to melt, running down his chest, which begins to open and something – something my mind will not let me see – slides its glistening pincers out-
And I wake.
I have made a misjudgement and it will cost me dear. At the start of this venture I believed myself to be playing the Plan 9 from Outer Space of videogames, but now I understand that the vast, terrible shape spread out before me is no mere financial disaster, no risible flop, but The King in Yellow itself; renewed and remade for our unwitting eyes. Already I see the spires of Carcosa, the lake of Hali which joins Hastur and Aldebaran. He wears no mask, reader. He wears no mask.
Reject Reviews updates every Thursday, except for the last two months because the editor was moving house. What can we say, that shit happens. You can read previous instalments here.