Preview - Renegade: Battle for Jacob's Star (DOS, 1995)

Ever since the long-forgotten days of mainframe Star Trek, space combat games have been one of the most popular forms of computer entertainment. There was a movie that came out in the 70s that mutated a whole generation into space jockey wanna-bes. It was called Star...something. I dunno, it escapes me. Anyway, there's thousands of gamers out there who consider being a top ace star fighter pilot the ultimate fantasy. They practically go into grand mal seizures whenever a promising new title appears to help them act out this dream. I've seen them. It's pretty gross, actually.

Just when it seemed that the cold emptiness of space was about to be conquered by strategy games, along came SSI with an upcoming game called Renegade: Battle For Jacob's Star. At first I was a little confused. After all, action games aren't exactly what SSI is known for. This may be new territory for the company, but everything we've seen here at IE leads us to believe that SSI is off to a good start.

Renegade: the computer game is an officially licensed adaptation of FASAs classic Renegade Legion: Interceptor. Fans of that classic space combat board game will jump at the opportunity to actually fly some of their favorite ships.

In Renegade you play an arrogant, insubordinate star pilot who's just bad-mouthed one superior officer too many. After failing to comply with orders yet again you are transferred to the left armpit of space--a backwater supply station with no action within five parsecs and not a bowling alley in sight. After you've served some time in that purgatory, your superiors will decide whether they'd rather grind you into an obedient pilot or just boot your sorry hide out of the military once and for all. But before they even have time to chuckle to themselves about the bed you've made for yourself, the supply station is invaded by a massive strike force of the Terran Overlord Government. (Maybe there's a bowling alley around here after all!) After the station commander disappears under mysterious circumstances, you are placed in command of the squadron of Renegade fighters, and it becomes your responsibility to defend the station until reinforcements arrive. Doesn't this seem like a great opportunity to impress all those officers who hate you?

Recently there's been a dramatic increase in games that sport high resolution graphics. Renegade will be part of this trend, offering superb SVGA images to bring your battles to life, and will be released on CD-ROM only. It will also feature 3D-rendered cinematics and a lot of digitized speech, as any self-respecting CD game should. In an effort to keep the game from monopolizing your hard drive any more than absolutely necessary, the cinematics and digitized voices will be able to be played directly from the CD drive.

Unlike most games of the first-person space shooter genre, Renegade doesn't make you start off as the bottom of the military barrel and work your way up. You may be an arrogant, undisciplined hothead, but you're the closest thing this station's got to a hero, and it's your show. It's up to you to choose the pilots you want in your squadron and give them their ship assignments. There will be 25 different wingmen in Renegade and eight ships to fly, from the speed demon Cheetah to the unusual Space Gull, and Fluttering Petal to the Pegasus--a behemoth even people named "Ahnuld" would be intimidated by.

Ever since some sadistic goon figured out how to program the PC speaker to play series of definitely pitched beeps, gamers have had to contend with game music, an entertainment "enhancement" with a track record of sounding really bad. Renegade will support General MIDI-compatible sound cards to deliver a high-quality music score, but SSI has come up with a creative alternative for all of us who can't quite afford an orchestra on a card. During play, gamers can remove the Renegade disc from the CD-ROM drive and replace it with a music CD. Want to hear Motorhead during a battle instead of Floyd Cramer? No problem. When the game needs to read information off its CD, it simply pauses and prompts you to replace the disk. Good idea! Now if only we could get CD-Mags to do the same thing...

Renegade: Battle For Jacob's Star looks hot! The SVGA graphics, 3D cinematics, and guaranteed good music should turn the heads of all the combat-hungry fighter pilots out there, and the FASA license has a built-in audience. With a mile-long list of features and wide appeal, look for Renegade to be one of the bright stars of the season.