Reviews

Renegade Ops – Review

Xbox Live Arcade Title
Price: 1200MSP
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: SEGA
Singleplayer: Yes
Co-op: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes

(Thank you to SEGA for providing this game for review)

Avalanche Studio’s have taken the engine that powers Just Cause 2 and used it to create an Xbox Live Arcade twin-stick shooter that’s heavy on the explosions and looks utterly amazing. And did I mention the explosions? There’s a lot of those.

The story behind Renegade Ops is a rather over-the-top  affair full of daftness, dramatic voice-acting and plenty of explosions.  The whole thing is told via a series of comic-book styled still-screens that depict the evil Inferno (yes, that’s his name) blowing up some cities. Naturally the worlds governments want to negotiate, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting game so a certain moustache powered General Bryant dramatically throws his medals on the table, gathers up four renegade soldiers who like to drive like maniacs and goes out on a mission to stop the evil Inferno and his nefarious plot. This isn’t a deep, emotional journey of pain and redemption, it’s a cheesy narrative where the evil Inferno somehow survives pretty much everything so that he can live to fight another day. But that’s ok, because the over-dramatic General Bryant and the perfectly textbook comic villain suit the games style perfectly; it’s all about blowing stuff up and having fun.

The four renegades will be your playable characters throughout the game, with the option to pick between them at the start of each mission. Each of the four characters come with a unique ability, such as Roxy’s airstrikes or Gunnar’s heavy cannon, but these special skills are about the only real difference between characters aside from looks. These renegades are the silent but deadly type, never speaking and barely ever seen, so choosing your character simply comes down to your chosen method of play. For me it was Roxy, simply because her Airstrikes kick all sorts of arse. And she’s sort of cute. What? Virtual girls can look cute.

Out on the battlefield and things are all action. As mentioned Renegade Ops is a twin-stick shooter with a top-down view, so your left stick controls your vehicle while the right stick fires the thing that makes other things go boom or splat. Or sometimes both. Driving your ride around in Renegade Ops is a surprisingly fun experience; the physics in the game offer the vehicles a good sense of weight, but the handling is nice and responsive giving the game an overall arcadey feel . The result is a handling model that lets you slide cars around bends like a lunatic, especially if you’re like me and don’t want to let go of the boost button, and leap off of cliffs. Combined with the shooting this makes for some epic battles where skillful driving is just as important as a quick trigger finger. 

As you blow stuff up, shoot things and generally pretend to be the ultimate driving action here you’ll gain XP and points which can be spent on improving your chosen characters skills. Each character packs three separate skill trees which offer upgrades to your abilities. It add’s a nice touch of depth to the game and offers a surprising amount of scope to customise your character and vehicle to your chosen play style.. For example, I built up Roxy’s Airstrike skill by increasing its duration and decreasing its recharge time. You’ve only got four slots in which to equip these skills, with basic versions of a skill being stackable with the advanced versions, so I could equip an advanced skill which decreases my ability recharge time, and then equip a basic version of the same skill as well, thereby decreasing recharge time by quite a bit. The result was the ability to annihilate an entire screen of  enemies at the touch of a button. At the beginning of every mission you can also swap out any of these upgrades for something different, allowing you to quickly change your play style or just experiment with something a little different. However, if you choose to play the game on the easiest difficulty level you won’t have access to the upgrade system, which is a rather odd choice by Avalanche, but ramp it up to the highest difficulty and you’ll be getting those upgrades much quicker, if you can survive long enough.

Many of the games map have multiple routes and open areas where the fighting takes place, and this is when it’s at its best; defeating the enemy requires some genuine driving skill as missiles and barrages of bullets come your way. The weighty handling means you need to learn how the car will react to you throwing it around. However, the game also has the unfortunate habit of putting you into confined spaces filled with enemies where your vehicles agility suddenly becomes a curse rather than a blessing. Dodging enemy fire becomes more luck based than skill based as you simply don’t have room to get all slidey. it doesn’t help that the game uses inclines. Now, this may not sound like a problem, and when it’s a bloody big hill it isn’t, but there are also lots of little bumps and undulations in the terrain that are near impossible to spot, especially if you’re in the middle of a firefight with a tank. These little bumps can suddenly send you and your ride spinning across the landscape while your enemies laugh, point and blow you to pieces.

As you fight through the enemy hordes of soldiers, buggies, APCs, tanks and much more, you can find handy power-ups for your vehicle that increase your damage or give you nifty secondary weapons to help save the world, or at the very least blow up that tank that has been making life a misery for you. Secondary weapons include rocket launchers, flame throwers and railguns, all of which pack a rather pleasing bunch; i.e. blow shit up. Again, your chosen upgrades can really turn these into incredibly powerful assets of destruction.

The missions that you’ll be undertaking in Renegade Ops aren’t the most varied. There’s a main objective helpfully marked in red and usually a secondary objective that acts as a nice source of extra points to help you get up those leaderboards and level up quickly. Balancing the acquisition of these extra points is trick because, should you take too long, a clock will begin to count down on the main objective, demanding that you get your butt in gear and go blow up your target. However there’s no variety of missions on offer here; you’ll always be blowing things up or collecting items.

Some flaws in the missions are actually the result of the rather temperamental checkpoint system. Sometimes it will stick you back almost straight into the action, other times it will spawn you miles away and in some cases it will actually spawn you ahead of where you died, skipping you past several fights. And should you decide to take a break mid-level and shut down the Xbox, you’ll have to restart the who level when you come back. Considering some missions last around half an hour this can be seriously irritating.

Other problems arise from the games physics system, such as getting catapulted into a random piece of terrain and never being able to get out of it. Gettin stuck underneath a moving train was another problem encountered.

There’s no competitive multiplayer offering here, but there is four player co-op so that you and your buddies can blow stuff up together. Violence is always better with friends, after all. This also eliminates the need to balance out secondary and main objectives as you can happily send your friend to the other end of the map to deal with it, allowing you to get on with your own objective. And it doesn’t fail to deliver for you split-screen gamers out there, either, as you and a mate can park your butts on the couch and get playing.

But Renegade Ops biggest replay value comes from the good old leaderboards. As you blow up enemies you’re damage streak increases, decreasing should you get hit, and builds up your score multiplier, making skillful combat a must if you want to top those leaderboards. Bump up the difficulty to max and your score will shoot up, but you’ll have to deal with less lives.

Renegade Ops does take the trophy for best looking game yet seen on XBLA, thanks to it being powered by the same engine that game us Just Cause 2. The top-down view doesn’t quite do the game justice, but there’s an impressive amount of detail put into the lush jungles and sparkling water. As you cruise along dust gets kicked up from your tires, making those already impressive slides look even better. Buildings can be destroyed as can telegraph poles and random vehicles scattered around towns, all resulting in plenty of debris flying around the place and general awesomeness occurring. It’s also a vibrant game with plenty of color, a welcome change from the endless parade of games that love brown and grey. But it’s the explosions that steal the show; launch an airstrike and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful firework display, and if you do it on a night map then it looks even better. I’m honestly surprised by just how good this game looks. Though it was incredibly easy to losr track of my tiny little buggy amonst the explosions, debris and crashing houses.

Renegade Ops proves that Xbox Live Arcade titles can look exceptionally good. It’s also quite the twin-stick shooter providing plenty of explosions and action, but falls foul of becoming a repetitive blaster and has some issues in its gameplay.

The Good:
+ It looks great!
+ Good handling vehicles
+ Explosions!

The Bad:
– Forcing players into tight combat situations.
– Nine levels of constant blasting does get a bit dull.
–  Checkpoint system is barmy.

Scores:

Graphics: 9
Powered by the same engine responsible for Just Cause 2, Renegade Ops looks utterly beautiful, especially the explosions. But the art-design is pretty generic.

Sound: 8
The voice acting is cheesy and overly-dramatic, but it does suit the style of the game. Weapons all pack some nice bang, but the music is instantly forgettable.

Story: 5.5
Evil man want to blow up the world, hairy soldier and four renegades want to stop him! And then there’s a predictable story twist.

Gameplay: 7.5
The vehicle handle well, allowing for some pretty skillful combat, but the game sticks you in tight areas far too often where it becomes more luck and less skill.

Lifespan: 7
Around four or five hours will see you through the campaign, but co-op play and leaderboards should add a little more to it.

Overall: 8
Summary: Stunning looking twin-stick shooter that loves explosions and driving like a lunatic. Throw in four player co-op and an enjoyable upgrade system and you’ve got a fine game.

Categories: Reviews

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