The humble twin-stick shooter isn’t anywhere near as prolific as it used to be. With Geometry Wars, Assault Heroes and the always enjoyable Smash TV still available for a pittance via XBLA, it would be understandable if some developers felt a little uneasy entering such a highly competitive and bloated sub-genre. Thankfully Avalanche aren’t a studio to be intimidated, as proven by their glorious Just Cause franchise, and their latest effort Renegade Ops is an absolute blast providing you have enough friends along with the ride.
The setting places you, with the potential of three friends online or another person locally, at the helm of a four-wheeled war wagon with the aim of taking down a dastardly terrorist organization named Inferno. The plot feels like a bad Saturday morning cartoon show, with over-the-top voice acting and annoyingly wooden characters, but really the wafer thin exposition is just an excuse for some grade A top-down vehicular action.
Controls are exactly what you’d expect, with the left stick predicating vehicle movement and the right for firing weaponry; each of which are controlled independently. There are four different vehicles to choose from, each of which handles differently and has its own special ability to toy around with varying from an all powerful air-strike to an impervious shield.
There are nine different missions to enjoy in total, but none of them really break from the established formula of mass slaughter. Objectives gradually take players around each generously sized maps and are crystal clear with the help of a faint directional guide, so there’s never any doubt of where you’ll need to drive to or which mission critical enemy vehicle needs to explode next.
The one mechanic that mixes things up is that each objective is time specific and if you take too long a countdown will appear on screen giving you a not so subtle hurry up. It’s a good way of keeping the player on his or her toes and does make the scoring less prone to exploitation. There are side objectives to mix things up as well, but all in all playing Renegade Ops feels like a very mindless experience.
Thankfully the visuals do their part to entertain though, with great-looking environments and an accomplished sense of scale which is surprisingly affective for a game which sticks so rigidly to its birds-eye view. Helicopters hover overhead while tanks trundle around, their turrets too slow to keep up with the array of nimble vehicles, whereas small APCs zip around with breakneck pace. The bosses also appear really intimidating, with one encounter with a ship proving particularly memorable.
Renegade Ops biggest problem though is length, as these nine different missions can easily be conquered in little over four hours, with some barely twenty minutes. Granted they are built with the co-op audience in mind with leaderboards, score multiplyers and a gradually unlocking skill tree granting your vehicle new bonuses, but if you’re playing on your own you’ll get everything you want out of this game in a couple of sittings.
That said the thrill of taking on entire armies by yourself is particularly gratifying. Be it taking out tanks by narrowly avoiding their fire or reaching that health pick-up just as you’re about to expire – we just wish there was more depth to the action.
Overall Avalanche’s first downloadable title is a fun little time-waster which is perfect for a quick blast with your buddies and for the price of 800 MS points that certainly isn’t the worst proposition in the world.
Tags: Renegade Ops
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