Avalanche Studios’ has taken a break from making ridiculous third-person action games to bring everyone a crazy, vehicle based twin-stick shooter called Renegade Ops. It also features both online and offline co-op for up to 4 players, allowing you and your friends to compete for points whether you’re a foot or a mile away.
The opening cinematic lays out the story to the game: evil madman blows up a city as a warning to the United Nations, and their response to negotiate causes a gruff General to resign. He goes on on to create a crack commando unit who drive their own personalised tricked out jeeps and buggys to take down an entire army by themselves. You know, like any number of shows from the '80s and '90s.
The game is fairly light on the story, just enough to make sense of what you’re doing - and what you’re doing is going around in your totally extreme SUV and shooting at any bad guy in sight. The game works like most twin-stick shooters; your left stick controls your vehicle as it drives around the terrain, and your right stick aims and shoots your on board machine gun in whatever direction it’s pushed in. The machine gun can be powered up during missions by collecting special crates that are randomly dropped by enemies. Secondary weapons are also dropped in this way, giving you more power to use against tougher foes.
Each character comes with their own special move, such as a temporary shield to deflect damage from your enemies, airstrikes to blast them into oblivion, an EMP blast to disable electronics, and becoming a fixed heavy turret to massacre your enemies. These are the four options you’re given, each charging up as you play, and can be upgraded like the rest of the vehicle.
There is a heavy point focus on the game, chaining together damage and kills and completing secondary objectives will give you a big boost to your score. These points are used to level your character up, and while this doesn’t change any of the characters stats, it does allow you to buy upgrades for your vehicle, such as additional health, regenerating secondary weapon ammo, and reducing recharge time on special moves are just some of the upgrades you can buy with your Renegade points.
The levelling system is an interesting mechanic in the game. As well as having the immediate effect of giving you full health during a mission, due to the speed and frequency of levelling you will always be able to buy more of them after a mission finishes. This is very noticeable if a mission is failed, as you will probably have gained enough levels to get a new item or unlock another upgrade slot. This can make a world of difference on a second playthrough.
You have to be careful though, as each character levels up individually. As the game gets progressively harder and expects you to have upgraded, switching from your level 36 airstrike girl to your level 1 shield guy to try a later mission is asking for trouble. There are no checkpoints in the missions either, so you need to tackle them in one go with your limited number of lives - even if you don’t die, the primary objectives all have time limits. Miss them, and it’s back to the title screen.
This is part of the old school feel to Renegade Ops. Floating crate pick ups, common game overs, intense difficulty, and a focus on replayability by beating your high score brings out some of the best and worst of gaming tropes from days gone by. The game from beginning to end is very short as well, about 2-4 hours depending on what difficulty you choose. However, it never gets stale or repetitive, mixing up the maps and objectives just enough to keep you engaged throughout.
Playing through the game, it really screams out to be played with friends. This is it’s greatest strength though, as having all 4 people in a mission at once means you can make the most of the individual characters working together, and cause chaos to boot. The hardest difficulty level seems specifically designed for this, as the levels do not change depending on the number of people playing.
While the online is relatively lag free, the online community does not seem to be very active at the time of writing. However, it allows for seamless co-op matches with online friends, which may be preferable to you than random online people.
It’s worth mentioning that all the cutscenes and incidental dialogue in the game are portrayed in beautiful motion comics, and it really adds to the stylish nature of the game. There are even points throughout some levels where you have to enter a base - a picture of a few guards looking surprised pops up. As you hammer X to fill up a meter, the picture changes to show them being punched, kicked, and defenestrated before you pull a lever or place a bomb.
While Renegade Ops is definitely playable as a single player game, you will get the most out of your $15 by playing it with friends. And you’ll enjoy every second.
|Renegade Ops Review by Robert Zwetsloot|
-The Final Word-
With stylish motion comics and ridiculous levels, Renegade Ops is a fantastic co-op game that you will find yourself playing with friends again and again.