Review – Renegade Ops

Review Renegade Ops
While thumbs are largely celebrated for granting humanity dominance over the planet, those same two stubby digits have also allowed us to sink countless hours into videogames, and are perhaps overdue for a salute on that front considering how such diversions allow us to temporally forget our poor management of that larger inheritance.

Though we were content in ye olde days with games requiring little more than two thumbs for admission, many have gone on to greedily ask players to nearly grow a third hand over the years. Perhaps this is why touchscreen gaming evokes a special kind of Zen, and also why Sega’s latest digital offering strikes an immediate and inviting feeling that leaves me all warm and fuzzy.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the ancient proverb, “Give a man the ability to cause immense destruction, and he shall want for nothing – at least until the ride is over.”

Developer, Avalanche Studios, takes this idea to heart when creating videogames, this time tapping into the imagination at work in the sandbox of my youth, where I once rolled toy tanks into battle while making ridiculous sound effects to simulate the explosions I envisioned.

Though this latest release doesn’t haul out an antiquated franchise from the Sega vault, it definitely stirs nostalgic memories.


Review Renegade Ops
The diabolical Inferno has graduated from super-villain school, and has decided to hold the world hostage with the requisite nuclear arsenal mysteriously at his disposal. With governments willing to negotiate, a decorated General goes rogue, bringing together a team of renegades to stop this madman.

Renegade Ops is an opera of action cliché, complete with endless bouts of bravado, fiendish laughter, and obligatory plot twists that will likely fall short of winning any narrative awards this year. But one doesn’t enlist with the Renegades for narrative, which simply provides the thin connection of dots for what really matters, moving the player toward the next series of things that blow up rather spectacularly.

Renegade Ops uses comic book sequences to deliver the narrative that connects stage areas and progresses in-stage plot developments, and whether from the continual action, color palette, or simply because I was entirely concerned with blowing up more adversaries, the effect seems less offensive than it has in other titles.

The game even offers a curious quirk where players will sometimes enter a facility to sabotage or capture it, pressing a button fiercely to accomplish the task, all the while having comic panels play out scenes of action to depict what is occurring inside said building. It’s a small little slice of added attention that doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but makes an impression all the same.

Review Renegade Ops
Players are offered a choice from four Renegade characters, each with a signature vehicle. And while each sports the same general handling and primary machine gun fire, the significant difference lies with the secondary weapon – EMP, heavy gun, air strike, shield. I leaned heavily on the air strikes of Roxy’s jeep, which at the outset of the game afforded a quick advantage in tight situations by allowing me to tag an area for quick aerial bombings.

As the game progresses however, players earn experience for hauling their mobile weapons platform across the terrain, and leveling up characters leads to points that unlock character specific upgrades – which helps all four characters shine a little brighter. Increased recovery and respawn options are available on the skill-tree, but improving the secondary weapon carries extra importance, adding features that can cause an EMP blast to not simply disable vehicles temporally, but also inflict damage, or even cause a shield that had been purely defensive to rebound enemy fire. My delayed air strikes quickly grew into more immediate and devastating blasts that tore apart enemy armor.

It’s worth noting that points earned with one character can only be used to unlock upgrades for that character, and carry into multiplayer sessions. Playing on the casual setting also disables this point reward feature, while playing on hardcore increases the scoring rate.

The upgrade scheme is very straightforward, and with players earning extra experience for devastation streaks – based on how long you can keep destroying large things – it isn’t long before characters reach new potential via these perks.

Review Renegade Ops
Renegade Ops deploys players into collapsing urban areas and lush jungles, where Avalanche has created stunning scenery for their military toys – standard military issue jeeps and soldiers are quickly joined by flame units, larger armored tanks and helicopter gunships.

But static imagery isn’t really the name of the game, with the visual strength developing during the blur of action that allows players to fire wildly at everything with one analog stick while crashing into objects with the other – a control scheme that makes it more pleasurable to knock down guard towers by crashing into them while gunning more mobile targets. Whether boosting over dirt roads and watching the trail of dust, or witnessing the eruption of flames and debris that so often result from enemy encounters, the devil and the fun is in the details. Avalanche hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the reaction of objects and enemies is as crucial to making a solid twin stick shooter as the simplicity of the controls. It’s simply fun to drive donuts around a large tank while striking at its weak-spot, and then watching it explode.

Destroying enemies offers upgrades to the primary machine gun for the duration of the stage or until the player expires, as well as health recovery and temporary use of an additional special weapon – missiles, heavy cannon shots, and even a flamethrower.

Review Renegade Ops
With only nine stages, it doesn’t take long to blow through the single-player campaign. Though rather than simply cutting players loose to play freely in this playground, Renegade Ops is an ever focused objective based game.

Stages are rather lengthy and layered, assigning multiple objectives that ask players to follow a red arrow toward the action – the next hotspot of conflict that must be dealt with. Whether destroying key targets or rescuing critical personnel, players are kept to task by a time limit that will suddenly appear when the game decides they’ve been taking too long to accomplish the primary objective.

While this serves to keep the action moving along, it also serves to push me through the game at a faster speed than I’d prefer, and certainly discourages lingering to take in the sights and sounds. Plus, it’s very upsetting to fail a mission simply because the clock suddenly rose and got the better of you. The game keeps players on a short leash, and could have found more length of play in simply cutting them some time to enjoy the drive.

Secondary objectives are sometimes present as well – saving prisoners, rescuing relics, destroying mining vehicles. These feel a bit tacked on, since the ever present ticker of the main objectives don’t spare a lot of time for secondary diversions. It wasn’t until multiplayer that I considered a possible use; that maybe a team could split that workload and accomplish both tasks simultaneously. Secondary objectives appear via a black arrow, which when accompanied with the red arrow for primary objectives, and considering the time limits, leaves me wondering why Avalanche added a map overlay feature at all.

Review Renegade Ops
The game offers local co-op for two, or online for up to four players, which encourages the replay that is certainly present with all nine stages. While I hate to measure quantity when there’s a lot of quality on display, the game does come up feeling too short no matter how many ways one praises what is present.

There’s simply not enough depth or strategy to the upgrade feature to argue that players will spend a great deal of time investing in it beyond initial curiosity. But there is absolutely every reason to believe that friends will find plenty of reasons to visit stages repeatedly for multiplayer sessions. I’ve continued finding small surprises, primarily a bonus opportunity to take the seemingly short lived helicopter for another spin.

One oddity worth mentioning is a strange audio squeak that occasionally cropped up and made me worry that the game was going to suffer performance issues, but thankfully none have yet to occur.

While the price may be pushing the tolerance for some, the game is one of the better quick fix shooters available, with enough distinguishing style and old school sensibility to pass inspection. There’s no question that it leaves me wanting more, but also offers a level of quality that action games in this vein too often lack.

Renegade Ops is a shallow and linear carnival of destruction that escapes excessive nitpicking in exchange for the level of purified fun it offers for the investment of time – and of course dollars.

You do remember how to have fun don’t you? You just put your thumbs together and blow (shit up).


Developer
Avalanche Studios

Publisher
Sega

System
PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade), PC (Steam) (Xbox 360 Reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer, Local & Online Co-op

Release Date
September 14, 2011 PlayStation Network / Xbox LIVE Arcade, TBA PC

Price
$14.99, 1200 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • Ujn Hunter

    I’ll definitely be destroying stuff once this goes on sale, but it’s hard to swallow considering you can buy both Assault Heroes & Assault Heroes 2 for the price of just this one game.

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      It is not cheap that’s for sure. It is pretty damn satisfying all the same though, especially when you can get some friends in on it. On that note, let me know when you do pick it up.