The Average Gamer

Renegade Ops Review (360, XBLA)

Few titles capture the idea of the badass as well as this summer’s action blockbuster, Renegade Ops, available on the XBLA, PSN and Windows platforms. Developed by Avalanche Studios (the same folks that brought us serial ‘blow-up-everything-a-thon’ Just Cause) and published by Sega, this top down, vehicle-based shooter has the potential to be more enjoyable than watching Hans Gruber fall to his untimely death off the top of Nakatomi Plaza.

The plot is a simple one and is told through a comic strip style in every cutscene. You are part of a group of mercenaries known as the Renegades and your mission is to stop the evil overlord ‘Inferno’ from destroying the world at all costs. There are four characters to choose from and, as you would expect from an all-out, balls-to-the-wall action game, Renegade Ops is not afraid to dole out the action title clichés even before you step in your car.

L-R: Gunnar, Armand, Roxy, Diz, Inferno and Bryant

You’ve got good looking white guy, token tough black guy, rock/biker chick and assassin girl, who all have their own cars and special attacks however that’s as far as the difference between the characters goes. Each car drives exactly the same, so who you choose solely depends on your mood. I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more variety among the characters apart from different special weapons, maybe involving a class system of sorts.

The setting of Renegade Ops changes over its nine missions quite dramatically. From the jungle to the beach, to battling a huge aircraft carrier and finally on to an underground labyrinth of tunnels and traps as you negotiate Inferno’s base. The map is completely open plan so you can get from point to point using a variety of different paths. However, the main missions have time limits which restrict you straying away from the beaten path too much. This is a shame as the game on the whole is very well presented, so it’s disappointing that you don’t get a chance to see it all. The explosions are loud and satisfying and small buildings collapse into dust as you smash through them at full speed.

Renegade Ops’ main control system revolves around the two analogue thumbsticks; the left controls your vehicle’s movement, the right controls which direction your primary weapon fires (and you only need to aim it to unleash a hellfire of bullets at the enemy). It’s an interesting idea that does take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re suited to using the shoulder buttons to control your vehicle, but when you get the hang of it, the control system works well, a necessity in a game as fast paced as this. Enemies come at you from all sides so your best bet is to keep moving and shooting as the action is frenetic from the outset.

Of course, it’s not just you that can take part in this insane action; up to 4 friends can take the wheels of their respective death machines via split screen co-op or over Xbox Live so you can all work as a team to take Inferno and his henchmen down and save the day. However, in practice, tactics go out in the window as it becomes a free-for-all for the powerups and health which can leave the less assertive players taking an early bath. Until that point Renegade Ops is a fun experience with a few cohorts, although I felt I got more enjoyment playing through the single player on my own.

One of the things that really irked me about Renegade Ops, however is the voice acting. It’s some of the worst I’ve seen since the first Resident Evil and that’s saying something. The leader of the Renegades ‘Bryant’ is your typical army general type, albeit with a walrus moustache who’s been given the voice of Shaft, despite being white. Similarly, Inferno’s über-bad-guy role is punctuated with some of the most over-the-top acting I’ve ever heard. Some say this just adds to the ‘cheesiness’ of Renegade Ops, but ended up annoying the hell out of me at times.

As you frag your way through Inferno’s almost never-ending waves of bad guys and complete the various main and side missions, you gain experience points which can be used to level up your vehicle’s defensive, offensive and special abilites. However, you can only have a maximum of four powers active at one time, as they don’t stack like we’ve seen in games like Borderlands. This creates an air of tactics for Renegade Ops.

On the face of things, this game looks like a brainless shooter but as I got further in I started to mix up the abilities depending on the mission ahead. If I kept dying at a certain point, I went back to the talent tree and see what wasn’t working, and really thought about what ability suited the situation.

Talking of dying, you better get used to it because that’s what you’ll be doing a lot of when you first pick up Renegade Ops. You begin with 3 lives and how used to the game you are will determine how often you die. Even though you may have cracked it, Renegade Ops will creep up on you and take one of your precious lives away with something that you had no way of expecting. When those lives have gone, that’s it. Game Over. No Continues. With each mission lasting about 30 minutes, to get almost to the end and then be ganked by a boss and be put back at the start is frustrating to say the least. Here’s where the tactics come in again. You’re forced to move and fire, looking for a chink in the enemies’ armour. You WILL beat Inferno, it’s all a question of when.

Renegade Ops assumes little and promises even less, however what it delivers for under a tenner is some pretty sweet visuals, a tight control system and an extremely fun action gaming experience. It’s like the modern video game version of Rambo or Commando. You’re not expected to take it too seriously. Just have fun blowing stuff up and beating the bad guy like old times. If you suspend your disbelief (and put reality aside), Renegade Ops is one ass-kicking little package.

Renegade Ops is out now on XBLA (1200 MSP), PC and PSN (£9.99).

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