Announced in March, Renegade Ops is one of those titles that flew under the radar. Sega didn't really promote it, aside from a trailer or two, so when the game appeared on XBLA last week, no one really knew what to expect. After all, if a publisher ignores a game, it's usually because it sucks. Thankfully for us, nothing could be further from the truth.
Priced at 1,200 MSP ($15 USD), Renegade Ops is an overhead view, twin-stick shooter set in a world straight out of a comic book. The terrorist mastermind, Inferno, is blowing up cities with massive bombs, and world leaders are paralyzed with fear. Frustrated with their inaction, General Bryant resigns from the service and decides to attack Inferno head-on, with his own personal team of crack, military commandos. It's shades of the "A-Team," but there's nothing wrong with that.
Each of the four playable characters has a distinct style when out on the battlefield, and that makes for some noticeably different experiences when running through the levels. Armand drives a tank-like vehicle that packs a solid punch, but his ace-in-the-hole is an energy shield that grants temporary invulnerability. Diz (who also happens to look much like the Baroness from G.I. Joe) drives a more maneuverable vehicle with an onboard EMP. Fire it off, and all enemies in the immediate area have their weapons disabled. Roxy is a punk rocker driving an armored dune buggy. Her special is the ability to call in a massive air strike. Rounding out the team is Gunnar. When the going gets tough, he can lock his vehicle into place and attack with a nicely overpowered gun.
In addition to their core differences, each of the four characters can be further customized via an upgrade tree. Split into defensive, offensive and tactical upgrades, these power-ups are purchased with upgrade points that are doled out as you level up a chosen character. The more you play, the more you can unlock. Upgrades are specific to each character, so you need to play them all in order to open up all of their abilities. The only catch to the upgrades is that only four can be active at any one time. This prevents your character from becoming overpowered while forcing you to choose the most appropriate tools for the job.
Levels in Renegade Ops are surprisingly large and detailed, with plenty of non-linear pathing. Both primary and secondary objectives are given throughout the game, with the primary objectives being required to complete a level and the secondary objectives usually tying in to an Achievement. Navigation is done via an on-screen GPS indicator, making it easy to find the next target, even when traversing long distances. If that's not enough, a level map can be brought up at the touch of a button.
Once you've arrived at an objective, the solution to the problem usually involves shooting something or rescuing someone, though you can also use your vehicle as a battering ram. Gunner in a tower or holed up in a building? No need to shoot back when you can simply drive through it and bring the whole structure tumbling down.
Yes, the goals within the level can be somewhat single-minded — blow it up is always the most viable solution — yet Renegade Ops never suffers for it. The action is always fast and furious, in some ways feeling a lot like a spiritual successor to the classic twin-stick shooter, Smash TV. The results of your destruction are always visually satisfying, though that shouldn't be surprising considering that Avalanche Studios was also responsible for Just Cause and Just Cause 2.
Simply completing objectives and leveling up isn't the only draw in Renegade Ops. Score attack fans will also find something to keep them busy thanks to the damage streak multiplier. It only kicks in with major enemies, but the damage streak is a score multiplier that increases so long as you are continually tearing things up. Going for a big streak requires you to move quickly from point to point, ignoring smaller targets in favor of the big ones.
In keeping with the over-the-top comic style, the story in Renegade Ops is advanced via a series of motion comic scenes, complete with proper comic book dialogue boxes for all of the voiced text. Characters are loud, brash and melodramatic — pretty much just what you'd expect from a game that focuses on pure action. Don't expect a deep story, and you won't be disappointed.
If fighting the forces of Inferno gets a bit lonely, Renegade Ops offers both two-player split-screen co-op and four-player Xbox Live support. Split-screen co-op can be set up as either static or dynamic, depending on your preferences. Playing over Xbox Live is a nice change, as it allows players to work together as a team or split up in different directions. The latter can be quite useful when trying to complete secondary objectives. Just don't expect to unlock any Achievements here. Those are solely a single-player affair.
The only complaint we have with Renegade Ops is a minor audio glitch. At seemingly random times, the game audio would briefly stutter and buzz for a split second before returning to normal. Gameplay was never affected, though given the high level of shine on the game, this little hiccup stood out.
It may have a single-minded focus, but Renegade Ops does what it does incredibly well. An extremely polished twin-stick shooter, Renegade Ops offers up expansive levels, lush visuals and just the right amount of challenge.
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