It’s been a year and half since Avalanche Studios’ last game, Just Cause 2, stole my heart. Taking the open world genre and opening it up for massive gobs of fun (in one of the largest slabs of real estate in a video game ever), the game was endearing well past its niggling flaws, robbing me of many, many hours. With Renegade Ops, it seems their previous opus was a guiding light – build a fast, fun, exciting action game – and as a result you need to own this game pretty quick.
Renegade Ops is a dual stick vehicular shooter in much the same vein as Assault Heroes. At first, it made me nostalgic for the original Command & Conquer with tanks, buggies, and foot soldiers spread out across desert and temperate landscapes. You play as one of four characters, each with different talent trees and upgrades. There’s not much to the class sculpting, the strategy comes in which variable-altering charms you want with you on each mission. The vehicle handling varies, but the key differentiator amongst the classes is in the (unfortunately unbalanced) secondary weaponry. Roxy is a highlight with the ability to call down air strikes to rain down AOE damage on foes, but other characters aren’t so fortunate. Armand can slip into an invulnerable shield which is… kinda useful for bouncing missiles back to their sources. Gunnar has a super powerful turret, but you need to clamp into the ground to use it. In other dual-stick games, this might’ve been fine, but Renegade Ops requires you to out maneuver your opponents to defeat them, Geometry Wars-style, so sitting still is essentially death.
The presentation here is mind blowing: levels shift through a variety of settings, never leaving you bored (although I did get tired of racing along cliff sides) with one late setting in particular drawing on my memories of Alan Wake. Their experience in building an elaborate number of biomes in Just Cause 2 helps a lot here, although mission objectives could’ve been mixed up more. The first mission has you grabbing prisoners from across the map to deposit them at a fortified church, but they don’t tend to be that imaginative. Through dynamic split-screen (think LEGO Star Wars) or online, you and up to three friends can shoot your way through the game’s nine missions in a few hours, but that’s hardly the point. Topping leaderboards requires the completion of a variety of secondary mission objectives as the game continually pushes you to complete the story line on top of, y’know, blowing up tons of dudes. The story itself, presented motion comic-style, is over the top and wonderful. A highlight personally is the villain Inferno – played by a Malcolm McDowell sound alike – who lords over a Brotherhood of Nod-ish army.
Renegade Ops is stupid fun – even more so with friends – and at $15, you can hold off on that latest retail release long enough to give this game a fair shake.