Renegade Ops Review
Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3
There are certain arcade games which had a special habit of hoovering coins from your pockets. No amount of pointless or shallow storyline could remove the fact that you wanted just one more go, one more life to finally see the back of it. Pocket emptying arcade games may well have disappeared for many of us but that quality lingers on in a special few games.
It is with a certain amount of retro charm that Renegade Ops strives to capture that coin stealing quality. It may not be massively ambitious in its scale but Avalanche Studios have served up a wonderfully charming slice of retro goodness that succeeds thanks to being cheap and buffed to a high quality finish.
Playing like a cross between R-Type, SWIV and Micromachines Renegade Ops leads you over nine levels of explosiveness as you battle the forces of Inferno - the madman hell bent on blowing stuff up. With the collective world wondering what to do about the nutter you are sent out to stop him by blowing up hordes of Inferno troops and putting a stop to his horrible scheme.
Surprisingly though, as cheesy as the whole thing is, there has been an impressive amount of work put into presenting the story. Shallow and flimsy it may be but the comic book style which precedes missions looks impressively smart and helps create some added polish. The amount of attention lavished on the way the story is presented is extended to the game itself, even if the look of the actual gameplay is at odds with the comic book panels of the story.
Given its retro underpinnings the game is remarkably nice to look at. The various worlds, which range from forests to deserts and lots in between look absolutely superb. Buildings crumble, explosions are satisfyingly big and there are some excellent little graphical flares such as shimmering desert sands and clouds of smoke flying off the back of your tiny vehicle. Never has a twin sticked shooter looked this good.
None of that would matter however for a game as frantic as this if the controls were not intuitive. Happily they are, however they do initially take a while to get to grips with. After a little practice you'll be able to pilot your vehicle around enemies and rain constant fire down on them. Occasionally though the nifty physics which allow your car to jump and bounce over the surfaces can lead you to get caught on the scenery.
There are four characters to play with and whilst all of them handle in exactly the same way each one has a unique ability. These include devastating air strikes, an EMP blast which disables enemies allowing for an easy kill, a shield which deflects incoming fire and finally a giant machine gun which, when deployed, pins you to the spot. The EMP and air strike features of two of the characters are particularly satisfying to play with but are perhaps also the most overpowered, whilst the others are slightly trickier to get to grips with. Each of the characters can be levelled up throughout the campaign with upgrades available to purchase. However with only four upgrade slots to select from there is a certain amount of strategy to be had.
Points are doled out for causing continuous carnage while mission objectives change continuously during the course of a level. Each of the main objectives is a timed affair but unless you are tackling the optional side quests that pop up along the way it is never really an issue. Indeed even on the hardest difficulty setting things tend to be slightly on the easy side, even more so when your character has some of the extra upgrades and fancy secondary weapons that you can pick up along the way.
On its own Renegade Ops' single player would be underwhelming and one that you could complete in a few short hours. Thankfully however there is a co-op multiplayer mode to play through as well. This allows up to four players to bring devastation to a level and is hugely fun. Unfortunately as much fun as the co-op mode is the difficulty or the number of enemies isn't ramped up when more players are bought to party. It means with a full four player match things can get very easy, very quickly. To its credit however the game never forces you into doing the objectives together allowing some players to tackle the optional ones and the others the main missions. With the different special abilities on offer for each of the characters there is the scope for a small amount of tactics but most of the time things degenerate into frenzied shooting.
Even with the varying mission objectives and multiplayer Renegade Ops will be over pretty quickly. There are some excellent set-piece moments and boss battles but it won't be long before things start to get a little repetitive. This isn't helped by the fact that there isn't a lot of variation in the enemies or their design (Inferno's need for world domination seems to be matched only by his need to see everyone in matching uniforms).
While it lasts however Renegade Ops is a highly polished and entertaining shooter that always manages to drag just one or two more turns out of you. At its heart this is a fantastically retro game that oozes bags of charm. Renegade Ops may not have complex characters or a particularly deep story but it is good old fashioned, unpretentious gaming and a title that I’ve had way more fun than any major triple-A release of late. As a cheap downloadable title it really does deserve some attention thanks to being a highly polished, albeit shallow, fun offering.