Review: Renegade Ops
Renegade Ops comes from Avalanche Studios, the makers of 2010’s Just Cause 2. This time around, they’ve put out a twin-stick vehicular shooter. Your mission is to track down a Cobra Commander-type terrorist and put an end to his evildoing days. The gameplay is intuitive: Left stick moves, right stick shoots, L1 activates your special, R1 shoots your secondary weapon. If you kill enemies in quick succession, you set off a Damage Streak. Your Damage Streak score will increase as long as you’re inflicting damage (duh), and a multiplier increases every time you kill an enemy. In each of the nine missions, there are primary and secondary objectives to complete. The secondary objectives can be skipped, but the primary objectives are timed. If the timer reaches zero, game over, man. There are four playable characters, each with a unique special move and skill tree that can be filled out by leveling up. I wouldn’t call Renegade Ops a completely linear game, but it certainly pushes you in a certain direction the entire time you’re playing it. There were many times when I would explore a far-off nook on the mini-map only to be rewarded with nothing but dead ends. Some sort of exploration reward (collectibles, concept art, etc) would have gone a long way.
Avalanche Studio’s signature is evident in the vibrant environments and perpetual explosions that populate every inch of the game. The graphics are great for an isometric twin-stick shooter. Leaves waver in the wind as you speed by trees, electric lines crackle if you plow down the poles that connect them, and tire marks stain the ground if you turn too tightly. Buildings crumble if you ram into them (remember Blast Corps?) and every other environmental object is combustible. There’s so much going on that I often expect the game to slow down. Thankfully, though, it’s a relatively seamless experience; the action is nonstop. The only time I noticed a negligible amount of slowdown is when I played local multiplayer with the dynamic spitscreen option activated. Also, the game chugged a bit during online play with 4 people, but I’ll open that can of worms a bit later in the review.
On the sound side of things, Renegade Ops pleases for the most part. I was surprised at the lack of custom soundtrack support, because though the title screen theme is catchy, I barely noticed the music while playing through the campaign. All of the sound effects are spot on, and your ever-shooting machine gun never gets grating. Most of the story is told through comicbook cinematics with decent voice acting for the different characters. To be honest, I had higher hopes for Bryant, the Renegade Ops’s man in charge. Some of his banter is humorous, but a lot of it comes off as simply corny. I think it’s fair to characterize most of the game as corny. This is not to say Renegade Ops isn’t fun. To the contrary, the game is an absolute blast.
There are 9 missions in total that take about 15-20 minutes each to complete. Chances are, though, you’ll spend more than three hours with Renegade Ops. On hardcore difficulty, several of the missions will require a few attempts to tackle. The final mission in particular is a gauntlet that even Clint Eastwood would consider tossing his controller at. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the final cutscene went a long way towards making up for the frustration caused by Mission 9. If you’re having trouble beating Inferno on Hardcore or Normal difficulty, I’d recommend dropping down to Casual for the sake of seeing the conclusion yourself. After beating the campaign by my lonesome, I ventured online to see how it felt blowing stuff up with other Renegades by my side.
The first person I enlisted to play with me was my brother. I wanted to check out the Dynamic Splitscreen option. Rather than having your screen constantly halved, the Dynamic option allows two players to play on the same screen when close. When the two players part, the bar that splits the screen is placed in the middle of them, rotating according to the players’ relative location to each other. After playing about five minutes with it active, I found it disorienting as all hell. It looks cool at first and may sound nice in theory, but in practice it’s just plain confusing. I captured some gameplay to illustrate my point.
When my brother left me for his Azerothian duties, I hopped on the PSN to see how the game performed online. The first couple of games I joined went through without a hitch. I played with a couple of other people and we had a great time splitting up to complete secondary objectives then focusing our efforts on the main targets. Then came the hitches, hard and fierce. On several occasions, the game stalled while loading a mission and one person’s game would lock up. The game wouldn’t load until said person restarted his PS3, effectively leaving the game. Even then the game took upwards of five minutes to get past the loading screen abyss. There is also a known bug that essentially voids some of your upgrade points when playing online. The only remedy is to restart from scratch or choose a new character to progress.
Renegade Ops’s gameplay masks its technical bugs. The game is a blast and a half to play; some of the most fun I’ve had with a twin-stick shooter in a while. I didn’t mention the controls because they’re fine; they work. However, my car flipped often enough to be a nuisance. Sometimes I would be on flat land and somehow flip over. It only takes a couple of seconds to respawn, but in a game like Renegade Ops where the action is fast and furious, a couple of seconds feels like an eternity. Acting like a flipped turtle also ruins Damage Streaks, something that greatly aggravated the high score spirit in me. I think you should play Renegade Ops; I really do. If it weren’t for the spontaneous hardlocks and unreliable online functionality, the game would be outstanding. Unfortunately, I can’t pretend it didn’t force me to restart my system five+ times.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Good graphics
- So much fun to play
- Multiplayer, when it worked
What I Dislike:
- Online is extremely buggy
- Getting caught on environmental objects/flipping once a minute
- Various other hard-locking bugs