Taking a stroll down your local video store’s well-trampled aisles, you’ll surely come across at least a hundred cheesy action movies. Even though they lack polish, budgets and stars, many people flock to those types of films for a mindless watch. Getting together with a bunch of friends is sometimes more fun with a terrible or poorly made movie to laugh at, amidst cocktails and jokes.
Of course, this also applies to video games at times, as they occasionally attempt to mimic this phenomenon with terribly written dialogue and over-acted performances. The latest interactive product to go this route is Renegade Ops from Avalanche Studios. It’s an action-packed game, which is terribly cheesy with some decent quality under its hood, unlike a lot of those aforementioned action movies.
Following B-movie bullet points to an exact science, Renegade Ops creates a story of superhero proportions out of a scarred madman named Inferno, and the no-rules group of mercenaries who plan to take him out. His plans include world destruction, having started things off by leveling a fictional city with one big explosion. His demands haven’t been met and there’s fear that it will happen again to yet another city. Though, for some reason, the world’s governmental bodies are keen on standing pat, negotiating instead of doing anything intelligent.
After a valiant attempt at talking some sense into his superiors, a badass military officer decides he’s had enough. Ripping off his amazing amount of badges and decorations in contempt, he declares that he knows just who can complete the job, if the world’s militaries won’t bother to do anything. That group would be the titular Renegade Ops and their arsenal of vehicular mayhem, complete with special abilities and rotating turrets. Thus begins a digital cheese fest, full of over-acting, laughable lines and pedal to the metal action.
Using twin-stick shooter mechanics mixed with arcade driving maneuvers, players must speed and gun their way through hundreds of enemies throughout the game’s nine stage campaign mode. Basic 360-degree turrets deal out basic and unstoppable damage, though the real punishment comes in the form of discoverable weapons such as turrets, lasers and electricity.
Though, a superhero-like ensemble wouldn’t be anything without their own special moves, which come in the form of four different vehicles, unique to each of the four playable characters. Use the powerful tank-like mechanical contraption, a defensive but well-rounded beast or two female-driven doomsday devices with unique special moves. Whatever the player feels like using as his or her special ability goes, as long as it’s selected from the supplied list.
Renegade Ops is the type of one-note experience which you’d find in a 1990s arcade. It resembles the old Jungle Strike series, though a helicopter only becomes playable at one point during its run. Players must fight their way through difficult stages full of deadly mechanical foes (turrets, rocket launchers, vehicles and the like), being cautious about health at all times. Each level attempt allows for a set amount of lives, though it’s an unforgiving game over once those are depleted. Different difficulty options are available to help out, though be warned that the easy mode takes away the characters’ skills, levels and upgrades.
Role-playing elements factor into the experience on both normal and hardcore. Gaining experience from kills equates to unlockable levels. Leveling up occurs quite often, gifting players with certain amounts of unlock points each time. These points act as currency for the statistics screen, with three separate categories available for upgrade: health, attack options and special moves.
Examples of upgrades include a bullet-reflecting ability, extra special weapon slots and a larger health bar. Five can be equipped at one time, so make sure to choose wisely. Picking the right upgrades can certainly make things a heck of a lot easier. The difficulty level spikes strangely, with the third level being the toughest out of nine, so don’t expect a cakewalk.
Controlling your vehicle is quite accessible. One joystick controls the gas and steering wheel, while the other powers up the machine gun turret above. It’s a pretty simplistic control scheme with the right trigger and shoulder buttons factoring in for much more powerful abilities. I didn’t have many big issues driving around using its drift-intense mechanics, though there were some minor and annoying problems.
For the most part, driving around corners and through pathways worked, though the sensitivity is a bit too high to allow for what would be an ideal amount of control. There were a few times where I had trouble going up a tiny ramp to a story-related objective, which got a bit frustrating. It wasn’t detrimental to the experience though, as it never led to any annoying or unnecessary deaths.
The lack of complete precision did however lead to some of those questionable-type explosive deaths for my on-screen avatar. At many places within Renegade Ops, players can drive right off of the beaten path. Exploration is welcomed in order to find secret secondary objective items, though it’s not necessary.
Upon falling off at these points, players can get stuck in an area which isn’t necessarily supposed to be accessible, such as between a wall and a shrub or something along those lines. The game will only reset you if you roll or drive into water, so careful and slow maneuvering must be done in order to shake free. This can take a while, with damage occasionally pouring in from any side. I found myself getting hung up on some other worldly items as well, throughout Renegade Ops.
Other than those mentioned issues, I found that the game played quite well. There were a couple of times where aiming at a flying boss became a pain as land-based foes swarmed in, making me curse and wish that there was a lock-on targeting system. Luckily, I didn’t die too much because of that. Usually, the targeting controls worked quite well, employing precision which compares to most other twin-stick shooters. The machine gun turret doesn’t need a great amount of that, but rockets and lasers certainly do. It’s easy to miss unless you’re careful. Though, those too busy to worry about that can purchase and equip a bonus perk which allows for lock-on specialties.
I had fun shooting my way through Renegade Ops and its varied locations, despite the fact that the game repeated enemies left right and center throughout the full several-hour-long experience. The entire game tends to stick in a comfort zone, which its developers seemed fearful of stepping outside of. This results in a pretty standard twin-stick shooter, which doesn’t have a lot of variety or creatively unique elements. To some, this will be okay. It didn’t bother me too much, though doing the same things over and over again did start to get a bit old after the half-way point. Although these issues are detractors, it’s full of action and doesn’t have much downtime. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to ponder things, as you’re always fearing what’s around the next turn.
Upon completion, I can’t help but feel that Renegade Ops could have been a better game, as the building blocks are certainly there. It has some good moments, relatively polished gameplay and quite a bit of content (including up to four player co-op using online interactions, with local co-op available for a couple players). There were several moments where hints of a great game shone through, though there’s a lack of individuality and creativity which ends up holding it back from achieving that status.
As it stands, it’s a pretty entertaining arcade title with fast-paced gameplay and strategic elements. Fans of the genre will enjoy it, but they won’t be blown away. Casual gamers will enjoy the accessibility factor, but they may be turned off by the difficulty. Their biggest draw would be the impressive and functional co-op options.
Using a top-down perspective, Renegade Ops looks a lot like a micro-machines type of game. The team’s vehicles look small, but they pack quite a punch, just like some of their enemies which can come in very tiny sedan-style vehicles. It’s a cool look which allows a vehicular combat game to become a twin-stick shooter, employing the same look, feel and mechanics.
What I liked was how shiny it all was, with some really nice looking effects and environments (including a metallic forge world, the African desert, South American Aztec ruins and a jungle.) For this type of game, an impressive amount of detail work was put into things. Even water puddles look polished. This is an area where the game excels, especially since it runs incredibly well with only limited amounts of slowdown.
From what was mentioned before, you’re most-likely already understanding where the talk about audio will go. It’s a bit over-the-top, with some laughable voice acting mixed in with macho bravado. It works though, considering that the whole point of the game was to make an interactive eighties action movie. The accompanying sound effect track listing full of explosions, bullets and utter destruction, mixes quite well. There is a detraction however, as Inferno’s voice acting tends to be quite muffled and hard to understand sometimes. This is accentuated by the fact that his lines are delivered at a quieter volume than the rest of the characters’.
Those looking for a chaotic and challenging retro romp in arcade land will find enjoyment with Renegade Ops. Although it has some detractors, it’s certainly an above-average experience. Pick it up for something fun to play through with friends, though keep in mind that it’s not a perfect venture or a genre classic. Still, there’s a lengthy campaign to be found for an affordable price, which will be enticing to genre addicts. Thankfully, no additional quarters are needed for retries.
Renegade Ops was released on September 14, 2011. This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.