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Platform – Xbox Live Arcade | Playstation Network | PC (Steam)
Developed by Avalanche Studios | Published by Sega

Renegade Ops (aka. RO, RO!, ROPS!) is a game dedicated to those chosen few who can appreciate explosions. Sure, you’re saying that you enjoy an explosion. Your problem there is the singular. A lone explosion. That is not satisfactory for RO because it has many explosions. You could say it was a cacophony of explosions. A suite of explosions. A cavalcade of fiery, loud explosions.

What I’m saying is, this game blows stuff up good.

But let us first muse on the context. ROPS is a throwback to Old Skool gameplay, where you are given a vehicle with a weapon and told “Go blow shit up real good!” across a map. There is a little more to it than that as the game presents itself as homage to the silly throw-away plots of yore. In this scenario, the evil mad man ‘Inferno’ is threatening to destroy cities for…actually, I’m not entirely sure why, but who cares? Who cares?! General Bryant! After the damn bureaucrats of the UN want to reason with Inferno, the defiant Bryant removes the officer stars from his jacket, throws them down onto the ground and storms out. God damn, General Bryant is bad-ass. He’s not alone.

Enter The Renegades! (That’s you!)

And so you set-off over the course of nine levels, under Bryant’s orders, that vary in length, although average out at about 30 minutes each without feeling too short or too long, attempting to stop Inferno and the ridiculous story complete with arbitrary predictable shocking twist! Of course, you’re not playing it for the plot, not really. It’s fun, it’s silly and mimics the gameplay. Simplicity is key and this game revels in it.

RO! Is a twin-stick shooter, namely you drive with one stick and fire while pointing and holding down with another. The physics and car handling are super tight, generally, although there are occasions where you’ll find yourself flipping over and waiting a second or two to be reset. Arguably not a problem, but the penalty is if you’re trying to out-manoeuvre  Inferno’s vehicular army, ending belly-side-up can result in a rapid depletion of health and a loss of life at worst. That being said, it works in favour too; other than doing redundant donuts, you can drive through buildings to topple them and take out garrisoned infantry and the terrain graciously has bumps and jumps to hurl yourself off wildly that will always be satisfying. Besides looking cool, you get bonus points. And points means prizes! Well…if by prizes you mean experience which with every level-up unlocks credits for you to spend in between missions.

Indeed one of the two elements making up the combat is customisability before the start of a mission. Of your selectable characters, each having small differences in movement and armour and their own special weapon, you have three unlock trees to choose from that can alter your health, secondary limited weapons or your character’s special. You can go for all in one or a balance between the set, depending on how you like to play. Towards the end of the game, I was veering towards health boosting stuff, but earlier on went full fire-power to explosive effect.

The second element is the mission-based upgrades. As you go through blowing up enemies they drop a variety of goods. Health pick-ups  are pretty self-explanatory and a rare necessity in the harder sections, whilst machine gun upgrades make your basic gun go from the singular pew all the way up to pew-pew-pew. Secondary weapons with different effects assist you for larger targets, but are limited and need to be used wisely. These all drop fairly regularly, allowing you to upgrade suitably and change up your style, if you want. The choice is nice. Of course, when you die, you lose all the level-based upgrades you had when you respawn. The issue with this is balance and contributes to one of the two flaws I have with the game.

If you die, it’s probably because you’ve either gone way in over-your-head, in which case you deserve it; whilst you might driving be a gun-toting explosion-making machine, you still need to be careful and going head-first into a column of tanks will forever and always be stupid. Or more likely for the better player, when you are in a section where you’re already being cautious and are taken out, having to take on the same odds but with less firepower is…frustrating.

This usually comes about from what I can only determine as the second flaw; silly pacing. The last level, which should be hard admittedly, had one section that cost me a lot of time as I kept dying to the same vehicles over and over. Limited space and clearly intended-as-useful-but-comes-off-as-not-being cover hinder your attacks and it’s easy to die, coming back with fewer armaments to take them on. There are a few other examples, but this stuck out for me. It’s unnecessary and ultimately frustrating in a game that doesn’t need to have any of that.

Renegade Ops is a simple game for a low price that can be completed in a handful of hours, but that is its boon. The simplicity means you can drop in for a quick, highly replayable, session of Shoot Me Some Baddies with a couch buddy (yes, even split-screen on the PC!!) or for up to 4 online. The game does come with two methods to draw-up the split-screen, with either a static line or a dynamically changing one that follows both players; between me and my co-op buddy, the latter was better, but a little confusing at times. Something to be aware of at least. Otherwise, its flaws are minor and the game otherwise encourages you to have fun all the time. It sounds great and looks spectacular. It basks in being fun and for a game, what more could you want?

Boring Stuff: The game was played at the highest possible settings at1080 resolution using a 360 controller, something recommended by the game on start-up. Consistent 60fps, although there was minor slow-down in split-screen. [Update (2012) – The game’s later additional content, in the form of two new characters and a mini-campaign (Coldstrike) were played and thoroughly enjoyed, making them easy to recommend. The picture included below is a non-spoiler from that campaign.]