Renegade Ops Hands-On PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted May 30, 2011
I know gamers love to point to how story-heavy, sophisticated games like L.A. Noire and Mass Effect 2 give us windows into human emotion and touch our souls with their subtle messages of heartbreak and hope, but sometimes you just wanna blow crap up. Based on my brief preview at a pre-E3 event recently, Renegade Ops, Avalanche’s downloadable twin stick shooter, is just the game for those explodey moods. Stuff blows up real good, but there’s enough challenge here to add gameplay depth.
The top-down game is set in a tropical paradise that is constantly being ripped apart by various bombs, bullets and fire-spewing weapons of death. In the level I played, I was driving a jeep-like vehicle, roaming around a huge, open world map, dealing out death in destruction to wave after wave of enemies. In short good, clean video game fun.
The genesis of Renegade Ops came when developers of Just Cause 2 used it to play a top-down game and liked it enough to create a separate title, and that Just Cause’s lush visuals are in evidence here. The game looks beautiful for a downloadable game, with fully detailed little environments, buildings and enemies lined up for your exploding pleasure.
The tank plays well, with a satisfying weight and challenging handling. You control its direction with one stick, and deal out infinite bullets with the other, like a detailed, up-to-date version of Robotron or Geometry Wars. The triggers fire off various special weapons that do things like briefly freeze enemies.
With the exception of some stone buildings, everything is destructible. You’ll be slinging bullets into bamboo shacks which collapse with a satisfying crash, knocking down battlements and otherwise causing mayhem, all while dodging the machine gun fire of pursuing vehicle swarms.
As you’d probably have guessed, there are weapons power-ups that increase you firepower, the spread of your bullets and more. You’ll find ammo caches that you shoot and run over. Easy. It’s not total chaos, though. Renegade Ops gives you objectives to complete, which, in the demo, ranged from simple “blow up this bad guy” style missions to more complex objectives like finding hostages and bring them to a safehouse.
The action begins to heat up very quickly when objectives are layered on top of each other. (Am I going to save the hostages, or kill the enemies?) Add in a countdown clock, and you end up with a frantic, adrenalin drenched gaming experience that’s complex enough to be interesting, but never bogged down in details.
The level I played featured a madcap chase with a missile truck. The idea was to try to bring down the heavily armed vehicle, while avoiding its escorts’ attacks, all while trying to rescue as many innocents as possible and deliver them to a church. Before long I decided to leave the hostages to fend for themselves (screw those guys!) and just go after the truck… sure, it’s not the soul-enriching moral choices of a Mass Effect 2, but that’s not the point. In Renegade Ops, even keeping your jeep on the road is challenging, and the entire endeavor of navigating the jungle terrain while trying not to die delivers a gaming experience that feels both fresh and nostalgic.
Toward the end of the level, when the action is already ramped up to 11, helicopters show up to fight you! Frickin’ helicopters! In short: I liked it and wanted more, specifically, I wanted to drive something else. I can’t wait until this comes out and other vehicles are available.
While it’s impossible to judge the entirety of a game from a single, beginning level, the layering on of different gameplay elements and challenges indicates a real focus on the pacing and difficulty level of Renegade Ops, which speaks very well for the chances that the final game won’t fall into the “too repetitive” trap many all-out action games can’t manage to escape.
Renegade Ops is planned for downloadable release on the 360, PS3 and PC sometime this summer.