The art of the twin stick shooter is a delicate one. Do it right and you’ll wind up with a classic amongst the likes of Smash TV and Robotron 2084. Do it wrong and you’ll end up with the kind of shovelware that folks wouldn’t even refer to on a drunken stupor. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of companies attempt to take the twin stick shooter, with one for movement and the other for shooting, in bold new directions. A few, such as the closed-down Bizarre Creations and its Geometry Wars series, have succeeded, but we were yearning for the next great classic to come down the line sooner rather than later. Thankfully, our players have been answered with the stylishly violent Renegade Ops.
The game puts you in control of four members of a special operations team, who are flown in to an island nation to shut down a madman general and his army who believes that chaos is the order of the day. Of course, the only way to stop him is to meet him with an equal amount of chaos. You’ll choose from four different members of the team, including big, bulky dudes and smart, sassy girls, who then take command of a vehicle that’s dispatched by a rough-and-tumble team leader. Your mission is simple – follow the primary and secondary objectives at hand, and destroy the living crap out of everything.
Your basic weapon is a machine gun with unlimited firepower, which is fired from the back of your vehicle. Luckily, it’s set up remotely, so all you need to worry about is using the left analog stick to drive around, and the right analog stick to direct your fire. As you proceed over the course of the mission, you’ll gain enhancements to your machine gun and also be able to use a special ability assigned to each driver. One has a shield that protects from massive damage, while another can call in an air strike should things really get nasty. (And they will.) On top of that, other weapons are accessible, including a flame thrower, a rail gun, and a rocket launcher.
The game spreads over the course of nine huge mission maps, which will take you a few hours to get through, but the journey is far greater than the destination, thanks to Avalanche Studios’ complete devotion to destruction. This is the same team that did such wondrous work with the open-world action game Just Cause 2 last year, and you can see that degree of destruction here, even in downloadable form. Everything blows up smoothly, whether you’re driving through a building and watching it crumble, or tearing apart a tank with a few well-concentrated shots from your rocket launcher. Watching it go “WA-BOOM” is part of the fun, and it’s great to see that these guys didn’t scale down on the way everything goes up – even if it does go borderline on the 2 GB download size.
The environments don’t really differ that much over the course of the game, but Avalanche did a superb job with them, particularly with the lighting. It’s cool to see the sun peek around corners and shine down on your vehicle, even with just a hint of shadowing. The vehicles look great too, and the frame rate remains steady – in single player anyway – as you blow everything apart. The audio is also marvelous, with plenty of spirited voicework (that evil general is a hoot – he almost sounds like Dr. Evil at certain points) and thunderous battle music, the likes of which you might hear in any Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
However, it’s the gameplay that’s the real draw. Renegade Ops is incredibly addictive, and the sheer joy of obliterating an army with tons of firepower never gets old. Even after you beat the game on the first run-through, there’s so much more to come back for, including the secondary objectives to earn Achievements/Trophies, and the happy-go-lucky chaos you bring in. You can also call on friends to join in the fun, either with local split-screen support or online, up to four people. Things do tend to slow down severely when you bring in more folks, but that’s the price you pay for going all A-Team on the bad guy’s army.
With wonton explosions, plenty of exciting gameplay and a presentation that really holds its own on the downloadable front, Renegade Ops is worth every cent of the $14.99 price tag. The single player missions are exciting (wait till you start outrunning a nuclear explosion – whoa, baby), and the multiplayer has its moments too, even if it’s a little too much with the lag and all. This is one twin stick shooter well worth your time – and your thumbs.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]