Renegade Ops: Micro Machine Guns
Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 5:47PM
Ernie in avalanche studios, pc, ps3, psn, renegade ops, reviews, sega, steam, xbla, xbox360

Avalanche Studios have a certain inclination for over-the-top action and destruction. The very first time I played Just Cause, though unrefined, I knew the Swedish developers were very capable. Their idea of ludicrous action, massive explosions, and stunt driving came to fruition in the Godlike comedic action of Just Cause 2. So here is Renegade Ops, a vehicular combat title that tries to capture the beautiful destruction of the Just Cause games while scaling down to the size of Micro Machines. John Moschitta Jr. not included.

Right from the first moments one thing is absolutely clear: Renegade Ops is a bit of a satire of the 80s action genre. A global terrorist named Inferno, stolen straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon circa 1986, is destroying the cities of the world one at a time unless his demands are met. The UN equivalent is content to negotiate, but the hilariously awful voice of General Bryant is not. Somewhere between the intro cinematic and first stage, something must have magically come together, because you suddenly have a team of 4 Renegades to carry out these so-called ops.

The voice acting is straight-up comedy, as is the script, in an attempt to  emulate campy action flicks from decades past. The gravelly banter is limited only to the awkward dialogues between Inferno, General whats-his-face, and former Inferno officer-turned-Renegade, Natasha. The 4 selectable Renegades have no voice, for better or for worse. They have no story either, so who knows whether they are the General's drinking buddies, illegitimate children, or canasta club mates. There ain't much reasoning to be found anywhere outside of stopping Inferno at all costs.

Fortunately, the lack of any sort of story is marginalized by sweet, sweet bullets. That's what we want, innit? Of course it is. Each Renegade comes equipped with the standard machine gun, twice upgradeable bringing it from its initial raindrop inertia to that of one thousand red-eyed bulls. Secondary weapons are found among the burning remains of your armored enemies and include a rail gun, rocket launcher, and flamethrower. For a title that prides itself on carnage, you'd think there would be more weapons available, but alas, that is not the case. The Renegades also pack unique special attacks, each with varying degrees of usefulness. Armor aficionado - aptly named Armand - uses a shield to deflect enemy attacks. Gun nut - named Gunnar, of course - can batten down and deploy a heavy machine gun. Aside from the humorous precision of their names-to-skill, those are not my favorite abilities. The top tier attacks belongs to Diz, whose EMP blast shuts down enemies for a brief period, and Roxy, whose long-cycle air strike annihilates just about everything on screen. The skills can be adjusted how you see fit through a skill tree, allowing a degree of personalization.

The skill trees may be included just to say "hey, our game has character progression," because they don't really lend much. The more you destroy, the more experience you receive, the more you level up. There's even a mayhem multiplier that awards you greater experience for continued chains of carnage, which are harder to string together than you would imagine. But enough of this tangent. As you level up you unlock ability slots, with the fourth and final made available to you at level 30. The abilities unlocked in the skill trees have to be slotted, meaning no matter how many you acquire, only four can be active at once. Drag. To make matters worse, only the Tactical skill branch is unique per character; Defensive and Offensive branches are the same for every Renegade, only unlocked in a different order.

Each of Renegade Ops' 9 stages are fairly large - requiring 15-20 minutes to complete in a single player romp - but lack any reason to explore outside of their beauty and minute detail. There were no corners cut in regards to the lovely backdrops which range from rain forest to underground lair. Each stage has a map that can be brought up with a button press, but is easily made pointless due to its translucence, thus leading to a conflict with the busy world glimmering behind. Navigation arrows help you keep track of primary objectives and secondary objective (singular) but can be misleading at times. Well, at least the explosions look good.

In very rare instances, you're awarded a helicopter that makes it all seem worth it, only to have it stripped once you've conquered the underwhelming boss battle choppers are usually limited to. Humph. I was hoping Renegade Ops would feature a platoon of unique vehicles in addition to cars (boat, tank, hovercraft, motorcycle, jet pack), nope, four-wheelers and two or three short chopper segments are all we get.

If possible, play with company. Split screen couch co-op is an option for two, though online multiplayer can link one player with 3 like minded destructionistas. I would advise tackling Renegade Ops' campaign in online groups of four, as the mayhem and score competition amid the Renegades is too much to deny, if a little too painless. There isn't much replay value outside of besting your high scores, which is plausible in multiplayer, but not something I'd want to go at alone. By game's end I found the solo campaign to trudge more like manual labor, without much of an incentive to follow through.

Am I being too hard on Renegade Ops? Maybe, but the title was full of such promise, a game I really wanted to get behind and love. What I spent a good few hours on pales in comparison to what could have been, having fallen flat in more than one area. Lack of vehicle assortment, shortage of weapons, and lazy customization options lead me to suggest avoiding this one, especially at a $15 buy in. Should a sequel be deemed necessary, Avalanche Studios will have to add some of the above to catch my eye for explosions.

The Score: 5 outta 10 Blasters!

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