Playing Renegade Ops is like watching a Sylvester Stallone movie — there's not much in the way of plot, but everything blows up real good.
Renegade Ops is the latest overhead shooter on Playstation Network and Xbox Live, developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Sega.
You play as a group of renegades called, um, The Renegades, who are on a mission to stop a cackling mad scientist from dropping bombs on unsuspecting cities just for the sake of being evil.
Before being put in the heavily armed driver's seat, you are treated to a campy animated cut-scene showing world government leaders preparing to offer the villain, Inferno, whatever he wants. Only one person in the room is willing to stand up to the lunatic: a decorated military leader whose General Lee-style mustache lets you know he means business.
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The hero, General Bryant, leads four mercenaries on an unsanctioned mission. Their goal: Blow up Inferno before Inferno blows up more stuff.
I could never tell whether the story was intentionally campy (in which case it succeeds) or whether it was trying to take itself seriously (in which case it fails horribly). Intentional or not, the ridiculous story is a decent spoof of silly 1990s action flicks and good for an occasional laugh.
The game is a twin-stick shooter — a crowded genre in the digital marketplace. But this game sets itself apart with great graphics and realistic physics.
The controls are simple and addictive. The left thumbstick moves your car, the right thumbstick fires your machine gun. You also get a boost button, a secondary weapon and a special attack.
There are four selectable characters, each with a different car and a unique special attack. For example, one character can call in an airstrike and another can detonate an electromagnetic pulse, which disables enemy weapons for a short time.
Characters can be leveled up RPG-style. The more you play with them, the more experience points you get that can be used to purchase upgraded weapons and features.
Renegade Ops is meant to be played with a friend or three, so thankfully Avalanche Studios crafted a solid online infrastructure. As many as four people can play together online, or two people can play side by side on one TV.
I was a little disappointed that there was nothing to do beyond playing through the campaign, which progresses through nine missions that took a buddy and me about three hours to finish.
There is a bit of replay value because you can replay the campaign with a different character or on a different difficulty level, but the fact remains that Avalanche Studios has crafted much more than a campaign — it has crafted a unique sandbox governed by a realistic and entertaining physics system.
The cars handle as if they have real heft — take a corner too fast and you will crash. Use boost and your car goes faster but becomes harder to control. The controls are as challenging as they are fun. Nothing beats losing control of your car, crashing into a building and watching it crumble around you.
The physics are the real star of the game, and I would love to have seen that put to use with some extra game modes, such as a competitive death match. Or better yet, a death race.
Regardless of my complaints, I came away from Renegade Ops feeling exactly the same as I did after seeing The Expendables in theaters: $15 poorer, a little bit dumber, but thoroughly entertained.