Review: Renegade OpsBy Miodrag Kovačević | October 31, 2011 | Reviews | No comments | Share
There’s a certain cult of awesome that has been floating around the Internet the past few years. It causes quite the disparity among people. You’ll either think that something like Machete, a comic involving an Irish Ninja Doctor fighting pirates, or a shark high-fiving a bear in front of an explosion is the best thing ever, or an utter waste of human resources and creative output. Renegade Ops is the latest title from Avalanche Studios, the guys behind the amazing Just Cause 2. That fact alone should indicate that their newest game will also try to follow the Way of Awesome diligently, but because of that falls short in a few other aspects.
Big Damn Heroes
The madman Inferno is hell-bent on ruling the world and intends to do so by spreading terror and fear across the globe. After a demonstration where he levels an entire city, the United Nations (or at least the game’s equivalent thereof) decides to resort to negotiations with the terrorist. General Bryant, a military figure with enough awards to adorn all the walls of a small house, disagrees with the government’s course of action and takes matters into his own hands after a highly dramatic exit. The General finds four brave individuals (or five if you count Gordon Freeman in the Steam version) and they set off to put out Inferno’s reign.
The whole presentation is like an ‘80s comic or cartoon cranked up to 11. It has all the cliches, all the one-liners and all the explosions necessary for a satisfying experience of blowing crap up. The story is told between levels through vignettes, as well as through fully-voiced comic panels during the actual levels. There is really no doubt about how well the intended atmosphere was pulled off, really. It lacks characterization, depth, a complex story and that’s why it’s so glorious.
“Sneaking” is Not in the Manual
Of course, being four blokes against an army had gotten stale quite a while ago. That’s why Avalanche went old school and had our heroes drive cars with mounted guns. Everything is appropriately arcadey. Hostages and precious artifacts you pick up are abstract stylized pickups, as are the few weapons you can find. You can crash into buildings, run over infantry and make circles around a tank. It’s as awesome as it gets.
Each Renegade has his or her own skill tree which you can upgrade as you gain levels and upgrade points. The offense and defense trees are the same for every character, only with a different layout. The third, special tree is unique to every Renegade and is based on their special abilities. For example, Armand’s third tree will improve his Shield special, which grants him invulnerability for as long as he keeps it up (at the cost of being unable to shoot), while Gunnar’s will upgrade his special cannon with which he can deal massive damage, but makes him immobile.
The upgrade system doesn’t cause much of a practical disparity between characters. As you only gain experience for a Renegade as you play him or her, it’s easy to get to level 20 while everyone else stays at level 1. However, the upgrades aren’t instantaneous and need to be slotted before a level, so even if you have something like 10 abilities unlocked, you’ll only be able to use up to 4 of them, depending on your level. This is a good thing, because you’ll feel more motivated to explore every character, rather than stick with the one you started with just because he has the highest level.
What’s interesting about the gameplay is the way health fluctuates. You lose it insanely fast, but health drops are frequent enough. Combined with the fact that you regain full health whenever you gain a level, and you’ll often find yourself either on the brink of death or in near-perfect condition.
The actual missions range from open to linear. Some scenarios will require that you drive around the map, saving hostages, disabling high-priority targets or just fending off enemies. The other type of missions will have you go in a mostly straight line, opening new areas as you advance. There’s quite often a mix of both, so things never get dull.
Of Ports and Modes
While the atmospheric presentation and basic, but to-the-point gameplay are, without a doubt, very well executed, Renegade Ops falls short on the technical side of things. It is optimized fairly well from what I can tell, and there are appropriate video options, but some other aspects are fairly lacking.
First off, you cannot rebind the keys. What you get is what you have to use. I didn’t mind the default controls, and there aren’t any exotic solutions, but still, playing the game on your terms is somewhat of a basic requirement for a PC game. This is hardly the worst issue regarding the controls. You see, short of resorting to third-party solutions, you cannot play Renegade Ops without an official Microsoft Xbox360 controller. It is not my first encounter with such a silly limitation, but it still infuriates me every single time.
But alright, my friend and I decide to deal with that and find a third party solution to enjoy some split-screen action. The problem this time? We required two controllers to play on one PC. No way whatsoever that one person uses a keyboard and mouse while the other uses a controller.
We eventually found some cubersome, unofficial fixes and resorted to play an Xbox360 port on a PC while using Playstation 3 gamepads. Suffice to say, the sight probably made some video game deities weep. The only other issue we encountered during our gaming sessions was the split-screen camera. The dynamic camera which splits the screen according to each player’s location worked well as far as the splitting goes, but would completely lose it if a player died. The living player’s part of the screen would get shoved to the side while the game frantically runs for the respawn point of the other player, making the game nigh-unplayable for the person unlucky enough to still be breathing.
What you will find is a lot of fun for the sake fun.
The previously mentioned shoddy porting sadly also applies to the multiplayer. There was no text chat whatsoever that I could find. You could only communicate via voice with other players. In addition to this, the whole multiplayer mode seems very… pointless. Up to four players can play online (as opposed to the two players which can share one screen). The missions are the same as in offline mode, IE the main campaign. That means that after you have beat the game once, which takes around 4 hours on normal difficulty, there is absolutely no incentive to play. You also have no insight into other players’ health or ammo unless they tell you that information via voice chat, so you might unintentionally make things harder for everyone else by picking up health or items they would have had more use of. I wouldn’t hold low replay value against every game, but it seems Renegade Ops could have done much more in that regard considering the gameplay and genre. A versus mode or a survival mode would seem highly fitting.
Yay or Nay?
Renegade Ops will only appeal to a special breed of people. If you roll your eyes at pulp stories, seek depth and greater meaning in your interactive medium, it likely won’t mesmerize you. If you look for highly refined simple gameplay like something you’d find in Quake 3, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a lot of fun for the sake fun. A lot of going over the top just because you can. It’s a game in its purest arcade form. You’re there to shoot and blow things up.
It feels like an excellent pit-stop between major releases we are getting this month. Jumping from Deus Ex to Uncharted to Skyrim to Saint’s Row might get hectic, so if what you’ve read in this review appeals to you, consider nabbing Renegade Ops as your breather game.
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