Renegade Ops is one of those games that found something interesting and decided to do that one thing really, really well. In this case it took the dual stick controls from Geometry Wars and threw them into a beautifully realized world with 4-player co-op and a fun, over-the-top G.I. Joe-esque story. Its developer, Avalanche Studios, who also created the Just Cause series, has proven adept at making games that are driven by crazy fun, and this is a prime example of them at their best. Renegade Ops shares Just Cause’s ridiculous and consistently enjoyable personality, only this time you’re wreaking havoc from inside one of four vehicles armed with a unique ability.
Unlike most cooperative games that aren’t necessarily much fun when played alone, I enjoyed Renegade Ops almost as much when I went at it alone as I did with three friends. You can choose from a selection of vehicles that have special abilities like instant armor plating, an EMP pulse, airstrike, and a massive turret. Alongside those powers, you also have a main weapon that can be upgraded to fire more shots at once, a secondary fire that can include a flamethrower, rail gun, rocket launcher, etc., and you’ll occasionally have the chance to drive a different vehicle (like a helicopter) to help vanquish the more difficult foes. If you’re in a particularly hairy situation there’s always the boost ability that can be called upon to drive quickly out of a group of enemies.
Because Renegade Ops uses the control layout that Geometry Wars made popular, driving while shooting couldn’t be easier. Pulling off stunts and tricks, or using the environment to your advantage—like firing at explosive objects in the area, all help to take the game’s excessive action to a whole new level. If you were a fan of the campy, action cartoon series of the 80’s and 90’s, this game might also cater to you in that department as well.
Renegade Ops plays out like one of those action-packed Saturday morning cartoons many of us used to watch, with the archetypal villain with the silly name who utters one deliciously cheesy line after another, and a set of heroes who are the only things standing between him and his goal of total world domination. This isn’t a deep, engrossing story that will have you on the edge of your seat with anticipation about what’s going to happen next or what crazy twist the plot is about to embark on. Instead, this is good campy fun that’ll probably make you nostalgic for the good old days when most gaming was done with a group of friends inside an arcade.
Visually, this is a very attractive game. The environments are gorgeous, the cinematics are stylish and play out almost like a graphic novel, and the explosions and weapon effects, like gunfire and the flamethrower’s geyser of flames, all look devastating. Much of the environment is destructible so if you drive through a building’s foundation it’ll crumble into a cloud of smoke and rubble. It’s obvious quite a bit of time was invested into making sure the game sounded good too; the voice acting matches the game’s over-the-top tone and the chaos and destruction you cause are more than satisfying.
There are nine missions in total, each taking anywhere from 15-30 minutes on average to complete, so the campaign is meaty enough for an arcade game. There are hidden items in the form of optional side quests that can be completed while you’re working toward your main mission, but their only purpose seems to be to satiate the achievement hunters out there. This includes myself but I would’ve liked to see the side quests expanded a bit so we could get a little more from them like unlockable concept art, cinematics, or something along those lines.
The scoring is a nice touch, adding an element of friendly competition against your friends, though because this is a vehicular combat game some sort of vehicle customization would’ve been nice. Even something as shallow as changing the way my car looked would’ve been a welcome addition. Because each vehicle has a unique ability, they’re all immediately different from the next, but being able to transform your vehicle into a weapon that suits your unique playstyle outside of the chosen ability could’ve helped to make the game more replayable.
Renegade Ops doesn’t aim to push any boundaries or blow our minds in any substantial way; its sole purpose is to give gamers an incredibly fun game they can share with their friends. It might not be something you remember a year from now but this is definitely an experience you should check out, if only because there isn’t anything out there with this level of polish or a personality this nutty and consistently fun.