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Old 11-05-2011, 02:31 AM   #1
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Please Rate this Review: Renegade Ops

Renegade Ops (XBLA)

Let's not make things too hard on ourselves

High: The first level’s helicopter gun-boat assault.
Low: Nearly opaque, oversized map.
WTF: Driving through, and destroying, the poor villagers’ houses.

Sometimes a game’s design is so simple and obvious it’s almost stupid. Take, for instance, the comfortable dual-analog mechanics of Geometry Wars, throw in a little bit of Super Off-Road’s geography, and pour some “A-Team” machismo on the whole thing. The result is Renegade Ops, a game that, even by its title, assured me that it wouldn’t take me by surprise. Such assurance led me to believe that I would walk away from Renegade Ops having learned nothing. I was wrong. Renegade Ops taught me a lesson in humility.

However, Renegade Ops is possibly the most accessible game I’ve played all year. From the moment my truck landed on the shore of the first level, I knew what was up. My commander was barking orders from the corner of my screen, and I was barreling full-bore down a dirt road while blasting everything I could with my truck’s mounted turret. I assumed that anything that reacts to gunfire was an enemy, and somehow I had made a few enemies.

As it turns out, there was a terrorist named Inferno who threatened to blow up most of the world’s major cities. After all the world leaders cowered to Inferno’s threats, America’s top general washed his hands of the bureaucracy and headed out, replete with his own team of aptly named Renegades, to destroy Inferno's forces via his own series of Operations. If it sounds like I’m leaving out details, I’m really not. In a move reminiscent of their Just Cause titles, the developers over at Avalanche Studios have decided that presentation and story can take a back seat to action, using comic book style slide-shows and in game chatter for the majority of story development. This amounts to a story that is easy to follow, easy to forget, and easy to ignore.

Luckily, a lacking story is also easy to forgive, in this case, as things were usually too busy on screen to worry about what my actions meant to anyone beyond my character. With explosions and points popping up all over the screen, my focus was squarely on finding power-ups and health packs so that I could destroy more enemies, get more points, level up, and repeat. And in catering to this focus, Renegade Ops reminded me of modern shoot’em-ups. Character selection essentially came down to what type of “smart bomb” I preferred, and ubiquitous bonuses appeared for primary and secondary weaponry, quickly turning my truck into quite the offensive force.

Unfortunately, the best defense wasn’t always a great offense. The mobility of my truck and the hubris of my arsenal resulted in me often biting off more than I could chew. Having mowed down a couple of enemies, I’d get carried away and, wanting to make a dramatic entrance, drive myself off of a cliff and into an enemy base full of tanks, turrets, and trouble. I would soon be squashed, only to respawn and attack the camp with a more conservative approach. It was in moments like this where I felt like the game was cracking me on the head for having too much of a good time.

That was when I learned my lesson. Always being up for a good challenge, I had started the campaign on “hardcore” mode, thinking myself to be too experienced of a gamer to be challenged by the game’s simple mechanics. However, the game is at it’s best when you feel like a mobile war machine setting the jungle ablaze, which meant the only thing I was setting on fire with my arrogant choice of difficulty was my potential to enjoy the game. So I restarted the game on the default setting, and I was soon enjoying the action with impunity.

And at it’s heart, that is what Renegade Ops is about: enjoying the action. The game’s best moments were found when I driving down a bumpy, curvy road at high speeds or unleashing a hellfire on Inferno’s army. What’s disappointing, however, is that the developers never seemed to be able to combine these two great thrills. I’d usually find myself circle strafing a collection of mostly stationary enemies or boosting and drifting around corners undisturbed in order to reach my next objective in time; but, although the game’s mechanics were well suited to the tasks, I regret that I never really had the chance to accomplish both tasks simultaneously. I can’t help but feel like the developers missed a great opportunity to ramp up the tension.

Fortunately, the fast driving and the shooting provided enough separate entertainment to keep me excited about continuing my mission. And when I wasn’t being punished (or, rather, when I stopped punishing myself) for cooperating with the game’s over-the-top theme, I had no problem forgetting about the lackluster presentation and following the little red objective arrow that would surely take me to the next enemy encampment, the next power-up, and hopefully the next explosion. (Score: 7.0 out of 10)

Disclosures: This game was obtained via Xbox Live Marketplace Purchase and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 8 hours of play was devoted to single-player mode (completed 0 times) and 8 hours of play to multiplayer co-op modes (completed 1 time).

Parents: The gameplay consists of vehicular action, with instances of dot-like infantry enemies. The most graphic scenario involves running over a soldier and leaving a short trail of red tire tracks. Slightly coarse language, similar to that of a PG-13 movie. A couple of the comic-book style slides have pretty violent images towards the end of the campaign.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: All story elements and conversations are conveyed via text as well as audio. There are no important sound cues, and all objectives are indicated by an unmissable guiding arrow.
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