There are way too many top-down twin stick shooters on Xbox Live. And the vast majority of them rigidly stick to that tired old arcade formula.
You know which formula I’m talking about right? Funneling players through narrow, linear and often scrolling levels. Throwing so many enemies at players that most deaths result from cheaply being unable to see what’s going on as enemy count increases at higher difficulty levels.
And then adding insult to injury… forcing players to playthrough entire games in one sitting making it extremely difficult to complete them online with random players.
You’ll be pleased to know Renegade Ops is none of the above.
Developed by Avalanche Studios using the Just Cause 2 game engine, Renegade Ops pretty much absorbs the HD essence of that game; stunts, big explosions, destructable environments and beautiful graphics. And of course, a whole lot of fun!
The first thing that strikes me about Renegade Ops…
Visually the game absolutely slams all competing top-down shooters I’ve seen royally into the ground! It looks like a top-down Just Cause 2. There are many varied environments with a ton of tiny details, advanced graphical effects and a real sense of visual depth. The soundtrack is also epic and sets the mood soon to be largely drowned out by the awesome explosions.
Presentation feels high quality despite being low budget and story wise there are simple and amusing comic strips with hilarious voice over dialog. Presentation is all meant to be cheesy and make you laugh as per Avalanche’s style.
You never leave the vehicle which I prefer because who wants to go around as a foot soldier and die in one shot? The vehicle feels fantastic with a real sense of weight and momentum. It feels like you have good and precise control over it depending on how fast you want to go in which case you’ll be drifting around like crazy at high speed. If you roll over the game is quick to correct you back to normal.
You will explode your way through 9 missions with each one lasting about 10-20 minutes. Each mission is its own unique mini-sandbox that has you driving in non-linear directions towards your primary and secondary objectives. At the end of each mission your progress is saved and you are presented with a results screen displaying your points score and determined skill level.
One of the nicest features is that players are not tethered to the same screen. Sound like you might get lost? No worries there!
The game has a map but you’ll hardly ever need it with the excellent indicator system always guiding you with a red arrow to the nearest primary objective or a black arrow to the nearest secondary objective.
Casual difficulty setting is very easy as the name suggests but Normal and Hardcore setting provide an ”intelligently designed” challenge that seems to scale well up to the maximum of 4 players online (or 2 players for offline split screen). In multiplayer everyone has the same difficulty level selected by the host.
Enemies are fun to engage. You rarely ever feel unfairly overwelmed and the enemies are smartly placed so the game feels more based on skill and learning the map than randomly spraying bullets and luck. Attempting to sit back and spray bullets at off-screen enemies can easily result in you being killed by a missile or long range tank, making it important to keep moving and attacking from different angles or employ tactics.
Each of the 4 available characters have their own special abilities. Armand can lock down his armor, Diz can disable targets with EMP, Roxy can launch massive air strikes and Gunnar has a heavy gun lock down mode that does serious damage. Players can select the same character if they want but…
…on Hardcore setting players will need to be smart. What worked for my friend and I was having him lock down larger targets with Diz’s EMP ability and myself pulling up alongside them with Gunnar’s heavy gun ability. Missile launching vehicles being the ever increasing nightmare throughout.
Still, there are plenty of tactics players can employ and the game is still really playable solo…
This is largely thanks to the decent amount of skills available to you as you level up. The highest amount of skills you will ever be able take to a mission at once is four. When playing through with my friend on hardcore, at times we wished we could have five!
Some of these skills will enhance a character’s special ability. Gunnar for example can unlock the skill to shoot down missiles with the heavy gun ability. Other skills provide you with an extra life or more health, recharging secondary ammo, etc. It’s up to you to pick what best suits the mission.
During a mission you will get health and secondary ammo pickups, extra life as well as machine gun upgrades and various secondary weapon choices. These upgrades aren’t perminent as you just keep them for the current mission so long as you don’t die, in which case you lose them and have to pick up more. These can help turn the tide on a difficult mission. Especially if you find the helicopter upgrade…the only time you aren’t driving your regular vehicle!
As far as annoying gripes go. Even after you are maxed out on weapon upgrades during a mission, you can still keep picking them up for bonus points. This means you can accidently pick up an upgrade that you don’t need when another player desperately needs it.
Certain boss fights with Inferno also felt largely underpowered and far too easy. We found many sub-bosses to be far more challenging.
It also seems largely pointless to complete secondary objectives in multiplayer – what you’d think is the main attraction of the game. Secondary objectives have achievements tied to them but they count for singleplayer only…
I feel this was a mistake as this discourages achievement hunters from playing online straight away which is ashame because the online multiplayer feels really good, I noticed no lag. One of the few achievements you can fortunately get online is the one for completing the game on Hardcore difficulty setting.
But there are currently two glaring technical issues which to my knowledge are not exclusive to the Xbox Live version of the game and really need to be patched… More often than not when playing online… any of the players except the host can have their console crash (requiring a press of the power switch) during cutscenes or when starting a mission from our experience…
This is the worst problem with the game right now as if it crashes near the end of a mission – you need to replay the mission - it’s a good job the missions are so fun.
The second technical issue is that the gameplay stutters from time to time and lets out a weird static noise when it does, which happens in both singleplayer and multiplayer.
One of the best, if not the best top-down twin stick shooter currently available on Xbox Live (or PlayStation Network and Steam if you’re buying it on that). Incredible level of fun in gameplay, visuals and overall presentation, currently slightly soured by frustrating technical issues. It’s still worth 1200 points in my opinion but the developers do seriously need to release a patch soon.
Posted by MrFranklin on Sep 27, 2011Tags: 360, Ability, action, Arcade, Armand, Avalanche, Bryant, Cause, Challenge, Challenging, Content, Developed, Developer, Development, Digital, Digitally, Distribution, Diz, DLC, Down, Download, Downloadable, Epic, Explosion, Explosive, Fun, General, Gunnar, Hardcore, HD, Inferno, JS2, Just, JustCause, Live, Multiplayer, Network, Online, Ops, PlayStation, PS3, PSN, Renegade, review, Roxy, SEGA News, SEGAHD, Shooter, Skill, Special, Stick, Studios, Title, Top, Top-Down, Topdown, Twin, Twin-Stick, Twinstick, Unique, XBL, XBLA, Xbox