Review | 9/19/2011 at 11:00 AM

Renegade Ops Co-Op Review

In this game, things tend to blow up.

Renegade Ops is a sexy new twin stick shooter from Avalanche Studios.  This game features stunning visuals, four different upgradeable vehicles, four player online co-op, and two player couch co-op.  You’ll play as one of the four Renegades, an elite team of do-gooders dedicated to thwarting evil and blowing stuff up in spectacular fashion.  

Avalanche Studios are the same guys who made Just Cause 2, which itself is a very sharp looking retail game.  Renegade Ops features truly impressive graphics for a downloadable title.  The environments are bright and colorful, and the weapon effects and explosions are superb.  The levels themselves give the illusion of being very large, but timed objectives hinder your chances to truly explore most areas.

The game wastes none of its graphical prowess on the story.  This is not a bad thing.  The plot plays out through a series of voice-overs and comic stills.  The voice of the main hero is jarringly out of place, but it adds to the campy vibe of the game.  I was expecting the main villain, Inferno, to bust out a “Co-Bra!”  Alas, it never happened.  Inferno is threatening to destroy mankind because he didn’t get sharks with frick’n laser beams attached to their heads, or something like that.  Shoot stuff before it shoots you.  Got it?  Good.   

She looks battle-hardened to me.

At the beginning of each level you can choose between one of four characters.  Each one has their own specific vehicle with its own available upgrades.  I usually choose the most tank-like vehicle, but I recently decided to alter my criteria, so I chose the girl who was showing the most skin.  Roxy drives an armored dune buggy and has a bad-ass Air Strike special ability.  That’ll work.

I soon realized the only real difference in the vehicles was their special attacks.  Of the other three vehicles, Armand has a very Batmobile-esque shield, Diz has an EMP, and Gunnar has a - wait for it, Heavy Gun.  Each vehicle has three upgrade towers.  The first two towers focus on defense and offense, and are pretty much the same across all four vehicles.  Defense adds armor or extra lives, while the offense tower does things like increase secondary weapon ammo or damage.  The third tower is the tactical tower, and it applies to your special abilities.  Choose your vehicle based on whichever special power compliments your play style.  I like to fire and forget, and I like bare midriffs, so Roxie was a natural choice.

The online co-op portion of the game is pretty standard.  Four players can connect via magic tubes and take on any one of the nine missions.  You aren’t tethered to each other, so you can divide and conquer when secondary objectives occur in the heat of battle.  Each player levels up by scoring points (killing bad guys).  Every time you level up you’ll earn an upgrade point to spend on the particular vehicle you are currently using.  If you run out of lives (yeah, it’s one of those games) before completing the level your game is over, but you get to keep all of your upgrade points.  You can apply those to your vehicle and try again.  Certain skills stack, so choose wisely!  

 I wouldn't call it a skill "tree," but it gets the job done.  With explosions.  Lots of explosions.

Each online player has their own bank of extra lives, so if player A loses all of their lives, players B, C, and D can keep rolling.  Player A can observe like L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries, or leave the game.  There is no drop in/drop out, so you’ll have to meet up with your fellow Renegades in a pre-game lobby.  You can all play as the same character, if you so choose.  Every player's character data, (level, story progression, upgrades, etc.) is saved to their own profile.  At the end of the level (if you finish it) you’ll see a scoreboard, where you can all mock the person with the lowest score.  Take that, Jeff!

Local co-op is another animal.  It supports only two players with two split screen features, so again you won’t be tethered to each other, which is nice (in theory).  Once again, there is no drop-in/drop out, so your annoying roommate can’t pick up a controller and start stealing your kills.  He can’t jump in to save your butt, either.  If one player loses all of their lives, the game changes to full screen for the remaining player.  

I mentioned two split screen modes.  You have the option of playing with a static split screen, which is exactly what it sounds like.  The screen is always split the same way, no matter how close you are to your partner.  Then there’s the option of the dynamic split screen.  The players’ screens will change between split screen and full screen depending upon their proximity to each other.  The way the screen is split is constantly changing, and sometimes a player’s view can be obscured when receiving orders in the middle of a firefight.  Also, the HUD doesn’t change, so the player on the right may have to look at the screen on the left screen to see how much health they have or if their special weapon has cooled down.  It works, but I wouldn’t say it works incredibly well.

It's like a Corona commercial.

Then there is the odd bit of saving in local co-op.  This is hard to explain, so bear with me.  The second player doesn’t have their own save data, even if they’re signed in with a Gamertag (profile).  The main profile essentially has two rosters of vehicles, one roster for player one, and a separate roster for player two.  If a second player joins you they will have no progress on their own profile.  But, any progress they make will stay with you profile’s second player vehicles.  Understand?  How 'bout I break it down for you?  

For example:  I play solo, as Roxy, and get her to level five.  Then I play cooperatively with my wife.  We both play as Roxy.  I’ll be at level five, and she’ll start at level one.  When we finish, I’m at level eight, and she’s at level four.  The next time I play with anyone, I’ll have my player one Roxy at level eight, and anyone who plays as the second player will have access to a level four Roxy.  Later on, if my wife plays solo on her profile, her Roxy will still be at level one.  Weird, I know.  Keep in mind, this is only for local co-op.  

As far as Achievements and Trophies are concerned, all but one are focused on single player, which is bizarre, since Renegade Ops has been billed as primarily an online co-op game.  That's a shame, because the game is so much fun in co-op.  It's good solo, but better with friends.

Did I mention the helicopters?  Oh.  There's helicopters.

Renegade Ops is an excellent twin stick shooter.  You’ll drive one of four vehicles armed with machine guns and an assortment of secondary weapons, including rocket launchers, flame throwers, and rail guns.  You’ll engage in frantic battles with Inferno’s armies of jeeps, mortar trucks, rocket trucks, and tanks.  The nine missions can vary in length from ten to forty minutes, depending on the number of players in your party.  There are three difficulty levels, with the easiest offering infinite lives, and the hardest offering a glass of your own salty tears.  If you venture into hardcore mode, be sure to bring three friends.

Renegade Ops is out now for the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network.  It should be out later this month on Steam.  It will cost you $15.00, or 1200 Microsoft points.

This review is based on the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game.