Renegade Ops has a story that can be classified either as an earnest failure of seriousness, or a reminder that parodies aren't obligated to be funny. After an overacting psycho threatens to immolate the world for no discernible reason, General Bryant loses his cool over negotiations and vows to destroy evil -- in operations that have not been granted strict governmental authorization, you see. As a member of Bryant's Z-Team equivalent, your job is to foil terrorism by blowing everything up.

While the economy and self-explanatory nature of most twin-stick shooters don't require a story, they do subsist on exciting, instantly readable presentation. The pyrotechnics here -- seemingly borrowed from the developer's last big game, Just Cause 2 -- are dazzling, and the top-down view doesn't distance you from the calamity that follows your armored buggy. Machine guns rip infantry and buildings to shreds, and when projectiles don't cut it you can demolish guard towers by driving right through them. Vibrant jungles and valleys make for gorgeous playgrounds, and it's a shame the game abandons them for drab underground bunkers at campaign's end.

Your vehicle's exhaust pipe belches out a whiff of Micro Machines as you race to the next time-sensitive objective, hit the boost button and deftly drift into a dirt-road corner. The need to turn a bulky, armored vehicle (rather than slide around as an omni-directional hockey puck of death) might get you stuck in a corner on occasion, but the maps are usually spacious enough to nullify that danger.

The levels in Renegade Ops are expansive networks of criss-crossing paths dotted with skirmish points, though exploration never really feels mandatory or worthwhile. It's simpler to let the objective markers lead you by the nose, and the semi-transparent map obscures too much to be welcome in the midst of action. It's more functional in four-player co-op, where it'll give you a quick glimpse of where your teammates are.

"Co-op" is more of an obligatory feature than a thoughtfully cooperative experience, since it really just increases the number of people shooting at things. Renegade Ops isn't trying to engage your mind beyond its ability to rotate analogue sticks asynchronously, so perhaps it's unfair to knock the game for only doing what it says on the tin. The objective description doesn't do it any favors -- you drive in circles, shoot in circles and then circle back to collect health, ammo and machine gun upgrades -- but Avalanche's game gets the basic challenge right.

It would certainly have helped if Renegade Ops exhibited unique qualities elsewhere. The generic veneer is nearly impenetrable, and the car-toon characters are defined by their vehicles and nauseatingly contemporary names like "Roxy" and "Gunnar." Their shared and special attributes can be enhanced through a simple, unobtrusive leveling system, though it bolsters the game's structure more than the moment-to-moment shooting.

Renegade Ops is adequate for what it attempts to be, but it's more conformist than the title suggests. Even the game's mission objectives struggle to summon interesting tasks after a while, resulting in the staunch General Bryant asking you to collect artifacts which he has determined belong in a museum. Sterling suggestion, sir! If only the priceless cultural icons weren't inside crates that must be shot to pieces.


This review is based on a final version of Renegade Ops for Xbox 360, provided by Sega. It's available now on XBLA and PSN for $15, and is coming to PC later this month.

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