Platform: Xbox 360
Review Date: 1/13/12
A great piece of old-school shoot-em-up action that's a lot more fun than it probably deserves to be. A psychotic madman named Inferno is blowing up major cities around the world, and rather than negotiate, a pumped up military man named Bryant decides to pit his elite team of "Renegades" against Inferno's forces. It's five against a thousand, which hardly seems fair, but the Renegades can handle it. The team consists of two men and two women, and each member drives their own specialized vehicle. Of course, the identity and gender of the characters is pointless, since you never see them and they never do or say anything. Regardless, I still chose to play the female characters out of principal. What follows is a top-down dual-stick shooting game as you drive through various locations, following orders from Bryant and blasting everything in your way. It's ridiculously fun, and it features some of the best explosion graphics I've seen. The "G.I. Joe" mentality, comic book dialog, and superhero logic are laughably awful, but also tongue-in-cheek. The heroes and villains just refuse to die, and are seemingly impervious to fire, ground-zero bomb blasts, plane crashes, and bullets to the head. It's pointless to ask why, but it gets increasingly annoying as the game progresses.
The gameplay is frantic and primary objectives are tied to time limits. It's best to charge through the game as quickly as possibly to avoid timing out, since that's the only way to fail a mission. Being killed respawns you nearby, and on the easiest setting you have infinite lives. Secondary weapons can be equipped and upgraded, which adds firepower and additional strategy to your offense. The only thing I found lacking was that controlling the vehicles is a bit slippery. Keeping them on a straight trajectory is very difficult, and turning results in drifting that is hard to control. Roxy's jeep is the worst offender, since it's the fastest in the group. I missed countless turns and ramps with her, and drove off numerous bridges and cliffs. The key to survival is to avoid fire by circling your enemies, but sometimes your vehicle gets stuck and won't respond at all. You can also get stuck in the environment, which forces you to wait for someone to kill you in order to get back in the game. The onscreen map is totally useless, but thankfully the game provides a constant directional pointer that keeps you on the path of your primary objective. The absurd story is told through static storyboard panels and narrated by an appropriately over-the-top vocal cast. This could literally be rebranded as a "G.I. Joe" game simply based on the outrageous characters. Overall, "Renegade Ops" is just good stupid fun that requires very little mental or emotional investment. The missions are all less than thirty minutes long, so it doesn't require a great time commitment, either. And for only $10 on XBLA, it's hard to go wrong.