Renegade Ops is a good example of what happens when a developer finishes a big project and decides to stretch its legs and try something different. After completing work on last year's sandbox mayhem simulator, Just Cause 2, staff members at Avalanche Studios started toying around with the game engine and ultimately liked what they saw when they pulled the camera from its behind-the-back third-person perspective and put it into a top-down view. The result became Renegade Ops, a new dual-stick shooter with decidedly retro leanings.
The story in Renegade Ops is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the macho tough guys of the 1980s, an era when any action hero worth his salt fought in the jungle with a knife clenched between his teeth. Think of it as a slightly more eccentric version of GI Joe as told through comic-book panels that pop up over the gameplay whenever something of note happens. In short, it's a story that largely serves to explain why you're tearing through the jungle in a sweet jeep blowing stuff up left and right.
The gameplay has a similarly retro feel to it. You spend most of your time driving around the jungle in an armored car, blasting enemies and picking up weapon upgrades along the way. One big difference between Renegade Ops and the 1980's shoot-'em-ups that clearly influenced it is that this game is heavily focused on physics. Your car bounces, swerves, and flips over if you're driving like too much of a maniac, so there's a bit more skill required than you might initially expect. (In several cases, we drove straight into a solid wall only to flip our car like a sad driver's education safety video.)
There's some destruction in there, too. For example, you can drive straight into the wooden huts that populate the jungle and then drive straight out to watch the buildings come toppling down a few seconds later. Enemy cars that come after you will explode in a burst of mangled engine parts and fire, while any on-foot enemies you run over will leave a hilariously grim streak of red tire marks on the dirt roads. It's an imposing car you drive, too, with the stock machine gun, as well as the ability to add rockets and EMP blasts as you continue to do better.
Unlike true old-school shoot-'em-ups that feature one single, imposing difficulty level, Renegade Ops will offer a number of difficulty options to suit your desire challenge level; the number of lives you have to deal with is the primary difference. No matter your skills with the sticks, you can expect to see Renegade Ops dropping on Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and Steam sometime this summer.