Renegade Ops: Did triple-A just go digital?

Hands On: Avalanche brings the Just Cause way to PSN and XBLA....

Take Just Cause 2, send the camera high into the sky, add some analogue stick shootery and serve on XBLA or a freshly secured PSN Store. Boom, you've just rustled up a bit of Renegade Ops - a simple bite-size game that packs a bit of a kick.

For the few gamers amongst you, perhaps a reference a little closer to home would be more useful. Renegade Ops is, at its core, your standard top-down, twin-stick blaster with a military bent.

It means if you've ever sat by a bubbling brook reminiscing about the good old days of hoisting hostages from their captors in Desert Strike or trundling around in Jungle Strike, you'll immediately feel at home with Avalanche's contribution to the increasingly retro genre.

And Desert Strike is the kind of thing you want to keep in mind when thinking about Renegade Ops, which has a tactical element and variations in pace and direction. This isn't the kind of blaster that just throws enemies at you in waves.

It's a strictly arcade affair though, the story and characters are simple: An evil dictator called Inferno threatens just about everything with his evil dictatory ways and a desire for world domination (classic). You play - with the option of a friend offline and up to three others online - as a military crack team cobbled together from the best of the best to kick some ass and all that gubbins.

The narrative itself didn't really look like it would evolve much beyond that (although we only played a short half hour segment) any cutscenes are replaced stylistically pleasing but, again, simple cartoon screens and dialogue is for the most part clichéd.

But Renegade Ops is something of a homage to a dying breed, a hark back to days spent slotting coins into arcade machines and, for that reason, the dated approach to story-telling is almost something for the pro column.

Plus you didn't come here for philosophies on war that would rival a Hideo Kojima bedtime story, you came to blow up stuff, which Renegade Ops gladly provides from the off.

Hitting the shores of a tropical island in a hovercraft and rolling our jeep out onto the dirt, we're already under fire. The right analogue stick sprays bullets from our cannon back at enemies in any of the 360 directions we should choose. The left stick sends us scuttling across the land with handling closer to a duune buggy and L1 unleashes the jeep's special attack, an EMP which disables near by vehicles' fire-power.

Power-ups can be picked up along the way to thicken the stream of bullets that leaves our guns and one that we're particularly grateful for unlocks a turbo boost (assigned to X/A) which can be used continuously once acquired early on. Good job as well because our wheels started off a little sluggish.

What ensues is a number of quick-fire mission objectives hurled at you over the comm-link; destroy these tanks, rescue those people, take them to the church, stop that convoy. You're ushered along by a time limit should you be dallying and, since you're somehow juggling two objectives at once, there's rarely any time to take in the scenery.

And scenery is kind of the key when it comes to Renegade Ops. Remember this is running on the Just Cause 2 engine and you can tell. The 3D world is rich with detail and your jeep bounces and ricochets over every bump in the road and off every cliff face you smash into.

Although we didn't see any gravity-defying super-chutes during our play-through, the extreme physics and destruction features are clearly ripped straight from the book of Rico Rodriguez. In our more devil may care moments as we raced towards missile carriers against the clock, we outed snipers from huts simply by driving straight through the tenuous structure, sending it splintering to the ground.

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