Just ‘Cos: Renegade Ops Preview

Is this screenshot higher or lower resolution than the original Micro Machines? This is your Wednesday riddle.

This tiny ode to destruction is perhaps best described as angry Micro Machines. Or, if you’ve sensibly passed the point where ritually namechecking 16-bit games is any way useful or meaningful, ‘that one with the death-spewing car the size of a thumbnail.’ Throw in that it comes from the creators of the gleefully absurd Just Cause 2 and I’m immediately side-stepping the uninspiring name and paying close attention. Willfully stupid, Renegade Ops is a game about driving a tiny buggy around a series of lush, top-down environments and riddling pretty much anything you run into with bullets, rockets, railguns and airstrikes. It’s a twin-stick shooter with a car, impeccably-rendered tropical trees and a mind for mayhem.

Renegade Ops is not to be treated as a simulation of anything, or as a discussion of anything. The game’s villain, an evil genius with a messed-up face, is called Inferno. Inferno! You don’t need to know about a guy’s motivations when he’s calling himself Inferno. All you need to know is that you and your little jeep need to take the silly sucker out. Which you’ll do across nine levels spanning the lies of ice-bound islands, jungle locales and sinister mines. Man, this must be what writing game previews felt like in 1995. This lark must have been so much easier when you didn’t have to worry about roleplaying elements and moral dilemmas and digital distribution services.

This is 2011, however, and Renegade Ops is not unaware of that despite its determinedly retro mindset. It’s a much smaller project (only 9 or 10 devs are working on it, apparently) for Avalanche after the epic ludicrousness that was Just Cause 2, but it’s employing the same sterling graphics and physics tech, this time from a top-down, car-bound perspective. Semi-linear, you’ll largely be steering your toylike vehicle to specific objectives (those objectives invariably being ‘destroy everything’), but optional side-quests enable you to go off piste and explore a little more, at which point the JC2 heritage becomes a whole lot clearer. Dicking about on a lush tropical island, trashing huts and exploding jeeps, but with second-by-second action and none of the frailty that JC’s Rico can suffer. Your vehicle can most certainly be trashed, but this is thoroughly retro and thoroughly implausible, working along the lines of a highly modernised Jackal or Desert Strike. Soak up those shots, kid – then unleash worse.

You’ve got four characters to choose from, with each one’s vehicle handling differently and enjoying a mega-splat power to unleash on occasion. I played Roxy, whose particularly lightweight jeep can easily be twitched off a cliff to its doom by an unsure hand, and whose air strike ability is instantly devastating. While pretty basic – nine levels of drive’n’shoot – it’s completely over the top throughout and very much instant in its tickly entertainment. Avalanche’s laudable unwillingness to ever remove tongues from cheeks seems to lend what could have been simplistic and dour a palpable joie de vivre. Jeep + gun + large, lush environments = good time. The innate static flatness of screenshots isn’t capturing that well, alas: in motion the lightness of touch (to the point of determined silliness) is immediately evident.

Sensibly (about the only element of Renegade Ops that could truly be deemed sensible), it’s built for co-op. Split-screen with two players and online with four, haring around trashing stuff and falling off cliff ledges together, trying to nail sub-objectives such as rescuing terrified villagers from besieged churches before timers run out or buggies explode, and being completely immune from friendly fire even as allies rain death from above. Completely stupid, and completely up front about that.

Now for the bad news: the PC build is arriving a couple of weeks after the console versions. I’m informed this for genuine technical reasons, due to the small team, not skullduggery, and that SEGA/Avalanche are determined to do things right – the PC version will have as-yet-mysterious additional features as well as pumped-up graphics, while they’re currently offering a pre-order deal on Steam in which you buy two copies and get two free, intended to push it as a chuckles-with-chums affair. That pack is down for around £25, while single copies are £12. In other words, this looks very much like it’s a party game, not a whole lot else, and as far as I can tell so far it knows it. That only endears me to it all the more.

We’re hoping for PC preview code in the next couple of weeks, so should be able to bang on about whatever currently undiscolsed extra stuff it’s got in there then, but meantime I’ve got this marked squarely as lunchtime funtime.


  1. DrGonzo says:

    Hopefully this game will have responsive controls. I really want to love Just Cause 2, and I almost do but the incredibly sluggish mouse controls always stop me from getting into it.

    • Moni says:

      I never noticed it until someone told me (apparently I have a shit mouse). Just Cause 2 has negative acceleration, so the camera turns slower the faster you turn your controller. Which is great if you’re using a joystick, but not so great if you’re using a mouse.

    • LionsPhil says:

      JC2’s controls were unbearably dreadful. Passed it over in the recent ludicrously-cheap Steam sale for exactly that reason.

      Hopefully, being a completely different kind of beast with its top-down drivey-shootyness means they might not muck it up this time.

      Also, they can’t do a bloody over-the-shoulder camera. (And there was much rejoicing.)

    • Cryotek says:

      For Just Cause 2, I used kb/mouse AND a 360 controller. It lets you swap band and forth smoothly on the fly, so when I need to drive/fly I’d grab the controller for the vehicle.

      Otherwise, kb/mouse was excellent for the rest of the action.

    • Jhoosier says:

      I finally got a controller after I beat Just Cause 2, and driving/flying is fantastic.

      I didn’t mind the controls so much, they seemed a bit made-for-console, but I stopped noticing after a while.

    • skinlo says:

      K+B worked for me?

    • Monchberter says:

      Why don’t you all just buy a £20 wired xbox pad like any other sensible person playing a blatant console conversion. Added bonus, can also be used for driving games and the like.

      JC2 works perfectly well if you can overcome your deep disgust of under-the-telly boxes

    • Baboonanza says:

      I played it through on M&K with no problems, but then I don’t expect FPS-like sensitivity in 3rd-person action games. Even flying was fine, though I suspect the planes would have been better with a pad.

    • PatrickSwayze says:

      So many people who don’t like fun :|

    • LionsPhil says:

      Because I don’t like miserable little analogue sticks, especially when a superior control device is right there if you wouldn’t cripple it. I do quite like fun, though; I had a fair bit of that with the Mercenaries 2 demo, seeing how much of the city I could level in the time limit (shame about the DRM).

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      I know what people mean when they said they had “sluggish mouse controls”. Back when I was on my gaming laptop with not-so-great framerate the aiming was dreadfully slow, but now that I run it at a solid 60 FPS the controls are so much better than with a gamepad.

      It just doesn’t work too well under non-ideal conditions, but when it does it’s perfectly fine.

  2. stahlwerk says:

    This game might make me invest in a second wireless xbox controller.

  3. PleasingFungus says:

    I can’t make head or tails of the third screenshot (what on earth are they fighting on?), but the game sounds fun!

  4. Serenegoose says:

    I have the sudden overwhelming urge to go and play Jungle Strike.

  5. matrices says:

    I don’t know, I’m doubtful that the charm of JC2 can be replicated in an isometric environment. Sometimes old school is just, well, old. If I’m playing isometric – and apparently fixed and almost 90-degree angle, rather than Dragon Age, it needs to be an RTS or some spectacular story-driven thing. Otherwise, I know the only reason I’m playing in that mode is that the game was cheap to make.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      Not trying to be snide, but this comment seems pretty weird to me. Don’t see why they’d try and replicate the charm from JC2 when it’s a totally different game. As for this:

      “If I’m playing isometric – and apparently fixed and almost 90-degree angle, rather than Dragon Age, it needs to be an RTS or some spectacular story-driven thing. Otherwise, I know the only reason I’m playing in that mode is that the game was cheap to make.”

      Isometric only works for RTSs and story-driven games or it’s cheap? Really, just what?

    • soundofvictory says:

      Open your mind, sir, and you just might discover fun.

  6. Fumarole says:

    For some of us, Micro Machines were toys before games. Just like the real thing, only smaller.

  7. kuran says:

    Pre-ordered.. just to thank them for JC2. (Although they would do well to release a co-op patch for that!)

    • tenseiga says:

      And patch up mod support again, none of the mods work anymore for the steam version at least, i wanted to reduce difficulty and give myself infinite ammo and couldnt!

  8. Bilbo says:

    What the shit? I was ignoring this but now it actually looks like something I really want to play… how can one screenshot do that? (The big orange explodey one near the top. Gave me a proper 1993 flashback, that did.)

  9. theloz says:

    Ohhh lovely! This looks like what I remember 16-bit games looking like when they were cutting-edge. Definitely earned a purchase.

  10. Film11 says:

    Looks nice, got it pre-ordered with a friend for a £5, so can’t go wrong there. Looking forward to some serious drive-shootery next month!

  11. Cryotek says:

    This game looks like a blast. Now I just need to buy a friend to play it with!

  12. The JG Man says:

    I completely forgot the 2-player on one PC. I was already getting this, but I can forsee me and housemates enjoying this!

  13. Seb says:

    Looks great, in fact those screens remind me of S.W.I.V. on the Amiga 500; and if you remember that game, cheers for being at least as old as I am.

  14. jay35 says:

    I want to pre-order this but there’s no monetary incentive to do so. $10 and I might bite.

  15. amishmonster says:

    Alec just indirectly taught me what “piste” means.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      Same here. Piste at myself for not knowing such a useful word. I should be pistel-whipped.

      Pistechios, anyone?

  16. Gabe McGrath says:

    An angry Micro Machines?
    Nah, forget your “16 bit” namechecking, Alec. We’re talking “1986 acade” namechecking.

    “Jackal” (AKA “Top Gunner” in the USA).

    Wiki article here and… scarily talented person playing it on MAME here.

    If it’s *anything* like Jackal, I’m in. Awesome game.

    • stahlwerk says:

      From the article: “Your vehicle can most certainly be trashed, but this is thoroughly retro and thoroughly implausible, working along the lines of a highly modernised Jackal or Desert Strike. ”

      So, you’re in?

    • Gabe McGrath says:

      Oh no, did I *really* miss that?
      How embarrassing.

      Thanks for (RPS-style) gently pointing that out.

  17. Binary77 says:

    I absolutely LOVE the fact that more split screen PC games are starting to appear. Will definitely buy this, as many a school night was lost to Desert Strike back when i was a kid & hopefully this will bring that same feeling back.

    • TheApologist says:

      Agreed! On both split screen and Desert Strike counts.

  18. MiniMatt says:

    My hunch (and demonstrating my likely very bad understanding of such things) but the screenshot is lower (just). 600*256 screenshot versus playing Micro Machines on a Sega *something* on a PAL telly at something*576?

    • Simes says:

      If you top and tail a 1200×720 image to hide the game’s informational displays, and then halve the resolution of the result in order to get it to fit comfortably on a web page, you’d probably get a size much like that. The fact that the images are of slightly varying heights would tend to bear out this theory.

  19. Ernesto says:

    This reminds me of Steelstorm, which i was playing recently. And the choppers brought back memories of a game called Hell-Copter. Sounds like fun, especially on coop.

  20. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I noticed this game some time ago on steam, and was wondering if it was any good.

    Turns out it’s pretty much exactly what i wished for in the other thread, where we could just anounce our own game for gamescom :)

  21. 4026 says:

    The prices Alec quotes are actually slightly high. Steam’s now offering single copies for £10, and the 4-pack for £20.