I've left a wake of devastation in my path, caused more explosions than there have been in the history of mankind, and driven over cliffs at ludicrous speeds. But between all the mindless, wanton destruction, twin-stick shooter Renegade Ops is reminding my brain of something it can't quite put its synaptic finger on. Exotic setting. Isometric viewpoint. Crazy amounts of explosions. Stupid, stupid plot. It's coming to me slowly. Something about 1993. “I know,” screams my brain. “This is just like Jungle Strike, but with cars instead of helicopters!”
Within seconds of that thought, Renegade Ops thrillingly chucks me an armed-to-the-teeth chopper, and for a few minutes it's not just like Jungle Strike, it is Jungle Strike, and I fly off to obliterate a humongous warship. For those of you who are too young to remember the '90s (lucky buggers), Jungle Strike gave you a ludicrous chopper to deal death to hundreds of thick terrorists in a florally unkempt setting.
Developer Avalanche Studios has already proved itself in the field of sandbox mayhem with its absurdly wonderful Just Cause series. Renegade Ops is built on the same engine, and even though the topdown view doesn't let you see the skies, you can be guaranteed that they're the same technicolor azure hue as Just Cause 2's.
This isn't a Just Cause 2 spin-off in the same way as last year's Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, though. Some assets, like the water and trees, seem to have been nabbed wholesale from Just Cause 2, and it maintains a familiar air of general ludicrousness as you plough through buildings and blow up explosive barrel after explosive barrel. But despite the obvious similarities, it's very much its own game.
Rather than just driving or shooting, you're doing both. Mouse and keyboard give an obvious advantage to the shooting, but a disadvantage in the driving. I found the best way to play was to switch between good old mouse and keys when accuracy is required, and then to go back to an Xbox controller for the drivey bits.
There's a limit to the format, though. After a while, spinning your beefy truck through the wilderness and executing anything that casts a shadow becomes a tad tiresome, in a way that it didn't in my 86 hours of doing exactly the same thing in Just Cause 2. Thank goodness for the co-op mode, then. It's here that just a little bit of RTS love has been thrown in. Each of the four characters (well, five, but wait a second... ) has a special ability, such as the ability to turn into a static cannon or unleash an EMP charge.
That fifth playable character is, um, Gordon Freeman. He's got an 'Antlion' special ability that can deal an inappropriate amount of damage to steel-based vehicles, but he just doesn't fit in. You can imagine him inside his knackered Half-Life 2 car. “Seriously, has that teleportation thing gone wrong again? Whatevs, Gabe.” At least he doesn't utter a word or show his face.
Despite the tackiness and slightness of the game, it's still worth £9.99. It's an open world like Just Cause 2's – albeit from a dinkier perspective and with much less interaction. But it seems to have a different target audience in mind: during Renegade Ops' opening cutscene, the evil tyrant Inferno threatens the cities “where your children go to school”. The kids of 1993 are old enough to care about the fate of their sprogs now, and have fewer spare hours for lengthy timesinks. Fortunately, Renegade Ops' short-term sessions are still a complete blast.