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Sometimes the things you look forward to the most turn out to be the biggest disappointments. Other times things you have low or no expectations for turn out to be treasures.

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Renegade Ops factbox

Developer: Avalanche Studios

Publisher: Sega

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360 (PS3 reviewed)

Verdict: 8 out of 10 – What it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for with fast-paced old-fashioned explosive twin-stick shooter fun.

This leads me into Renegade Ops, published by Sega, and from the hand of Avalanche Studios, developer of the great Just Cause games.

It’s not a big-budget, high-profile game released with a fanfare of hype but rather a low-key downloadable PlayStation Network (and Xbox Live Arcade) title available for under a tenner.

Even with Avalanche’s involvement, I wasn’t expecting very much from it. The name Renegade Ops seemed generic and bland, and I envisioned the game being much the same. It made me think that if it was a movie it would probably have gone straight to DVD.

As it turns out, Renegade Ops is a very pleasant surprise and a very good game - one of the best straight-to-PSN titles of recent times.

Renegade Ops is a top-down shooter which evokes strong memories of Desert Strike and Jungle Strike from back in the days of Sega’s Mega Drive.

Not only is it similar in concept to these fondly remembered games, taking place as it does in desert and jungle environments, it’s also as much fun as they were.

The plot of Renegade Ops involves the player being in a mobile command unit sent behind enemy lines to take down a lunatic called Inferno who wants to take over the world, seemingly - as he name suggests - by burning everything down.

Narrative is provided by some really cringe-worthy voice acting - think really bad kids’ cartoon with some swearing thrown in for good measure. However, the game has a kind of not-taking-itself-too seriously vibe and the cheesiness of the voice work (macho commander, bossy female, Dick Dastardly-sounding enemy) actually fits well. The hand-drawn comic style of the cut scenes also sits comfortably within the game’s overall style.

The game plays out over a series of missions, which each contain numerous primary and secondary objectives - destroy this, protect that etc.

Waypoints are there to guide you around the impressively expansive levels.

During missions you’ll take control of a variety of armoured vehicles on the ground and in the air, each packing some fearsome weaponry.

Controls could not be easier. This is a dual-stick shooter so it’s just left stick for moving and right stick for firing in the required direction. The controls are very tight and responsive. There are sometimes other buttons to be pressed for shield, secondary weapons etc but it’s a very straightforward game to play.

What’s also very straightforward and unsophisticated, in a good way, is the gameplay. This is my kind of game, where the focus is on nothing more complicated than just having a good time, running over things and blowing lots of stuff up.

Arguments in Renegade Ops are settled with big explosions and big noises. If you don’t like something, you destroy it.

Things to dislike about this game are few and far between, but if I had to single something out it would be the pointless fight segments.

These involve bashing the X button until a meter is filled up, while still images of your opponents flash up on screen. Not only are these sequences boring, they also disturb the pace of the game.

Overall though, Renegade Ops is a hugely satisfying experience which should put a smile on the face of all but the most cold-hearted gamers.

While the concept of Renegade Ops may echo back to the very beginnings of gaming, the game has a very modern vibe to it.

It looks bang up-to-date thanks to the superb graphics. The environments look really nice, with great attention to detail. A lot of it is destructible too, which adds to the fun - especially as explosions are suitably big and flashy.

I can’t think of another title at the same price point which has had the same amount of polish given to its visuals.

As well as the single-player campaign, there are also two-player split-screen and four-player co-op modes. Online leaderboards give the game a competitive edge.

I love the way Renegade Ops borrows from older titles, taking me back to much simpler times. As retro as its influences may be, this game is still like a breath of fresh air among today’s ultra-commercial, ultra-complex games.

If Renegade Ops had a personality, it would be a livewire, enthusiastic one.

I don’t know if I’ll still be playing this in six months or a year’s time. I can’t say how long it will hold my attention or stick in the memory after I’ve finished with it. Its shallowness may yet be its downfall, but as a piece of throwaway fun it’s definitely worth checking out.

One of the best bargains out of the downloadable games for consoles.

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