You wouldn't expect Avalanche Studios--the developer behind the big, crazy Just Cause 2--to get into the downloadable dual-stick shooter genre. It's overcrowded and a lot of the stuff hitting that genre these days feels like also-ran, sub-par trash. But I was pleasantly surprised by Renegade Ops, a four-player dual-stick shooter that opens up the world and lets you tear ass over, around, and through just about any obstacle that gets in your way.
It starts with a comic-style setup that makes it look like a lost issue of G.I. Joe or something, but it quickly dumps you and up to three companions (if you're playing online) into the world. The mission that was shown at a pre-E3 event essentially had all four players spreading out to find hostages that needed to be returned to a church for safe keeping. An on-screen arrow points you in the direction of your next pick-up, and it seems like the game is pointing different players at different prisoners, for maximum efficiency. Or maybe I was just better at it than the people I was playing with.
It sounds straightforward, and it doesn't necessarily stray super far from what you'd expect. The difference is that the world feels large and open. The arrow is pointing you in a direction, but the environments aren't confining you to one specific path. And your little jeep-like vehicle is surprisingly resilient, allowing you to take on several enemies at once. You'll certainly find a lot of buildings and shacks along the way, and the smaller shacks are no match for the bumper on your vehicle. You can just plow right through some of these structures, which is pretty satisfying. The other cool thing that sets Renegade Ops apart is the speed. It's a fast-moving game and your jeeps skid around corners and generally act wild. So simply driving around with the left stick is fun, because you're kind of constantly in danger of sliding right off a cliff if you aren't at least a little careful. There's also a speed boost, which is fun for bashing through buildings even harder.
The demo was brief, and it's hard to tell if the full game will actually be any good, but my brief time with it was certainly enough to leave me wanting to know more about the final game. It almost feels like a modernized, dual-stick take on Konami's classic, Jackal. Sega's putting Renegade Ops out later this year on Xbox Live Arcade, PC, and PlayStation Network.