Review by KFHEWUI

"WinBack is an underrated gem that introduce several new concepts"

When you first think of the game Gears of War, one of the first things that might come to mind is the cover system. The cover system is unique, however, Gears of War was not the first game to use a cover system. Way back in the year 1999, a hidden gem was released for the N64 by the name Winback: Cover Operations, and was later on ported to the PS2.

The story for Winback goes that a facility has been taken over, and they culprits have said that they will fire the laser from the facility in three hours. So a team is sent in to take back the facility, but while the team is flying to their destination, the helicopter is shot out of the air. Everyone is forced to bail, however the leader does not make it out in time. The game begins with Jean-Luc landing on the outskirts of the facility, and everyone has been split up. Shortly thereafter, Jean-Luc meets up with a partner, but the partner is killed by a sniper. So Jean-Luc must continue onward to complete his mission. However, he later on meets up with other team members and finds out that there might be a traitor among them.

Winback was one of those titles that I fell in love with when I first saw it. The game is made by the company Omega Force. Omega makes a game series by the name of Dynasty Warriors. However, they made this game after the first Dynasty Warriors game. For its time, Winback is a very impressive gem. One of best aspects of this game is the graphics. For a game that came out in '99, the graphics are very impressive, and the game actually does not run on the expansion pak, but if this game was to use the expansion pak, I can't even imagine how good the graphics would have been.

So I start up this bad boy, and I start a new game. So the first level is moving through a parking area. Only five seconds into the game, and you get introduced to the cover system. But first here is a problem that I have with this game. Winback does not give you a tutorial through the first level like some games do, however you have to play through the actual tutorial level, which I highly suggest that you do. The great thing about this cover system is that you can actually move along the wall. You are not stuck in the place where you touch the wall. Next is leaning around the cover and shooting. It actually works well however if you aim at an enemy that is farther way then you have to lean out farther which will take you out of the wall cover. This works well and doesn't take long to get used to. However, this brings up a problem, the lock on. You simply hold R and you will lock onto an enemy. This works most of the time. Some times for no reason the computer will lock-on to an enemy that is farther away than the enemy that is two inches away from you. This happens a lot. But the good thing is that you can manually aim by hold R the moving the Control stick. The gun has an aim laser so you can see where you are going to shoot.

Let's skip to the end of level 1; here is where you are introduced to your greatest rival of the entire game which is the laser. The laser is an instant kill. Most of the time the laser is easy to dodge, but there are a few parts where it will make you cry (like level 10).

Now the controls for this game are nice, but there are a few problems. The camera is a pain, and the controls are very annoying especially since they are right next to the change weapon button. Also the reload button seems sluggish. I usually find myself pounding B before he finally reloads. But the biggest pain is the roll. It is so random. Sometimes you will roll, but sometimes you won't. This is a big problem because your success is sometimes dependent upon the roll ability (like level 10). Also there are turret guns in this game, and the controls are annoying. You have to hold R then press A to fire. If you are not holding R, you exit out of the turret whenever you hit A. The enemies in this game are intelligent. They will duck behind cover, squat behind cover, run for back up, run for a hiding place, try and flank you, and will fire when they see you open. However, the enemies usually attack in groups of 2's, 3's, or 4's. In fact, I don't even recall ever seeing more than 5 enemies on the screen at once.

The music for this game is not bad, however, when you are about to die the music speeds up to create a sense of urgency. Which does its part, but it gets a little old after a while.

Now let's skip to level 10. The dreaded level 10. When I first played through Winback, I made it to near the end of the game, but the dreaded lasers were crushing me then my memory card became corrupted and I lost everything. Since then I have never been able to make it past level 10. For some reason, I don't know why however I finally made it past level 10 not too long ago. The first half of 10 is just nothing new or worth writing about, however in the second part of level 10 there is a section where you have to deactivate a laser then pass through four lasers. The only problem is that you have to roll under them. The lasers are so low that you cannot crawl under them which mean trying to actually get the roll ability to activate at the right moment so that you do not die. However, when you pass through the first two a guy runs over to the controls for the laser, and you have to take him down before he activates the control. However, if he does activate it, you have to go back through the lasers and deactivate it then go back through the four lasers which means you have to go through a total of 8 lasers instead of just 4. That is one of the major problems with this game is the lasers are a royal pain.

So the bosses, I haven't talked about them yet. The first three bosses are extremely easy, and there is not much worth mentioning, however the fourth boss is a major, major headache. In fact, it took me several months to beat this boss when I first played through the game. The battle takes place in a small storage room. Above the arena are two gondolas going around the room, and there is an enemy in each one. Next is the layout. On the left and right sides of the room are conveyer belts and in the dead middle of the room are a few shipping crates with a few explosive boxes around it. Now the actually boss wields a flamethrower. This battle depends upon the roll ability. If the flames touch you, you die instantly. To make matters worse the enemies in the gondolas are shooting at you the whole time. So you have to take them out first then roll around until you see an opening and take a shot at the boss. This fight can take a while depending upon how cautious you play the level. And from this point on the bosses that following are an even bigger headache like the guy with the rockets.

Winback also has multiplayer and three different endings, and there are also bonus modes like time trial and max power mode which increases the replay value.

Winback is an underrated gem that definitely has a few minor issues, however if you can look past these issues than this is definitely a game worth checking out. It is a great stealth game that has an interesting story.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/25/12

Game Release: WinBack: Covert Operations (US, 09/30/99)

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