Review by KFHEWUI

"A disappointing sequel that has nothing with the original game but is a decent game on its own"

When Winback 2 was first revealed, I was glad to see that one of my favorite N64 games was getting a sequel however when it came out that Cavia was developing the game and not the original company, Omega, I began to wonder if they were capable of delivering a worthy sequel. After playing it, some of the things that I feared would happen, came true.

Despite the name, Winback 2 has nothing to do with the original game other than the name, and in fact the game could have been called Project Poseidon. The game begins with Craig, a member of the CRT, writing up a report of his recent mission, and it begins with trying to break up drug rings and saving hostages. Shortly thereafter Poseidon is introduce and turns out to be a new device used for energy, but some people have other ideas of turning it into weapons. It is up to a three man team to prevent Poseidon from falling into the wrong hands.

Winback 2's story is generic and lackluster, and gone is Jean-Luc and the others instead now the player will control three characters named Mia, Nick, and Craig. There is no character development at all for Mia and Nick however there is a little development on Craig (instruction manual has zero story and character information unlike most games), and the rest of the story is best described as sound. It serves only one purpose to be there and keep pushing the player forward which is disappointing consider the story was one of the strengths in the first game.

Graphics is one of Winback's strength, and the game looks solid overall with crisp textures. One major problem with the graphics is the lack of variety, and the game only has about five to six different types of level, and the types of level are repeated numerous times which gets stale and feels like the player is really gaining no traction and is playing the same level over and over. The animation is solid with enemies dropping and throwing away their weapons depending on where they are shot.

The music is decent, and the quality is good however the soundtrack is forgettable. It gets the job done, but overall the music is not one of the strong points of Winback 2. The music does speed up like in the first game however it only speeds up when the player is running out of time instead of their health is getting low.

The one area that was flawed in the previous game that actually received an update was the controls, and the controls are responsive. Rolling is now performed with the push of a single button, and it feels so much better. One major problem is the "A" button and the developer put why to many functions on it. "A" is used for rolling, going into cover, disarming, and action. Numerous times I would try to get into cover and instead would roll out into the open and take a cheap shot, and this is unforgivable putting so many functions on one button especially considering that rolling can also be performed by holding down "LT" and pressing left or right on the analog stick. The other problem I have is with the weapon controls. Pressing up on D-Pad will cycle through sub-weapon while pressing down will cycle between semi and automatic for some weapons. Left and Right are used for cycling through weapons, and it would have been better if they could have used black and white for either sub-weapons or rate of fire especially considering that they are not used at all.

Once starting up the game, it becomes apparent that Winback 2 ditches the linear game play of the first game and instead takes a more arcade approach. The game is spanned over ten episodes, and there are three missions per episode so thirty missions in all. When the back cover of the game says "thirty missions" as one of the bullet points that is not a good sign. Starting the first mission will bring up a brief outline of the mission told by the leader of the team then the game comes up and says Route A and Route B, and after a load time the game begins. Several differences can be seen right off the bat, and the game now has a time system which is usually very generous save for one or two missions. Also the health system is now CRT points instead of a bar. Once the player runs out of CRT, it is game over, but the CRT can be increased by completing objectives or finding CRT points in the level.

The first level is not too long and straight forward with the player having to kill a few bad guys, and the cover system from the first game returns with some improvements. Now the player can duck or stand up while in cover, but one major flaw with the cover system is that enemy's shots can some time magically hit the player when he is behind cover even without the shot hitting them which is cheap. Also sometimes getting into cover can be aggravating since it is not always obvious what can or cannot be used for cover.

Once in cover just aim at the enemy and fire to drop them, but the shooting system received some upgrades. Now limbs can be shot at and hitting their leg or arm will cause the enemy to drop their weapon and allow them to be arrested. This has two benefits. First the enemy's weapon can be picked up which is required on higher difficulty since the game is very cheap with ammo, and secondly, the more enemies arrested the higher the player's rating will be at the end of the level (more on that later). Also certain enemies will sometimes drop useful information if they are arrested instead of killed. If the enemy is hit in the head or body, they will die, and on the higher difficulties, enemies will take two shots to a limb to be arrested instead of just one shot on easy.

The laser is still easy to move and aim, and there is still a lock on feature that can be used but it still has some issues. Sometimes it will not lock on at all or other times it will lock on to the wrong enemy even worse is that if you arrest an enemy, the laser will still lock onto that enemy instead of the one that is about to shot you from the other side of the room. One thing I do not like about the weapons is that the player can only reload when standing still which makes no sense at all especially since the player could move while reloading in the first game.

The deadliest enemy from the first game is back which is the lasers, and they are even more annoying than in the previous game. Dodging them is strange thanks to the awkward rolling system, and sometimes the player will touch the laser and not die but other times they will not touch them when rolling and will die. There is also a new type of laser which activates a machine gun when the beam is broken, and these are much easier to dodge.

The levels range from long to short (only a few are short), and once the level is beaten, the player must replay the level again. Yes, each level is broken into two routes, and the player must beat each route for the mission to be completed. Playing the same level again and again is not fun at all. The back of the box brags that it is "innovative", but I would not call it that. This causes the game to drag out especially considering that there are thirty missions each with two routes that is around sixty missions. Oh, but wait! Some of the missions are so long that they are split into two missions meaning four different routes. It also does not help that the levels are so repetitive thanks to the lack of different levels. There is a construction area, offshore rig, mansion, office, and subway station, and each different level has slight modifications to make them look different. This is a perfect example of the old saying, "quality over quantity". Sure there are thirty levels, but who cares when the levels are boring and drag the game out for way too long.

Enemy AI is awful in this game, and most of the enemies are dumber than dirt. Most of them do not notice the player until they either see them or they are hit, and sometimes the enemies are so dumb that even shooting at them will not make them notice the player. As bad as the AI is in this game, it will cheat from time to time and allow the enemies to magically see the play through walls and/or doors, but at least the enemies are kind enough to shout when they see the player. Not only is the enemy AI bad, but their dialogue is even worse. After hearing the enemy say b#(t@#%@ for the billionth time, it gets old, and other quotes include “hiding like a wussy”, “come out, pig”, and “there you are”. The game does include voice acting, and for the main characters, the voice acting is not that bad however the enemy's voice overs are not that great.

Every once in a while there will be a boss fight, and each boss fight ranges from pathetic to frustrating. Unlike the first game where each fight was unique, each fight in this game is forgettable, and most of the fights boil down to wait for the boss to shot then peak out and hit them but there are a few exceptions to this like the final boss that is dirt cheap.

After beating a mission, the player is given a rank based on time, arrests, and CRT but it would have been nice if the game told the player that restarting a boss fight adds a ton of time to their final time. Gaining an "A" rank on every mission will unlock a bonus character in multiplayer. This also applies to the difficulties as well beating each difficulty with an "A" rank for each mission unlocks a character which is no easy task. The hardest difficult makes the enemies invisible, and only their weapons can be seen which is a terrible idea and it is just as bad as invisible zombies in the video game called Carrier.

If the player makes it through the game, a new difficulty is unlocked and there is also multiplayer to help the replay value however Winback's gameplay is not suited for multiplayer at all. Considering that the player has to stand still to fire, each match boils down to no strategy at all, but there are bots included.

As a sequel to Winback, Project Poseidon is a huge disappointment, but as a standalone game, it is not that bad which is what it should have been in the first place. Considering all the flaws, Winback 2 is middle of the road, and while it is not that bad of a game, it is not that great of a game either. Anyone looking for a quick arcade like game should find some fun in Winback 2 however it is not a game that is worth investing a lot of time in.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/12/12, Updated 02/26/13

Game Release: WinBack 2: Project Poseidon (US, 04/25/06)

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