Wednesday 11 November 2015

Winback: Covert Operations (N64 review)

Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei
Released: 2000

Winback: Covert Operations is a third-person action game that was also released on the PlayStation 2 in 2000.

You play as a secret agent and your mission is to destroy a satellite control centre before it wipes out innocent civilians. Your main weapon is a pistol but alternatives such as a Shotgun can be picked up. The cover system works remarkably well as you simply hold A to press against a wall and then R to peak around corners. You can even lock onto enemies beforehand which makes you feel in total control. Most missions take place in industrial buildings, warehouses and sewers which isn't very inspiring. Tons of sections are repeated too and you'll often return to exactly the same area from a previous mission. Enemy A.I. is dumb and once they spot you they prefer to stay still in an open area instead of chasing after you. The moving lasers in Mission 10 are incredibly annoying as you have to roll to avoid them but the controls just aren't precise enough making it seem like potluck. There's a few missions where you hunt for explosives but they last forever and outstay their welcome! Towards the end missions last far too long with barely any checkpoints and it's not always clear where you have to go; the developers didn't lock doors to previous areas which leads to aimless wandering. There are a handful of cool moments though such as the warehouse where you need to duck in and out of cover to shoot enemies and avoid lasers while inside a moving crate. The bosses take place in tiny arenas and most of them are annoying with homing missiles and flamethrowers that are cheap and difficult to avoid. There's multiple endings though and the cut-scenes are great with energetic music.

Winback: Covert Operations is basically a poor man's Syphon Filter (1999, PS1). While it has an innovative control scheme and is moderately entertaining the repetitious level design and lack of checkpoints later in the game are inexcusable and lead to lots of unnecessary frustration.

Random trivia: A sequel called WinBack 2: Project Poseidon was released on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2006.

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