Developer(s) – Omega Force
Publisher(s) – Koei
ELSPA – 11+
Operation WinBack, or WinBack: Covert Operations as it was known in America, was a late Nintendo 64 title, and an early PlayStation 2 title, ported to the following generation console, most likely due to the unprecedented amount of critical acclaim it received at the time. I do have to say as a prerequisite that I spent a lot of time playing this game during the early years of the PlayStation 2’s shelf life, but as fairly good as it still is, and how influential it would later prove to be, I don’t think it entirely hoods up to this day.
Graphics – 6/10
The best thing I can point out about this game’s visuals is how good it looked from a graphical standpoint at the time; on both the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2. It looked far better than most other games of its kind on the original PlayStation, and then it’s subsequent PlayStation 2 port did a pretty good job at showcasing what the console was capable of in its early stages. However, what I can’t wax poetic about is the conceptual design, which looks pretty generic. It was heavily influenced by the original Metal Gear Solid game, and I think the resemblances are plain to see.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
One of the better third-person shooters released at the dawn of the genre, WinBack’s cover system was revolutionary and made playing the game that much easier to cope with than other future releases such as Second Sight. Although the running and gunning aspect of this game is fairly addictive, there’s not much else the game has to offer in terms of gameplay; no side quests, or collectible items throughout. The only objective is to play through as fast as possible to get the best ending. The fact that the players are encouraged to rush through the game is very foreboding in itself.
Controls – 9.5/10
The movement mechanics are a little bit stiff, but otherwise, there are no problems. It’s actually quite interesting to see how well the developers had handled this early attempt at a third-person shooter compared with many other future releases. Not only was the cover system revolutionary, but the manual aiming system that players could use would go on to influence a variety of different games. Though the original Metal Gear Solid influenced the visual style of WinBack, there were these gameplay mechanics that would go on to in turn influence the development of Metal Gear Solid 2.
Lifespan – 4/10
When rushed through, the game can take about 5 hours to finish, which considering this is a game influenced by the original Metal Gear Solid, is unacceptable. It was bad enough finding out that there was no way in which to save the other members of the S.C.A.T team (indeed, that’s what I thought the purpose of having their stats on the pause menu might have been for, though in reality, it has no bearing on the gameplay at all, which makes me question the reason for having them there in the first place), but the fact that there are no other activities in the game other than to run and gun when there could have easily been something else added to it, is very disappointing in my opinion.
Storyline – 5/10
The narrative follows the main character Jean-Luc Cougar and the S.C.A.T team during their efforts to take back a powerful government weapon from a terrorist group called the Crying Lions. Not only is the plot extremely influenced by and reminiscent of the first Metal Gear Solid, but the voice acting is also extremely below par. There was the use of spoken dialogue in the Nintendo 64 version, which in hindsight, is preferable to having to listen to the half-hearted efforts of the voice actors in the PlayStation 2 version.
Originality – 7/10
Despite the fact that there isn’t a great deal of originality in terms of the overall gameplay formula, which will leave players thinking that so much more could have been added to give them a lot more to play for throughout, the fact of the matter remains that the control scheme not only went on to influence Metal Gear Solid but also some of the more successful future titles in the third person shooting genre, such as Kill Switch, Uncharted and Gears of War. The fact that this game served as an early prototype to some of the most successful game series in history, as well as a prototype for many other games in the early stages of the genre, makes it stand out a fair bit.
Overall, Operation WinBack’s running and gunning mechanics can be fairly addictive for how short the game lasts, but I do think the game is wanting in content. I can’t help but feel that with either better voice actors, or no voice actors at all, as well as a good few side quests are thrown in for good measure, this game could have stood out even more among early PlayStation 2 titles than it ended up doing, but sadly, this wasn’t the case.