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PlayStation 2 Classic of the Week: WinBack: Covert Operations

by Ron Duwell | October 23, 2012October 23, 2012 8:30 pm PDT

Forgive me for taking last week off, but I’m pretty sure you were able to decide for yourself if you wanted to drop $10 on Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. A movie cash-in based on a film cashing in on the fantasy hype created by the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Sounds like a lot of executive decisions went into making that one. Luckily, Sony is back to hardcore mode this week with a gem that just oozes with heart.

WinBack: Covert Operations actually started life as a Nintendo 64 game, blocky graphics and all. In 1999, Koei was still a huge player on the Japanese gaming scene, and they desperately needed an answer for Konami’s Metal Gear Solid. This was the result.

Players take control of Jean-Luc Cougar, the coolest name a Japanese developer has ever given to white dude, during his mission to take down a terrorist group called the Crying Lions before they destroy the world with laser satellites. Jean-Luc Cougar must find the other members of the Special Covert Action Team (SCAT) and wrestle the satellite controls from heavily armed mercenaries before finally taking down the rogue villain Colonel Kenneth Coleman.

WinBack: Covert Operations got its PlayStation 2 port in 2001 and quickly found a whole new cult following amongst all the “meh” responses. This is what shooters were for consoles during an awkward time between GoldenEye laying the groundwork and Halo finally perfecting it. At the same time, there is the third person element which tries to replicate Metal Gear Solid‘s stealth mechanics and even an early attempt at a third person shooter covering system.

Of course, the game was bogged by weird controls, straightforward arcade style levels, and a localization that rang closer to the worst SEGA provided for House of the Dead and a lot of their Dreamcast games, hardly the universally praised effort put into Metal Gear Solid.

But that’s exactly why you should try it out. It’s an unashamed and unapologetic Japanese shooter from a time when they were trying to get anything to stick. The bad voice acting, cheap graphics, and insane character names are all part of the retro charm from a much simpler time.

Youngsters interested in how the shooter evolved can get a good lesson from this, and old timers who are a little tired of what shooters have evolved into can get a serious nostalgia fix out of this forgotten classic. It’s still very playable, although gamers used to shooting with the shoulder buttons might have a hard time adjusting to the dated control scheme.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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