Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / WinBack

Go To
The game's European boxart for the PS2 rerelease.

Winback: Covert Operations (known as Operation: Winback in Australia and Europe) is a cover-based Third-Person Shooter developed by Koei's Omega Force studio. Koei initially released it for the Nintendo 64 in Japan and North America in 1999, with an Updated Re-release for the PlayStation 2 (JP in 2000, NA in 2001); as for the European releases, Virgin Interactive handled the N64 version in 2000 and Midas Games handled the PS2 version in 2001. It later became one of the first offerings for the Nintendo Switch Nintendo 64 application in 2021. It could be considered an N64 analogue to Metal Gear Solid, and despite its obscurity it is effectively the Trope Codifier for many modern third-person shooter mechanics, particularly its cover system (which influenced that of kill.switch, which in turn was cited as an inspiration for the much more famous and widely-copied one in Gears of War) and the use of Laser Sights for aiming (which was later popularized by Resident Evil 4).

The plot concerns the hijacking of a Kill Sat called the GULF System by a terrorist group calling themselves the "Crying Lions", demanding the US government to admit to their involvement in Sarcozia's civil war, pull out of Sarcozia entirely, and leave it alone; the player takes the role of Jean-Luc Cougar, a member of the Special Covert Action Team, as they move in to take back the complex housing the GULF System's controls before the terrorists can fire the weapon again.

An In Name Only sequel, Winback 2: Project Poseidon, was developed by Cavia and published by Koei for the PS2 and Xbox in 2006. Besides the cover system, no other elements of the first game reappear.


  • Action Girl: Of the three women who appear in the game, only two qualify:
    • Hard Luck Lila is the first boss member of the Crying Lions Jean-Luc fights against. She totes an M60 machine gun and, though relatively easy to defeat as the first boss, can quickly lay on the hurt if you aren't careful.
    • Lisa jokes at one point that it'll take more than "a crashing chopper and trigger-happy terrorists" to kill her. In two of the three endings, she is one of the only surviving members of the team.
    • Averted with Nancy, an assistant to the Secretary of Defense who is only in the intro sequence.
  • Always Save the Girl: Lisa is saved by Jean-Luc in the Good and Normal endings, along with Keith.
  • All for Nothing: After all of Jake, Tom and Jean-Luc's work to get the new security code for the express elevator after the terrorists had changed the code, from fighting through terrorists to disabling 5 bombs. 3 for Jean-Luc (one after a battle with a shotgun weilding terrorist and former hunter named Leon.)and 2 for Jake, they finally get the new security code at the cost of Tom's life. Tom writing it in his blood on the floor before he died. Once they reach it and use the code, Jean-Luc scouts ahead, fights another terrorist named Ryan, Jean-Luc manages to defeat him, but Ryan detonates a grenade and destroys the express elevator, forcing the SCAT team to take the long way around to the freight elevator. Jean-Luc lampshades this afterwards.
    Jean-Luc: I really screwed up here Tom, and after all you did...
  • Ax-Crazy: Many of the Crying Lions boss characters count, especially Lila, Banderas, and Jin.
  • Bare Midriffs Are Feminine: Lila, the first boss Jean-Luc faces in the game, and the only female of the terrorist group wears an outfit that shows off most of her torso, as it stops just below her chest. (If you look closely in the PS2 version, you can make out a naval piercing.)
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: In the Bad ending, Kenneth Coleman, the terrorist leader, commits suicide when Jean-Luc tries to take him into custody, knowing he would be sentenced to either life in prison or execution for the Crying Lions' crimes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the Good and Normal routes, Jean-Luc finds Deathmask holding Lisa at gunpoint, and Cecile gives Jean-Luc to the count of five to lower his weapon. Just as Jean-Luc is about to comply, Jake bursts in and lands headshots on both Deathmask and Cecile with his machine gun. This ultimately gets zigzagged: Cecile shoots Jake dead, then decides to take Lisa with him and have Deathmask handle Jean-Luc.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Good ending. The SCAT has destroyed the satellite before it could be fired again, saving thousands, if not billions of innocent lives, and most if not all of the terrorists have been neutralized. However, only Jean-Luc, Lisa, and Keith survive the mission; the rest of the team is dead.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Matthew, the only black man of the team (and the entire game, for that matter), is the first teammate to die.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For the most part. Tom is revealed to have written out the security code for the elevator in his blood before he died, but beyond that the closest the game ever has to any sort of blood is Jean-Luc claiming to see a pool of it under Law when the latter says he's "just resting".
  • Boom, Headshot!: Headshots, as expected from a post-GoldenEye shooter, deal increased damage. Bosses just take a little more damage from them, but all other enemies are generally instantly killed by them. Some of the members of SCAT are also shown to be taken out this way in cutscenes. Unusually, it seems that even in normal gameplay Jean-Luc is subject to headshots, but enemies don't go out of their way to aim for them and, like the bosses, he only takes more damage from them.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Towards the end of the Good and Normal routes, Cecile betrays Kenneth and murders him, then takes over to demand a hundred million dollars from the US government.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: In the Good and Normal routes, nothing else explains why Cecile doesn't shoot Jean-Luc while taking Lisa hostage, especially after he just shot Jake dead for his Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Boss Battle: Several of them cap off the stages, and the final number depends on which ending is locked in.
  • Boss-Only Level: Some boss characters have Stages all to themselves, and are thus shorter than others.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Only applies to your starting handgun, and even then you still have to reload it. Other than that, the game is actually rather stingy on carried ammo - on the hardest difficulty, you can only carry one full magazine for the submachine gun and shotgun (two if you find the ammo pouch at the start), while the silenced pistol and four-barreled rocket launcher don't get reloads and you have to find new ones entirely. On the easiest difficulty at least, you can carry up to 8 magazines of ammo for the submachine gun and 64 shotgun shells, depending on how many of the ammo pouches were found throughout the game.
    • Scoring 20k points in Normal or Hard Story Mode unlocks Max Power Mode as an option for that mode, where Jean-Luc starts with all weapons and infinite ammo.
  • Bowdlerise: For some nebulous reason, perhaps to keep the ESRB rating low, several swears from the N64 version are edited out in the PS2 release (even a minor "cripes"), but several "damns" and "bastards", and even a "hell" or two, get thrown around anyway.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Some of the SCAT members have their moments, particularly Jean-Luc and Jake.
  • Disposable Woman: This is Lisa's fate in the Bad route.
  • Downer Ending: The Bad ending, obviously. Although most of the terrorists are dead, SCAT is brought down to two members out of ten doing so, and Jean-Luc mentions casualties in the hundreds of thousands as a result of the White House and the Pentagon being obliterated.
  • Dwindling Party: Of the ten members of SCAT sent to secure the Fortress complex at Westham, Jean-Luc and Keith survive in all three endings. In the Good and Normal endings, Lisa is the only other survivor and Dan is confirmed dead; in the Bad ending, the former is confirmed dead and the latter is presumed to have died in the helicopter crash. Everyone else is confirmed dead in all three endings.
    • Matt is sniped by Ceicle from a rooftop.
    • Tom is shot several times in the back by Dan (He confesses to this in the good and normal endings)
    • Steve is also shot several times in the back by Dan (Again, he confesses this.)
    • Law is shot several times by terrorists, who he kills, only to be finished off by a headshot by Cecile.
    • Mike is shot by Banderas.
    • Jake is shot several times by Cecile.
    • Dan, after being revealed as a traitor, is killed during a gunfight with Jean-Luc in the good and normal endings, in the bad ending, he is presumed to have died in the helicopter crash, as he is not seen again after this.
    • In the bad ending only, Lisa is killed along with Jake by Jin. (She survives in the good and normal endings.)
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In the story, the Secretary of Defense, his assistant, and his advisor are only named as their occupations; completing Story Mode unlocks them in multiplayer, where their real names are revealed to be George, Nancy, and Kevin, respectively.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Law simply looks up at Cecile without uttering a word before Cecile puts a bullet in his head.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Dan, the SCAT Commander, betrays the team and his country, having orchestrated the helicopter's engine failure in the beginning and admitting to personally killing two of his own team members. When he is defeated, he reveals that he is half-Sarcozian and Kenneth is his brother. He technically qualifies as Evil All Along, since he mentions that his treasonous thoughts began eight years back during a mission as part of the Navy Special Forces, when he first encountered a group of Sarcozian rebels led by his brother.
  • Fictional Country: Sarcozia. The archived official website also mentions its neighboring country of Argent who lent its military might to Sarcozia's government, but it seems that was from an older script; in the game proper, Argent isn't mentioned anywhere and Kenneth vows revenge against the US Government for their support of Sarcozia's government.
  • Final Boss: In the Good and Bad routes, it's Cecile. In the Normal route, it's Dan.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: According to the manual, the Special Covert Actions Team is a top-secret band of anti-terrorist operatives formed under the auspices of the President in order to deal with terrorist actions that threaten national security.
  • Government Conspiracy: In the Good and Normal routes, Dan discovered that the US Government lent its military might to Sarcozia in order to keep the military faction in power. They called Dan's deployment eight years back a peace-keeping mission, but the real goal was simply to quell the rebellion, one that was supported by most of the Sarcozian population.
  • Guilt Complex: After he is defeated, Dan admits in his dying breaths that he feels this due to what he's done, to the point that it has made his life a living hell plagued with nightmares and he wants to end it all. He then succumbs to his injuries.
    Dan: The guilt I bear has made my life a living hell. I wanted it to end, for the nightmares to stop, for death.
  • Guns Akimbo: Deathmask uses a pair of handguns. Banderas goes further by pairing up SMGs.
  • Hate Sink: Cecile Carlyle is a real piece of work for an international war criminal. His first kills are Matt and Law, and in the Good and Normal routes Jake and his own boss are added to the body count. In the Good route, his grenade also blows up Dan's body. It's telling that the Normal route (where the Pentagon is obliterated) omits him as a Post-Final Boss, implying he escapes offscreen.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While all the slain SCAT members qualify for trying to stop the terrorists, Law has one unforgettable moment when he sends Jean-Luc down to the factory before holding off the mooks. He actually succeeds in killing the mooks (albeit with more injuries), and sits down... but then Cecile walks up to him and finishes him off.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Kenneth gives this speech in the Bad ending.
  • In the Back: Dan is revealed to have shot Tom and Steve dead from behind.
    • In the Good and Normal routes, Cecile shoots Kenneth dead from behind. Dan then shoots Cecile a moment later (which doesn't stick, according to the Good route).
  • Interface Spoiler: In Versus, all the unlockable bosses wield only one signature weapon. So does Dan.
  • I Shall Taunt You: A layered variant. Upon reaching the GULF satellite control room in the Good and Normal routes, Jean-Luc is surprised to see Dan waiting for him, where he fully admits of his treachery but doesn't give his reason. He offers to tell his side if Jean-Luc fights him, but Jean-Luc can't bring himself to do so. His dithering sends Dan into a rant.
    Dan: Then face the consequences of your own foolishness. Your indecisiveness is wasting time... time needed to stop the Gulf System. I'm fighting for what I believe is right. I expect you to do the same... or don't you give a damn-
    [he fires a shot dangerously close to Jean-Luc's head]
    about what happened to your teammates?
  • Jerkass: Cecile. In the Bad route, he even states that nothing makes his day more than knowing he just completely ruined someone else's.
  • Karma Houdini: In the Normal ending, Cecile is presumed to have been shot dead by Dan. However, when you take into account his Post-Final Boss status in the Good route, it's implied he gets away scot-free.
    • In the Bad ending, Jin, Deathmask, and Dan don't appear (in fact, Jean-Luc finds Lisa and Jake's corpses instead of a boss fight against Jin). However, when you take into account their status as bosses in the other routes, it's implied they get away scot-free.
  • Kill Sat: The Gulf System that the Crying Lions hijack is a satellite that can target any spot on Earth and obliterate it with pinpoint accuracy by firing a huge laser beam. In the intro, the Crying Lions use it to destroy the Space Center. Despite having an unlimited energy source, it takes several hours to charge between blasts.
    • In fact, Jean-Luc in the good and normal ending believes it is too dangerous to keep around and has Lisa destroy it.
    Jean-Luc: Think of the thousands of lives that have already been lost due to this thing, we need to get rid of it. The world isn't ready for this kind of firepower!
    • If you take too much time, the terrorists will again use the satellite to destroy the White House, and later the Pentagon.
  • Laser Sight: All guns in the game have one, including the rocket launcher and silenced handgun.
  • Laughing Mad: Jin, one of the bosses, does nothing but laugh maniacally the entire time he's fought until he's killed.
  • Multiple Endings: The three routes are defined by two flags: whether Jean-Luc reaches Stage 23 within three hours, and whether he reaches the second checkpoint of Stage 27 within five total hours.
    • If both flags are raised, the Good ending is locked in. Most if not all of the Crying Lions have ultimately been neutralized, including Kenneth (who is betrayed and murdered by Cecile) and Cecile (who is shot dead by Jean-Luc). Dan reveals himself as the traitor who orchestrated the helicopter crash and murdered Tom and Steve, and is shot dead by Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc and Lisa have the Gulf System destroyed. Jean-Luc, Lisa, and Keith are the only survivors of Operation Winback.
    • If only one flag is raised, the Pentagon is obliterated and the Normal ending is locked in. It's mostly the same as the Good ending, with one key difference: Cecile isn't fought as a Post-Final Boss, which means he is implied to have escaped offscreen. Jean-Luc, Lisa, and Keith are the only survivors of Operation Winback.
    • If neither flag is raised, the White House and the Pentagon are obliterated and the Bad ending is locked in. Cecile is shot down by Jean-Luc after revealing that the Gulf System's main circuit for charging its lasers overheated as a result of firing three times in quick succession, and Kenneth commits suicide when Jean-Luc confronts him. Because Jin, Deathmask, and Dan aren't fought, they're implied to have escaped offscreen. Jean-Luc and Keith are the only survivors of Operation Winback.
  • Necessary Evil: While not saying this directly, after Jean-Luc defeats Dan and asks him why he and the Crying Lions resorted to terrorism to win their war and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the latter claims that there was no choice because they couldn't win in a straight battle, there was no going back, and that they had come too far to just give up. He also says that he knows it's just an excuse, but that's how it was for them.
  • New Meat: Operation Winback is Keith's first mission with SCAT, having joined them with the highest recommendations from the President. He's also The Medic. He ends up surviving in all three endings.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the Good and Normal routes, after Cecile shoots Jake dead, he tells Deathmask to "teach our young friend [Jean-Luc] here the value of making quick decisions".
  • Nintendo Hard: Jean-Luc is as vulnerable to locational damage (and consequently headshots) as the enemies he's firing at, can't take much damage, and can carry only one spare magazine's worth of ammo for his SMG and Shotgun unless you grab the hidden ammunition pouches. Your enemies have unlimited ammo, absurdly pinpoint accuracy if Jean-Luc is ever exposed and standing still, and the frequent element of surprise. If you want to reach the Good ending, you have to exploit the fact that no one can lead their shots and shoot every enemy in between their bursts of fire or just outright run past them while taking as little damage as possible, as the Take Cover! system becomes something of an afterthought and a hindering crutch. This also isn't covering the fact that the controls are wonky as hell regardless of whether you're playing the N64 or PS2 version, and plenty of traps and explosive-laden areas can deal instant death if you do one thing wrong or Jean-Luc doesn't crawl under a death laser just right.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Lisa gets this twice: first from Cecile's bodyguard, Deathmask, then from Dan after he reveals his treason to her. Also, you can do this to enemies from behind.
  • Not Completely Useless: While the rocket launcher cannot destroy the mysteriously indestructible vehicles in the game, it can be used to take out a group of enemies or the gunner of a mounted gun.
  • One Bullet Clips: This game is surprisingly realistic about this considering its age. Reloading the handgun or submachine gun requires you to drop the existing magazine so you can replace it with a fresh one - which includes dropping all the ammo left in the mag. The pistol avoids any issues related to that by having an infinite supply of full mags, but the submachine gun will waste any bullets you didn't fire if you reload halfway through. The plus side is that if you do reload before totally emptying your mag, you keep the bullet in the chamber to fire first from the next mag; the ammo counters for most weapons even take the form of a side-view of the bullets in a transparent magazine, with the top one slightly forward and above the actual image of the mag to indicate it's chambered (thus not falling away with all the others when you reload). The shotgun plays this straight, which is half-right - it is fed via loose shells, which would allow for topping off without wasting ammo, but it has a fixed-length reload animation like the other guns and doesn't follow the rule for chambered rounds. The silenced handgun and four-barreled rocket launcher avoid the issue by not being reloadable at all; Jean-Luc simply fires off the ammo they come with and then drops them until he can find another.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In the story, Cecile's bodyguard is only known as Deathmask; scoring 29k points in Story Mode unlocks him in multiplayer, where his name is revealed to be Ash.
  • Post-Final Boss: In the Good route, Cecile walks into the room where Jean-Luc just watched Dan die, and lobs a grenade that blows up Dan's corpse. If you disable the laser trap on either ramp, you can use the nearby mounted gun to turn Cecile into Swiss cheese instead of engaging him in a lopsided duel where he can lob grenades at you.
  • Race Against the Clock: It's a significant mechanic of Story Mode, such that the ending you get depends on whether you're able to reach two areas late in the game by certain hidden deadlines.
  • Railing Kill: Some mooks will fall off an edge after you shoot them, if they are close enough.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Although they claim otherwise, the Crying Lions steal the satellite to use it as revenge against the United States for interfering in their civil war with the Sarcozian Government. Also, after finding Steve's body, Jean-Luc vows to "make the bastards pay" for the deaths of Matt, Tom and Steve; unfortunately, even more members of the team follow them before he does. During the Bad route, he again vows revenge after finding Lisa and Jake's bodies.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: Getting the Good ending on Hard Story Mode unlocks Sudden Death Mode as an option for that mode, where a single hit kills anyone (you, mooks, and bosses alike). For some reason, this even applies to the destructible objects.
  • Say My Name: Lila screams Cecile's name after she is defeated.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: The three routes change radically in what all happens. Did you move so slow that the terrorists obliterated the White House and the Pentagon? Cecile serves as a textbook final boss fight and Kenneth ends up committing suicide to escape the crimes of destroying Washington D.C. If you managed to make it in time, Cecile betrays Kenneth and apparently had been planning it the entire time, Lisa lives, Dan finally appears after seemingly dying in the opening, he commits to his Face–Heel Turn and seemingly kills Cecile before the pair serve as the respective Final Boss and a weakened Post-Final Boss, and the satellite is destroyed. A few of these plot points shouldn't be so exclusive to the non-Bad routes, but your failure demotes the plot entirely.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The Crying Lions' homeland: Saroczia, as consistently spelled in the N64 version? Sarcozia, as spelled and voiced in the PS2 version? Zarozcia, as seen in both versions' game manuals?
  • Stripperific: Lila's outfit counts, considering the only covered parts of her upper body are her chest and shoulders. Even the upper area of her outfit has a low neckline.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The characters are all voiced in the Playstation 2 version, as the N64 had to cut voice-acting to save space on the cartridge.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Depending on the difficulty level, while you can only carry certain amounts of ammo for the submachine gun and shotgun, picking up the ammo pouches throughout the game will allow you to carry more. They're still rare items alongside the silenced handguns and rocket launchers.
  • Take Cover!: The game features a cover system that can be used to help you avoid taking damage.
  • Tap on the Head: Towards the end of the game, Lisa gets knocked unconscious by Cecile's silent bodyguard Deathmask in order to shut her up and is captured after Jean-Luc reaches the control room. Jean-Luc can also strike an enemy from behind with his weapon's butt.
  • Tempting Fate: Lisa says it'll take more than "a crashing chopper and trigger-happy terrorists" to kill her. In the Bad route, Jean-Luc finds her corpse.
  • Timed Mission: This is an unspoken mechanic of Story Mode that you might not realize has always been there until the White House and the Pentagon get obliterated from orbit. The mission is silently timing you alongside the arcade-style scoring after every stage (of 31), and you have three hours to make it to the endgame or else you're locked into a worse ending, potentially halfway or less through the game. This isn't necessarily super tight, but it does require only using the cover system in emergencies, knowing what you're doing ahead of time, and basically blitzing through the missions and bosses.
  • Title Drop: Happens in two forms:
    (When Jean-Luc dies) Operation Winback aborted...
    (When the ending is reached) Operation Winback accomplished!
  • Tragic Keepsake: Jean-Luc's handgun is the last reminder of his brother Alan, a member of the Navy Special Forces who was lost in battle and is presumed dead.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Despite being the Trope Codifier of cover-based shooting, WinBack actually uses the cover system as a necessary last resort rather than a core element of the game design. Because of the Timed Mission nature of the game, Jean Luc cannot afford to play defensively and wait out enemy fire to pop off shots if the player is gunning for the best ending. Instead, the game encourages head-on assaults or even running/dodge-rolling past enemies, using cover for a breather in order to quickly reassess the situation. As well, simply crouching behind cover is actually safer and easier than using the actual cover-based mechanics.
  • The Unfought: Kenneth in all three routes. In the Good and Normal routes he is murdered by his second-in-command, Cecile; in the Bad ending he kills himself after Jean-Luc confronts him.
    • In the Normal route, Cecile becomes this.
    • A couple of other bosses are omitted in the Bad route (Jin, Deathmask, and Dan).
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: You can never pry weapons out of dead terrorists' hands, or even ammo, and have to settle for finding your own guns and scattered ammo pickups. Several of the bosses also make use of weapons that the player simply doesn't get access to, like Lila's M60, Sgt. Thunder's flamethrower, Duke's gatling gun, and Banderas' twin Uzis.
  • The Voiceless: Subverted with Steve. Steve only speaks during the tutorial levels, in the main game, he doesn't speak during Dan's briefing, and by the time Jean-Luc finds him again, he has already been killed.
    • Played straight with Jin, who only laughs crazily during his boss fight, and Death Mask doesn't speak at all and only lets out a grunt after being killed.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: With the notable exceptions of international war criminal Cecile and cold-blooded killer Hard Luck Lila, all the Crying Lions, especially Kenneth, think of themselves this way. In the Bad ending, when Jean-Luc tells Kenneth that his group's ordeals are no excuse for killing innocent people and destroying their property and livelihood, the latter tries to justify their acts of terrorism by saying that it's an "unavoidable sacrifice", "the price of justice is never cheap", and "there are some problems that can only be solved through a display of force".
    • Similarly, in the routes where Jean-Luc defeats Dan, the former asks why the Crying Lions stooped to terrorism and sacrificing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. The latter responds that they had no choice because the Crying Lions couldn't win in a straight battle, that there was no going back, and that they came too far to just give up. Unlike his brother, at least he understands that he's just making excuses, but says that's how it was for them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Dan's whereabouts remain unknown in the Bad ending.
    • The SCAT Helicopter pilot in the opening, he only has 2 lines. "We're losing power, fast!" and when Dan tells the pilot to straighten the helicopter out. "I can't it's not responding, sir, get out while you can." He is presumed dead in the helicopter's explosion and is never mentioned again.
  • You Are Too Late: In the Bad route, Cecile mocks Jean-Luc for being so slow that the Gulf System has become space junk after already obliterating the White House and the Pentagon.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: In the intro, the Secretary of Defense's advisor states that the Crying Lions are the last remnants of a rebel group defeated in the Sarcozian Civil War.

Alternative Title(s): Operation Winback