Back in 2010, first-person aficionados who had a hankering to shoot targets from a much further distance got the chance to squeeze that trigger in Sniper: Ghost Warrior. And it was absolutely awful. Armed with a fresh sequel, the second Sniper: Ghost Warrior game is a improvement on the original. Not that much though, but still, sort of better.
Enemy at the gates
Covert ops ain’t easy to pull off in gaming these days. You’ve got to face the fact that lining up that shot, getting into position and flushing the toilet to see if the Coreolis effect is more than just a myth, are activities that are usually boring.
Which is why the majority of Sniper games all have that special hook to keep interest high, during sequences of a duller nature. Take last year’s Sniper Elite V2 for instance. Despite several negative gameplay mechanics, it made the idea of squeezing off a round one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming today, thanks to a gory kill-cam that highlighted the damage that your bullet was doing to Nazis, sending them on to Cloud Nein.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 doesn’t have that feature though. Instead, it’s got a focus, and that’s on getting your lead character of army sharpshooter Cole Anderson making his way through hot-spots to sniper nests where he can set up and blast away.
In that respect, the game both works and fails. Missions will see you equipped with nothing more than a sniper rifle and a silenced pistol, but even the most die hard of high caliber fans are going to find the constant grind of working from point A to point B to be a monotonous slog.
When it comes to sniping, it’s all about that one moment, something that is exemplified in the above example with Sniper Elite V2. What Sniper Ghost: Warrior 2 tries to do though, is to stretch that moment into an entire level, something that just doesn’t work.
Sniper no sniping!
It’s the exact same mission, over and over again. Enter a hotspot, take down enemies and work your way up to the designated spotter zone. Commence to kill anything with a pulse while soldiers on the ground call out targets for you, rinse and repeat.
What variety there is between these scenarios over the three acts, is about as rare as a soldier who doesn’t act as if he’s in a Michael Bay film. I like the fact that one part of a mission has me tasked with taking down a soldier who is holding a hostage. I like the fact that at one point, I have to shoot down a chopper.
Stealth still plays a role, as taking down targets without alerting other soldiers, or using the foliage as camouflage puts the Ghost moniker to good use. It’s a simple system, but one that gets compromised pretty quickly during the course of the game.
Those are great examples of Sniper Ghost: Warrior 2 shining. But at the same time, it’s like eating your way through a box of Smarties where 99% of the candy has been replaced with small bits of coal. A rare treat.
But I’ll give the game some credit, and mention that the CryEngine looks pretty decent here, as you’re reminded of that fact every time you start the game up. Jungle effects look just fine, lighting effects are acceptable and the guns look and handle superbly at least, what few there are them.
But amidst those great graphics, are some pretty inconsistent additions such as muddy textures, character models which look dated by the standards of today and more than a few share of glitches, such as floating rifles and rag doll effects which will disturb you.
On the gameplay front, it’s also a mixed bag of ideas. Firing off your rifle requires you to squeeze a trigger to avoid recoil, while your adjustable scope also requires that you pay attention to limited weather conditions, resulting in a second reticle within a reticle. Reticleception.
And here’s another feature which I liked, but was underutilised in the game: Breathing. While the idea of Anderson taking a breath to slow down the action and focus on a target isn’t exactly new, it’s the impact that his breathing has on his aiming that I liked.
Run away from a firefight, and your heart rate obviously jumps, resulting in a targeting scenario that is shakier than Michael J Fox’s photographs. It’s a subtle feature, but one that I’d like to see more of, if Sniper: Ghost Warrior is going to continue down a path that is more realistic.
Add to those woes enemies who tread a fine line by practicing their mime techniques, and having a radar sense of your location that would rival Daredevil himself, and the unbalanced gameplay starts to stink after a while.
And it’s something that continues into the terrible multiplayer as well. You get not one, but two, count ‘em TWO, whole maps with which to practice your sniping against human foes. But thanks to some lag issues, and the fact that you’ve got two dozen players all waiting for someone to drift into their scopes, and you’ve got a scenario where you feel like twenty minutes of your life has been stolen away from you.
And that’s without mentioning the fact that you have no idea who your friends and foes are, thanks to a lack of markers. Something that had me chatting to a Scotsman last night as we tried to figure out which team we were on. And then he knifed me in the face when we figured it out.
On the surface, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 has plenty going for it. Decent visuals if you don’t pay attention, a campaign that will stretch from 6-8 hours and some solid gameplay. But it lacks the drive to go any further, resulting in a lacklustre game that misses several high value shots in the process.