There’s no denying that a fad for military shooters has been circulating for years and continues to do so today. Games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield allow you to play as multiple soldiers to give you a feel for different military units. Every first-person shooter has at least one sniper level, stealth level, vehicle level, etc. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 breaks from that tradition by keeping you in the shoes of only one person. You never switch characters, and (as the title suggests) the entire game revolves around sniper combat. This dramatically decreases the versatility of the game, with the supposed trade-off being that you get a realistic experience of a sniper in combat. It’s an interesting idea, but does it work?
It’s hard to explain the story at all without spoiling anything, but on the other hand, there really isn’t much to spoil; it’s the typical setup that you have come to expect in games like this. You play as Cole Anderson, the stereotypical elite soldier trying to stop some bad guys that are doing evil things: genocide, bio-weapons, and whatever else to make you hate someone. There is some potential depth to be reached, but the game only scrapes the bare minimum, and does nothing to get you involved at an emotional level. It’s extremely forgettable, but then again, it’s a first-person shooter. Gameplay first, story last.
The game takes you to a couple of places around the world to keep you from fighting in the same environment every time. You start in dense jungles, head to urban warfare, and end up in the mountains. It’s a smart move, as it allows the player to experience the different environments and a variety of tactical situations. There are clear signs of the developers trying to create some eye-appealing, vast landscapes. On top of that, the game is bright with varied colors, which is a good sign, especially since many first-person shooters consist of boring grays and browns.
The only problem is that the graphics are poor at best. The trees look like they have spiked edges, and the enemies are incredibly bland. Walking through tall grass is almost humorous; it would’ve been better if the grass didn’t move at all. The explosions look completely cartoonish, and any possibly intense action scene is ruined by the poor cinematic display. Graphics may not be the most important part of a game, but having textures constantly pop in and out takes away from the overall experience. The game even uses CryEngine 3, which misleads one to believe there are going to be nice animations. Sadly, it’s just not true. You’re a sniper who is zoomed in when you kill an enemy, so when they die in strange unrealistic motions, it takes away from the game. I’m not trying to be sadistic here, but when you shoot a man lying prone on the ground, he shouldn’t pop up as if stung by a bee before lying back down. The physics simply don’t add up, and it really causes the game to take a hit.
The story and graphics can be pushed aside if the combat gameplay is solid enough to take over. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is supposed to give you the realistic feel of being a sniper (not literally, of course, but realistic when compared to a game like Saints Row). It succeeds, but only a little, and only when you play on hard difficulty. On hard difficulty, when you line up a shot, you need to account for wind and distance. A slight breeze doesn’t matter much at 200 meters, but when you’re shooting close to 800 meters, that slight breeze will pull your shot big time. You need to account for wind, plus the drop from distance traveled, and make sure to lead enemies that are on the move. All that, and then you might just get a kill shot. Two soldiers are walking towards each other, and killing one will alert the other. Do you kill the both quickly? No: you wait until they line up and get a double-headshot. Adjusting the trajectory of your bullet to get the best kill shot possible is extremely rewarding, and that feeling only increases when the game switches to its “Bullet Cam”, where the camera follows the bullet closely from the moment it leaves your gun to its final point of impact.
That’s on hard difficulty; on normal or easy, the game plays entirely differently. There is still wind and distance to account for, but the game does it for you automatically. It will give you a small red circle on your scope of where the bullet will actually go, so there really isn’t any challenge. You may be shooting 1000 meters, but lineup that red circle over the enemy and you’re good to go. The fun part of this game is trying to lineup your own shot by factoring in the necessary elements, i.e. distance, wind, and movement. Take that away, and you have a worse-than-normal shooter on your hands. Plus, when you hold your breath to steady your aim, the game slows down time, allowing you a longer window to make your hit. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s too easy for a medium difficulty setting. Usually, games are played on the medium difficulty (and reviewed on that level), but this time it is highly suggested you go right to hard mode.
Truly, everything in this game – except sniping on the hard difficulty – is subpar. Each level primarily consists of three phases. Phase 1: sneak through a linear pathway, picking off one enemy at a time. Phase 2: overlook an open area where you need to kill everyone before progressing. Lastly, phase 3: overlook the final, big area where you are to make the last kill shot. This does not change throughout the entire game, and as a result, it becomes extremely repetitive. There is no curve-ball thrown at you to mix up the gameplay: the first level feels exactly like the last one.
This is mainly because the developers are trying to keep it to a sniping experience and that alone. There are no vehicle levels or huge fire-fight levels. It’s all sniping, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. You are only given a sniper rifle and a pistol, which means you have to fight wisely. When you get careless, the enemy discovers your position, and you are easily overrun. Plus, your health doesn’t automatically regenerate (you carry health packs), so you cannot just hide behind a wall and recover. This is actually a good thing, as it adds tension and some moments that will have your heart pounding.
“Moments” is the key word here. Most of the game is boring and tedious. It’s all stealth, so if you’re looking for a game that you can go in loud and unload on endless enemies, this isn’t it. It’s about crawling slowly and silently to get to a better position. Maybe you kill a guy here or there, but they’re standing still with their back to you. Again, it’s worse on the normal difficulty setting, since every enemy will appear on your radar automatically, so you always know where everyone is. When you have a spotter with you, they are identified on the screen with markers so you don’t even have to look at the radar. The A.I. is also idiotic and can easily be outsmarted. They will spot you, but only if you’re careless. They just stand around or walk in predictable patrols. The game is pathetically easy on the normal difficulty, but even the hardest difficulty level doesn’t pose a real challenge.
A positive is the communication between the sniper and spotter. There’s something about that militaristic chatter that sucks you into the game. He’ll mark off your targets in the best order, and you better listen or things will get bad quickly. Other times he’ll lead you through treacherous territory where every command is life-or-death. There is a downside to this, and it’s pretty obvious: he doesn’t shut up. You can’t go two feet without him giving you a command. It becomes painfully obvious when you need to flee an area swiftly. He shouts out which way to turn, even though it’s pretty obvious you aren’t going to make the left into the building that is on fire. In fact, most of the game is following behind a spotter or some guide in a linear fashion. It would’ve been nice to be given the target objective and have it left up to you on how to best take him out. As it stands, you aren’t given an inch of freedom, and it’s really a letdown since this game has some great potential.
With a short campaign, one expects a solid multiplayer to take over. Well, not here. There is only one online mode: Team Deathmatch. There are also only two levels to choose from, and unsurprisingly, you have to be a sniper. Anyone who has played an online shooter knows where this is going. Each match primarily consists of each team sitting on opposite sides of the map trying to snipe one another. This can lead to some pretty intense sniper matches, which are rather entertaining, but the downsides are obvious. It can get unbelievably boring when everyone sits still and you never see anyone, because they are too afraid to move from their position. After sitting still long enough, I switched it up a bit. I took out my pistol (the only other weapon you are given) and charged the other side. It certainly mixed things up, but based off the plethora of hate messages I received after the match, it’s apparently frowned upon. Who knew?
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 excels at what you would expect it to: the sniping. Besides that, the game fails in almost all areas. It’s too short with essentially no replay value, even with a multiplayer. The graphics are hideous and the potential landscapes are a waste. The idiotic A.I., whether the enemies or your spotter, only add to the problems this game already has. There are some brief moments when the game comes alive, and some very difficult shots will grant you a very rewarding feeling. Aside from that, there really isn’t anything special about this game. It is extremely linear and repetitive with practically no variation. The sniper combat isn’t addicting enough to warrant being the only gameplay featured in this title. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is certainly consistent, but that consistency is also its downfall. Any other shooter that has just one sniper level will probably give you more satisfaction than this entire game.
This review is based off the review copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 developed and distributed by City Interactive.
- Excellent Sniping Mechanics
- Rewarding at Times
- Poor Multiplayer
- Very Short
- Not Much Replay Value