Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Reviewer: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
There is a certain romanticism associated with sniping – dispatching your target from hundreds of metres away, leaving his comrades in utter disbelief, or even with no knowledge of his passing. It takes a step back from the bravado depicted by frontline soldiers in gaming, in titles such as the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises and focuses on a more patient, more serene and more clinical soldier who prefers firing one shot and hitting first time. So does Sniper Ghost Warrior 2, the sequel to the heavily criticised Sniper Ghost Warrior, provide a decent account of the job of a sniper? Or does City Interactive’s effort skew woefully away from it’s target? Let’s find out:
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 places you in the ghillie-suited boots of Cpt. Cole Anderson, an American Sniper tasked with aiding in the recovery of a bio-weapon from arms dealers. As the mission progresses, things go awry and your teammates are captured and you have to make a choice between saving your teammates or following your mission directive. You autonomously choose to save your ally, opting to rather retrieve the bio-weapon at a later date. While the story is nothing spectacular, your character does show signs of humanity and regret throughout the title, specifically concerning his former partner. However, given that the campaign mode can be completed in a time bordering on 5 hours, there is never enough time for the story to develop, and there is never much emotional connection to the characters. Compounding this issue is that the majority of the characters are stereotypical soldiers, very flat and uninteresting characters, and the majority of dialogue involves threats, profanity and the occasional “Oorah!”.
Lining up in-game, you get given a sniper rifle, a silenced pistol and a relatively simple HUD. Character movement is akin to that of Battlefield 3, as is the HUD typography and colour scheme. The gunplay, however, is very different. Your body position controls your amount of sway that the gun experiences while you aim: Standing is very unstable, crouching is more stable, but still experiences sway and lying prone is the most stable, experiencing almost no sway. Heart rate also affects scope sway; high heart rate results in the scope bouncing up and down while you try and aim, while a low heart rate allows you a steady shot. Controlling your heart rate entails not sprinting as much, controlling the amount you climb and staying out of sight of enemies, as being shot at causes your character to stress, increasing his heart rate. Lastly, bullet drop and wind affect a bullets path, meaning you’ll have to adapt to your range and wind conditions in order to hit your target (which is assisted by a bullet impact marker on the Easy and Normal difficulties). There is also supposedly a reliance on how quickly you pull the trigger as to how accurate your shots will be, but this rarely seemed to make a difference to me, as my shots seemed to go off as soon as my R2 button was pressed downwards more than a quarter of the way. Of the rifles in the title, you use 3 in the main campaign, and have access to several more in the multiplayer. Thankfully, each sniper rifle handles differently and has different range. The Dragunov, for example, has a higher fire rate and less recoil than the MSR, but has a lot less range and damage; The differences between these two rifles is easy to tell and keeps the sniping gameplay fresh. These sniping mechanics truly do put this title purely into the realm of sniping simulator – away from the quickscopes and trickshots that pervade other first-person titles.
The AI alternates between having superhuman abilities in the frequency they spot you and being as blind as a bat with a bag over its head when they miss you leopard crawling within 2 metres of them. The inconsistency of the AI tends to break the immersion, especially in sequences where you are 300-400 metres away from your enemies, lying prone in grass and behind cover, with only a small gap exposing you, and your enemies are spotting you almost instantaneously, while if you try to crawl straight past them with a silenced pistol and some prayers, they fail to notice you, or even acknowledge something strange is going on when you kill their allies. In addition to this, I noticed numerous times when shots on my enemies hit, but never registered and therefore did no damage and resulted in me being spotted. Hit detection is very important in a title where you get one shot at your enemy, and unfortunately, while not entirely common, there were situations where bullets would simply hit the wall behind a targets head or body, despite him being directly in the way. The 3 Acts make good use of their respective environments in level design; In Burma, tropical jungles make for good hiding and hunting grounds for a ghillie-suited sniper, Sarajevo is a concrete jungle, rife with hiding spots for both you and your enemies and snowy Tibetan mountains make for windy areas with huge sight lines. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2’s gameplay in essence is very good, but various glitches and errors in important places leave the player quite underwhelmed.
Graphically, the vistas and views of the environment look very good from afar, which is fine when taking long shots. However, getting close to objects and buildings cause some details to pixelate, specifically detailing on tertiary objects like cabinets and doors. This does take away from the title, as these and several other set pieces are very under-detailed. The foliage follows a very similar suit, and is very inconsistent. For example, crawling through the grass and bushes in Burma, grass moves when you come into contact, however, your character seems to simply phase through some bushes and plants, as it seems the developer has not added an animation for movement through these. This results in many clipping errors and a title’s environment which starts out as promising but quickly fades out.
Character models aren’t much better, unfortunately, and Cpt. Carl Anderson, Diaz (his spotter) and Carl Maddox (his former spotter), all of whom are important characters, look quite horrid as their animations are quite awkward (facial included), especially Maddox. This poor graphical presentation was certainly not what I expected from a title running on the same engine as the graphical behemoth, Crysis 3. Besides the vistas, the only other graphical impression that I could take a positive from was the bullet cam effect. The bullet cam shows better shots in slow motion as they cut through the air towards their targets. While not as detailed as Sniper Elite v2’s Bullet Cams (which showed the internal effect of your bullets), the bullet cam adds a sense of accomplishment to your well-placed shots.
The sound is slightly better, bullets cut through the air as they speed past your head and hit surfaces behind you, footsteps resonate a differing volumes depending on their speed and what surface they are on and actual gunshots echo convincingly. So far as sound effects go, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 puts in a decent performance. Voice acting is a mixed bag, as in some scenes, voices come through very cleanly and the speaker’s emotion and intention is well conveyed. However, other scenes seem to lack effort or relevance in their voice acting, as characters seem to have very monotone voices. The soundtrack provides a suitable ambience, although it does sometimes obscure footsteps.
The multiplayer, while fairly limited with one game mode and two maps, is one of the title’s shining points. The game mode is team deathmatch, and the maps are Sarajevo (Urban combat) and Resort (Jungle and Bunker combat). The title puts you into teams of 6 on opposites sides of a perfectly symmetrical map. You proceed to pick one of a plethora of sniper rifles and spawn at the starting point. From there, you can run, climb, jump and maneuver until you find your ideal spot, and then go prone and wait. From there, you watch and wait until you see an enemy, then calmly dispatch them when you see them. This goes on for 20 minutes until one team wins, and is very refreshing as compared to other FPS titles, where the emphasis is on fast-paced gameplay. This also eliminates lag advantage for the most part, as players will usually be downed in one shot, and you usually won’t know where your enemy is when it happens.
However, there is one downfall, and it lies in the thin bridge which connects the two halves of the map. It allows players to cross into enemy territory. While it is difficult enough to track enemies while they are hiding on their side of the map, it is nearly rage-inducing to be shot with a pistol while aiming at someone 450m away. I feel it is unnecessary to allow players to infiltrate the enemy base in a sniping simulator, and it imbalances the multiplayer to a point where there are more people running around with silenced pistols than there are with high-caliber rifles.
In terms of lasting appeal, the title falls a little short. The multiplayer could certainly give you a few hours of gameplay if you are patient enough to lie in wait for the occasional head to ventilate, and can put up with players running around like they’re playing Call of Duty, but with only one mode and two maps, you may be left wanting a change of scenery, maybe some more objective and movement based modes. The singleplayer doesn’t offer much either, sadly, as it will only last you 5 to 6 hours, as spread out as they may be. The only other game mode is a Shooting Range, but that doesn’t offer variable settings to the player, and gets very boring, very quickly. Sadly, it seems Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 falls down at not having enough content on release to keep its fans occupied for very long.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is an excellent example of what could have been a truly top notch gaming simulator. It has some fantastic shooting mechanics, effective level design, awesome sound effects and uniquely handling sniper rifles. Unfortunately, a predictable narrative with dull and uninteresting characters, a myriad of graphical glitches and design shortcomings, compounded by some “neither here nor there” voice acting lets the title down.
The one mode that could have saved the title, the multiplayer, is fantastic in the way it sets out its maps and is a breath of fresh air as compared to traditional FPS heavy-hitters. Unfortunately, allowing enemies to access the opposition’s half of the map undermines the “sniping” part of a sniping simulator, and with only one game mode and two maps, the multiplayer can quickly become stale. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 had a lot of promise, but it is ultimately very mediocre and instantly forgettable.
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Reviewed predominantly on the PlayStation 3 console.