Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 XBox 360 Review
In a gaming environment where many modern first-person shooters (and even some third person shooters) allow you to jump in to any role whatsoever, a game like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 can get lost in the hubbub. After all, if you’re killing enemies, why bother to specialize how they die? These were all questions that were raised when developer City Interactive released the first game in this series. Now that they’ve swapped over to CryEngine 3, they seem to have taken some of the issues of the original, providing a clean, composed tactical shooter. It may be fan service to anybody who likes a slow, deliberate pace to their games, and enjoys taking lone shots to eliminate enemies, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality game.
The solo mission has changed up a bit. Instead of playing as different snipers, dependent upon the scenario, the player plays solely as elite sniper Captain Cole Anderson (he’s moved up in the world quite a bit since the events of the first game). This time, instead of taking down a regime responsible for a governmental overthrow, Cole and the military group he’s supporting are after an arms dealer who has stolen a lethal pathogen from the Russian version of the CDC. You start off in Burma, then go to the Philippines, always supporting a regular military team. Your sniping skills are used either to clear the path to get in to position, or to take out targets that seem to have your allies’ number. Of course, it all apparently goes to hell, you wind up trying to rescue your spotter, Diaz (who also is a crack shot) instead of achieving the mission.
Cue jail scene for screwing the pooch and a flash back to Sarajevo, Bosnia (because the game mentions repeatedly during the opening act how everything went FUBAR there) during the Serbian invasion in 1993. Cole and a guy named Maddox are sent in to take pictures as proof of genocide by a Serbian arms dealer and military figure named General Vladic. After a few twists and turns, including the totally expected betrayal by a guy named Merinov (the arms dealer you’re trying to stop in present day) and a slightly less expected twist, Anderson barely escapes Sarajevo alive. The final mission brings together both threads, taking you to the mountains of Tibet in order to close up every loose end.
The story itself is fairly linear, with little room for deviation. Sneaking past enemies instead of treating things like a kill box tends to be a common theme, as you aren’t exactly equipped to engage in a full-on shooting match (your non-sniper weapon is a ten-shot semi-automatic pistol). Also, the kills you make won’t always be with a gun, but instead occur via a stealth kill system that seems to be quite forgiving on range – you can start a stealth kill at about two meters from your intended target in some cases. However, when you’re actually using your sniper rifle, the real-world physics are extremely accurate. The rifle scopes give you wind direction, anticipated drop, and on the Casual and Normal difficulties, after a few seconds to adjust for range, a red dot lets you know exactly where your shot will land. An added bit of detail is that jerking the right trigger button causes a different shot style than slowly pulling the trigger button. Finally, at certain points, the camera cuts away to your bullet as it travels to its intended target, showing exactly where your hit landed, and the results. This is especially interesting to see with double and triple kills. If nothing else, this is a game that is true to the type of experience that the development team wished to deliver.
While the single player campaign is only nine missions total – basically ten to eleven hours of game play dependent upon difficulty and player skill – it is definitely the more developed part of the game. All of the features that you use are all but absent in the multi-player mode. There is only one type of game play in multi-player – team death match. There is no active radar, save for audio directional detection that barely gives you enough time to zero in on an opponent. You do not start out with any enhanced vision options. Finally, nobody on the team can choose to be a spotter. It’s one team of snipers against another team of snipers, and while a slow, deliberate play style works in single player, in multi-player it makes for an experience that varies so far from what the story line teaches you that you might as well just pull out your pistol, run to the enemy base, and start shooting indiscriminately. With only two starting maps from which to choose, it can also get somewhat tiresome and repetitive. It’s a good thing that it’s offered without the necessity of an online pass (thank you, Polish developers), because it’s doubtful that anybody would want to pay for it.
As far as the details – graphics, audio, voice acting – none of it excels or fails at its attempt. The environs convey the type of location in which you’re situated without offering a lot of immersion (Sarajevo could be any bombed-out eastern European city, Burma and the Philippines are just your typical jungles and gigantic resorts, and Tibet alternates between mountain habitats and monestaries). The audio is useful, but mostly forgettable. The voice acting is present because it has to be, but the voices kind of blend together – at times, it’s impossible to figure out whether you’re hearing Maddox, Anderson, or Diaz.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 may not be the kind of game that everybody used to first-person shooters wants to have, but if you enjoy looking down the scope at an enemy and taking him out with a single shot, this is the game for you. Similar to recent Battlefield and Call of Duty games, this stealth first person shooter puts you in a modern setting (well, mostly) with an arsenal taken directly from the actual military. However, unlike those two franchises, you have one mission, and one mission only – be a sniper, and be very, very good at it. With the reduced price tag (a full twenty dollars lower than usual across the board), it’s at least worth a try. City Interactive seems to be fully aware that they’re latching on to a niche market, and it’s nice to know that not every developer follows every industry standard.
+ An experience that seems to have carefully researched what snipers actually do
+ A plot that is not completely obvious, and offers a fitting conclusion
+ Shooting that takes real-world physics in to account
+ Enough variation in combat styles and environments to keep players engaged
+ A more widely-utilized game engine
+ AI that is challenging and changeable
+ A price point that makes the game more affordable than similar titles
– A multi-player mode that takes away practically everything that makes single player fun
– Generic graphics and level design
– Forgettable audio tracks
– Bland voice acting (or perhaps vocal track editing; the voice actors could be incredible, but the sound engineers didn’t make it seem that way)