Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
You find yourself deep in the jungle, donning a ghillie suit with a high caliber sniper rifle in hand. Carefully, you move forward through the thick brush, ever so slowly creeping towards a cliff’s edge. As you eventually reach your goal, you mount your rifle on its bipod and look down its scope – slowing your breath to still your heartbeat. There, your target, coming out of cover and into the open… and his death. Softly, your spotter gives you a distance and a wind speed/direction reading, which prompts you to adjust your rifle scope to compensate for breeze and bullet drop. Placing the now accurate crosshairs between your target’s eyes, you inhale and hold a slow breath, gently squeeze the trigger, and send a .50 caliber hate letter straight into his face. You are a distant death dealer, a silent stalker, and a shooter with no equal. You… are a sniper! This is the situation and feeling hoping to be portrayed in the latest attempt at the first-person sharpshooter genre: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2. After the terribly inaccurate shots of the original, this fresh-faced recruit hopes to make the right scope corrections to hit the mark. Does it make the sniper’s grade? Well, grab your rifle of choice, take aim, and let’s find out!
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (or GW2 for short) tells the tale of Sergeant Cole Anderson, a Private Security Consultant sniper who is tasked with stopping a terrorist named Merinov (a foe he’s tangled with before) from gaining control of a new biological weapon. While this may seem like a pretty cliché theme, the narrative is told in a relatively framed perspective, jumping back and forth in time to tell two stories at once.. Starting in the modern day as the main events begin to unravel, players eventually dive back into Anderson’s and Merinov’s first run-in together, years in the past before returning to the current crisis. Loyalty, betrayal, friendship, duty; these elements play into GW2’s story that combines realistic military tactics and protocol, as well as a Hollywood style action script. Best of all: events covered in this instalment have nothing to do with the original, allowing any gamer to pick up the sequel without having to slog through the first.
Many elements from the original title’s gameplay return in GW2, although considerably improved or augmented. The game is separated into three acts, which are made up of missions. These levels range from roughly 15 – 45 minutes in length and show the player traveling down a fairly linear path to complete different objectives. A standard mission will see the gamer sneaking through a jungle or urban setting, either avoiding, distracting, or carefully taking out sets of enemies, all before reaching a sniping perch to undergo a long shooting scene. You’re not alone though, as you usually have either a spotter leading your way or you have assistance via radio from a handler – both of which give advice as to which direction to travel, when to hide, when to kill/distract, and how/when it’s best to take out each foe. You’re free to follow these instructions and recommendations like a good company man, should you choose to, or you can be a sniping diva, throw caution to the wind and do what you want, when you want, to who you want. However, be warned that deviating from the plan can result in making your task extremely challenging, and on harder difficulties can lead to a swift death.
While you’re using your sniper rifle to shoot, there are many things you need to take into account: distance/gravity, wind direction/speed, heart rate/player stance, trigger pull, breathing, and the speed and direction that your target is moving in – all of these factors affect how the bullet will travel when fired out of your gun. The farther the enemy, the more the bullet will drop and the longer the wind will take it; if he’s moving, you need to aim at where he is going to be – not where he currently is. Careful adjustments must be taken to correct for this, but thankfully the game helps you out a bit. If you play on Easy or Normal, then a small red circle will appear on your crosshairs, telling you where the bullet will land based on where you’re pointing. This feature is very accurate, and has always pointed me in the right direction – whereas the one in the original often glitched out or made poor calls.
A few additional features that are fairly important are heart rate/stance, breath, and trigger pull. As players move, sprint, or get shot at, their heart rate is affected: the faster your heart beats, the shakier your scope will be. To counteract this, staying still for a second and lowering your stance will help, as your heart will start to slow and you’ll be able to rest your rifle. Players can also hold their breath to slow down time and really steady their aim – giving that extra accuracy for the hardest situations. When you’re finally ready to take the shot, remember to carefully pull the trigger, because if you pull too hard and too fast you’ll experience a lot of recoil. However, squeeze it down gently and you’ll execute a clean shot with minimal kickback. The latter most of the three features is terribly under implemented in other games, and having it here, however small, goes a long way into putting the players into their own ghillie suits and holding their own rifles.
GW2 also comes packaged with an interesting multiplayer mode, although a disappointingly tiny one. Players have access to only one game mode: Team Deathmatch. Here, as one could guess, two teams of six players go to war for sniper supremacy using all of the mechanics available in single-player (except holding your breath no longer slows time). This online fray takes a generally slower pace than other games, as players need to use real-world sniping tactics to avoid death. If you simply run around and stand in the open, you’re going to be wearing your brains on the outside of your head very quickly. Instead, you should take the time to find a good position, keep far back from windows, and wait for your target to poke his head out. Now, if you’re into this style of play (from playing sniper roles in games like Battlefield 3) then you’re going to get right into this – as you don’t get much closer to real-world sniper battles than GW2. For the average player, though, this is going to get very boring, very fast. Personally, I play sniper as much as I can in an online shooter, and (while I found each game a lot of fun) I never found myself wanting to play more than two rounds in a row per sitting, as there wasn’t enough action or variation to keep me interested. What’s more, though, is that aside from only having one game mode (which is unforgivable in a modern FPS), Team Deathmatch only features two maps – making the entire online feature feel like it was tacked on, thrown together at the last minute. While it is a cool bit of unique fun for about an hour, many gamers are going to simply avoid this multiplayer due to boredom and lack of content. If you’re into that sort of thing, give this a shot ASAP, if not, you might want to avoid the multiplayer option outright.
GW2’s graphics are quite under snuff, especially considering it was built using CryEngine 3. Most of the environment pieces look unfinished and gritty by today’s standards, and gamers will notice this when they walk past windows with blurry bullet holes in them, and bushes that look like scraps of paper colour with children’s paint. Alongside this comes some occasionally distracting, awkward animations, like your spotter sneaking up on an enemy when they suddenly turn sideways and Moonwalk part of the way towards the foe. These jarring visuals and movements cause the “I am a sniper” immersion to break, pulling the gamer out of the role and back into the real world – which is a considerable buzz-kill.
Not everything is ugly, though, especially when it comes to lighting and optics. As you walk out of the swamps of a jungle, you watch the light shine in through the foliage, casting shadows, dancing across the environment and your rifle – making you feel like you’re actually there. Scope aesthetics are also handled wonderfully, taking yet another step towards realism. In many games, when you bring your scope up, the entire screen zooms with your optics only covering a portion of the display. This allows the player to see the outside screen space not covered by the scope, and use it unfairly as a sort of peripheral vision. Now, in the case of GW2, many scopes cover either the entire screen or otherwise blur the areas outside of the lens – causing you to only focus on the crosshairs. While this seems like a hindrance, it actually does well in making you feel like a sniper – because if you’ve ever looked down a sniper scope, you really can’t look at much else. Keeping on topic of optics: while sniping, the game highlights the bullets you fire as though they were tracer rounds, thus letting you watch as your shot flies gracefully into an enemy’s skull in a puff of red.
Another aspect of GW2 that’s touch-and-go is acting. On one hand, we have some amazing voice actors of anime/JRPG fame signed in to play key roles. The roster includes the remarkable Troy Baker (Kanji Tatsumi – Persona 4, Excalibur – Soul Eater), Patrick Seitz (Frédéric François Chopin – Eternal Sonata, Isshin Kurosaki – Bleach), and Jamieson Price (Gaheron Baelfire – Guild Wars 2, Rider – Fate/Zero) – all of whom coincidentally co-stared in Transformers: War for Cybertron. On the other hand, while these guys give awesome performances, they feel out of place in some situations, as though they either weren’t given the context in which to read their scripts, or they weren’t watching gameplay footage or storyboards of the scenes they were to read. What this leads to is a series of flat, unenthusiastic, and unbelievable scenarios where the gamer can tell the actors are just reading their lines. A bit more care could have been placed here, as the actors in question are usually known for their quality.
Once the bullet that is Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 leaves the chamber, you’ll see that it does indeed hit its mark – unlike its terribly inaccurate predecessor. While it doesn’t soar that gracefully, thanks to some disappointing visuals, bare-bones multiplayer, and out-of-context voice work, the engaging and well-designed single-player story and realistic sniping physics more than make up for it. This is one of those titles that, while flawed, is going to give you a lot of fun when you look past the surface. Don’t let the lower score fool you on this one, as it deserves a spot in your library – especially since it costs about $20 less than your average title. What are you waiting for, soldier? Take the shot before your target gets away!
Final Score: 3.75/5.0.
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