Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

sniper ghost

Sniper: Ghost Warrior, released in 2010, was a pretty bad game. I’ve heard it was fixed up a bit in post-release patches, but I only ever played the as-of-release game, and it was bad. Terrible voice acting (apart from the venerable Nolan North though, of course), unimpressive graphics, unconvincing AI, and an underwhelming storyline were shoved down players throats, with a hint of enjoyable sniping antics. Three years later we’re here with a sequel, supposedly a “ground-breaking follow up to the best-selling sniper game of all time”. Not that reviewers’ scores mean everything, but a quick Google search will show you that sales do not correlate with quality, and I wouldn’t be surprised if SGW2 also made a whole lot of money for City Interactive, even though their latest instalment is equally as “meh” as the last.

This guy's super surprised about the bullet in the sternum. Lucky this bullet cam caught his mad pose!

This guy’s super surprised about the bullet in the sternum. Lucky this bullet cam caught his mad pose!

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 suffers from awfully linear gameplay, even more so than even our typically renowned linear titles such as the Half Life and Call of Duty series. The single-player campaigns of these other games offer a single progression of area after area containing challenges (often baddies of varying difficulty), but how these challenges are overcome is usually up to the player to decide. Okay, so I took cover to the left last time and I died pretty easily, so I guess this time I’ll try going right, and I’ll take out that big guy first. That sort of thing.

In SGW2 we are told how to go about killing all the guys, even having it announced to us in what order they should be eliminated. Sure, it’s still fun to do the shooty shooty gun gun stuff, but surely still it would be more enjoyable to analyse the situation and work it all out on one’s own. It’s like doing a crossword when you already have a list of all the answers. Those things exist, and they’re called fill-in crosswords. They are dumb.

There are a couple of levels when players are free to roam about the unkempt garden of possibilities, but in most cases there is only a single way that is meant to be done, lest guards be immediately alarmed and aware of your specific location. Which is a whole other issue. When playing games from ‘back in the day’, those nostalgia-ridden classics, there are some issues that you see so obviously and think to yourself “well, I can’t be annoyed with that since this is such an old game!” and you can easily choose to overlook them. When you’re playing a game that was released in March of 2013 and you still find empty rooms of absolutely no significance (why was the level designed this way???), voice acting that would be more appropriate for a children’s cartoon and, of course, guards that immediately know where you are, it is so much harder to turn a blind eye and enjoy the title. That’s something that just shouldn’t be happening anymore.

I've been bagging out the graphics of SGW2, but I did play the Xbox 360 version. Maybe it's worth checking out the modern-day technology PC version. My capture device isn't great either so these screenshots are cruddy.

I really didn’t like the graphics of SGW2, but I did play the Xbox 360 version. Maybe it’s worth checking out the modern-day technology PC version. My capture device isn’t great either so these screenshots are a bit cruddy. Watchu gonna do ’bout it?

What I mean by the level design is that it seems nothing has been thought through. Particularly in the multiplayer maps (of which there are an unimpressive two)–I’ve spent a whole lot of time running down a hallway to find two empty rooms that lead nowhere. Why do these rooms exist? They’re not decent camping spots since you can’t see anything from them, and it’s not like you need to hide in there. If something doesn’t have any impact on how the game is played, why bother having it there at all?

SGW2 has at least one claim to superiority over the abundance of sniper-based games I’ve played in recent times. In many of these, players are essentially forced to devote some time to wielding an assault rifle just like in any other shooter and that’s how it tends to feel; like any other shooter. This is totally omitted in SGW2 (the “complete sniper experience”, as the cover boasts), with your sniper rifle and ever-present secondary pistol as your only weapons. Apparently you use a bunch of different snipers throughout the campaign, which I never noticed, but at least time wasn’t wasted on working assault rifles and shotguns into the game since they would have been entirely unappealing anyway (see: any sniper-based game ever).

You can see at the top of the HUD the wind speed and direction and distance from the target, so you can aim to compensate for all that. Or you can just line up the red circle with the baddie's head.

You can see at the top of the HUD the wind speed and direction and distance from the target, so you can aim to compensate for all that. Or you can just line up the red circle with the baddie’s head. Playing on expert difficulty omits this circle so a big hooray for actual difficulty!

As mentioned, there is multiplayer, and unlike most multiplayer shooters, camping is what SGW2 is all about. You find a match, you pick one of any identical sniper rifles, find a place to hide amongst your team’s building/area, and stare out at the enemies identical building/area, playing a perpetual game of Where’s Wally. And just hope that Wally doesn’t blow your brains out before you spot him. The rifle’s lens flare is the easiest give-away to enemy location, but the constant flickering of the textures sets off a bunch of false alarms in my head. “Gotcha! Wait no, that’s a windowsill. Ah-ha! Oh wait no, that’s another windowsill.”

People are often sceptical of FPS multiplayer, arguing the experience lacks in diversity. Seriously, you do not know lack of diversity until you have played SGW’s attempt. It can be edge-of-your-seat adrenalin-pumping goodness, but only for seconds at a time, with minutes of waiting (im)patiently for anything to happen between these moments. All credit to City for not attempting to include a stock standard multiplayer mode, but it just ends up being a bit average.

Running for about four hours, the single-player campaign is less than impressive, even with the low expectations set by its predecessor in mind. The overarching story is just another case of a weapon of mass destruction gone missing, but what bothers me most are the characters we are forced to endure. Apart from the unintentionally comical authority figure that barks orders over a radio in his terribly over-the-top voice, every character wants so desperately to be the cool, cynical soldier that’s “just doing his job”. This leads to some head-scratchingly dull conversations that just run in circles and contain a whole lot of inconsistencies, and overuse and misuse of terms FUBAR and SNAFU. I get it, you’re a military dude. And you don’t like the man. Great.

These loading screens. No more, please.

These loading screens. No more, please.

Overall I’d have to say SGW2 delivers some enjoyable sniper-based gameplay–then again, so do many other games I’ve played recently. It has its worthwhile moments, but everything peripheral to the fairly smooth-running gameplay is a huge let-down. My last note, these games need to stop using the Call of Duty-ised loading screen between levels. It looked alright when it was used the first few times. Now it’s just dull, like the fill-in crossword.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2–the fill-in crossword of first person shooters.

5.5

Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 by QV Software on behalf of City Interactive.

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