A game like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 ought to be perfect for someone like me, focusing on the details of being a sniper. Some people’s power fantasy is wanton carnage, other people want to be masters of stealth, or to conquer nations. Me, I love being the silent, invisible angel of death, killing from afar.
What the game actually offers, though, is something like a collection of all the sniper missions from every Call of Duty game.
The bluster and bombast of the Big Military Shooters is clearly what City Interactive are going for here. The single-player campaign will take you from jungles to bombed-out cities to mountainous terrain, following a plot that ticks all the boxes on the military shooter narrative cliché checklist. There’s a betrayal, a rivalry, a superweapon, and hordes of unprincipled yet somehow fanatical terrorists, fighting for no cause that’s ever explained, so you can headshot them guilt-free. It is, unfortunately, all the same things you’ve seen before.
That said, it’s never looked so good. I wouldn’t presume the technical knowledge necessary to give all the credit to Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2’s use of CryENGINE 3, but the jungles are stunningly beautiful, and no Eastern European cityscape has ever looked so colourful. Unfortunately, the campaign is so hyper-linear you’ll never get to explore those landscapes beyond the narrow path that’s constantly shown in stark red lines on your mini-map, and half the time you’ll be sprinting through them anyway.
This is almost a metaphor for the constrained sniper experience the game presents. When it’s at its best, sniping in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 becomes like a Gordian knot of enemies to unravel and take down in the correct order so as never to alert their fellows. However, mostly you’ll just follow an AI companion to predefined vantage points, and often even follow their directions on the order in which you take down targets. Occasionally there’ll be a tightly-scripted opportunity to take down two enemies with a single shot, or shoot a fuel tank, ammo dump or exposed grenade that’ll explode or distract enemies, and each of the game’s three acts culminates in a cinematically-impressive but pre-scripted shot.
Even the much-vaunted bullet physics, accounting for wind and gravity, amounts to a red guide circle that’ll appear after focusing on a target for a few seconds — though it’s almost always just a little to the right and down from the centre of the crosshairs. Apparently, in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2’s world, the wind is always blowing the same direction, no matter where you are.
I did enjoy playing Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, for as long as it lasted, but while it’s a marked improvement over its predecessor, I couldn’t help feeling it could have been so much more. The campaign’s pacing is wildly off, and short at four hours — but if you want a scripted cinematic military shooter focused on sniping, that might just be the sweet spot.
- Beautiful, amazingly lush landscapes
- Occasional compelling sniping puzzles
- Well-optimised, running smoothly at the highest settings, even on slightly-older hardware
- Cliched, extremely linear and short campaign
- Vestigial multiplayer for the back-of-the-box features list: only two maps, and both needed more playtesting to eliminate exploitable positions
- Occasional graphical and environmental oddities: you’ll get stuck off the beaten path, and character’s faces twist grotesquely whenever they open their mouths in cutscenes.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is available on Steam for $29.99