The role of a sniper can be a daunting and exciting one. Everything that may be decided on the battlefield could be judged with just one single bullet. You lie in wait ready to strike, like a predatory animal about to kill it's next meal. You observe what's happening through your scope. You might not get a good view, so perhaps you should hurry to a better spot but make sure nobody sees you. It's just you, your rifle, the bullet and the target. You see the mark. It's now or never. You breath in. You take aim and pull the trigger and in a flash, the bullet flies, with full intent to kill. The sniper. A tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
How exactly did this game manage to turn a role that intense and exciting into an absolute bore is anyone's guess.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is a first-person shooter that prides itself on being an authentic representation of the role of a sniper. You'll be sneaking into enemy territory where chaotic activity is taking place while you remain calm and collective. While the enemies are distracted, you silently take them out with a single shot from your sniper rifle. You'll have to carefully observe changes in the wind as you don't want your bullet flying off target. You're able to breath in which slows time down giving you more chance to take the shot. You can also take out two enemies with one shot. Sometimes you'll have to take out certain objects which helps friendly assault squads storm their targets or cause distractions for the enemy. If you're left with one target left, your shot will be presented as a slick kill-cam shot where you see a close up of the bullet before it impacts.
All that is not as exciting as it sounds.
Here's a brief summary of the gameplay: set up spot. Shoot enemies. Move on. Lather, rinse, repeat. There may be one or two changes like setting up bombs but literally it's the same thing throughout the entire game. There's no variation and surprise as you progress. The gameplay gets so monotonous, slow and tiresome and it never changes. You never get to think for yourself, even when there are choices to either sneak past all the enemies or kill them. You feel less like an elite marksman and more like a boy scout. There's no sense of tension when observing a heavily guarded area, since playing on easy and medium difficulty removes any sort of challenge this scenario may offer. You're told exactly who to shoot from either your teammates or mission control and where your target is thanks to the radar and an indicator dangling above their heads. Sometimes your shots can miss the mark due to the wind changing the trajectory of the bullet, but since the AI is so brain-dead they react so slowly giving you plenty of time to fire at them again this time judging the bullet flight accordingly. This is made even easier with the ability to slow down time and with an indicator in your scope's lens telling you where the bullet will end up. The challenge is bumped up a little when you play in hard mode as all the enemy and bullet-drop indicators are gone, but that doesn't stop the game from being any less mundane and boring. The enemies are still dumb and shooting them is still made easy when you slow down time.
There are some heavy COD 4: Modern Warfare inspired on-rails sections where you're following your partner, sneaking past or dispatching unsuspecting enemies and setting up your new sniping position. Those sequences in COD 4 we're very good as it broke up the frantic action and provided paced, atmospheric moments, but in this game they can cover entire levels and they literally act to hold your hand and treat you like an idiot and they're so superfluous and repetitive that you'll be itching to just let loose and fire at anything that moves out of sheer frustration.
The multiplayer is a complete tidal bore. Nothing happens for minutes at a time. You're just sitting there waiting for your opponents to pop into view and most of the time they never do. When you attempt to either move to a better location or try to find them they're already aiming at you. Camper's will love the multiplayer but those looking for a more dynamic experience should look elsewhere.
The Cryengine 3 as seen in Crysis 2 and 3, is capable of producing some absolutely glorious visuals. There are some developers that have taken up the Cryengine 3 to produce some spectacular looking work-in-progress titles. It's a wonder how City Interactive managed to make this game with this technologically complex engine look like it could be done on the Wii. The textures are low in quality. The colour palette looks washed and dull, even in brighter areas. The effects look dull and fail to add any atmosphere and immersion to the dull and ugly surroundings. The characters look hideous and their animations appear unnatural even when the game uses motion-capture. They look weird even in pre-rendered cutscenes. Even the foliage is low-textured and animated strangely. The game suffers from some nasty visual glitches like objects popping in and out of view, flicking shadows or characters disappearing and reappearing through the walls.
At least the guns look nice.
The voice acting is actually rather good. The actors do emote like they mean it and it's also impressive to hear other characters speak in different languages, making the world the characters populate slightly more believable. Too bad the narrative is so basic and disjointed you end up not caring much about them. The music is nothing special, just there to add drama and suspense. The guns, especially rifles without silencers do in fact resonate powerful blasts and feel like true tools of destruction. The gunblasts and explosions sound like they really have some power in them, which is ultimately ruined when you see how the rest of the game is.
The forgettable campaign is 4 hours long. It may be even less depending on how you play. You could go back and play the game on hard mode or give multiplayer a spin but really, why would you want to?
Make sniping fun. Make sniping exciting. That's what this game could have done. City Interactive had a chance to pull off something very special in the first-person shooter genre but they failed. Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 shows signs of promise, but when those ideas are put to work it comes off as completely tedious and boring. You want a better sniper game? Play Sniper Elite V2 or even Silent Scope from the sixth generation. You'll at least have more fun with those games than this one.
This review was based on a retail copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 for the PC provided by City Interactive.