Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Review
Prior to the launch of the original Sniper: Ghost Warrior title, so many of us were fired up to get a dedicated sniper game. If you’re anything like me, sniping portions of other shooters are always some of the most fun parts of a game, and to get that kind of play throughout a title was an exciting prospect. I did enjoy my time with the original game, but would have to say that the enjoyment was mostly based on the concept. The game itself was not exactly a slam-dunk, receiving less than stellar reviews from users and media outlets alike. So, relative to the original title, there certainly is good news for sniping fans, and that is that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 improves on the original in just about every way. It won’t win any “Game of the Year” awards, but progress is always a good thing.
The first area of improvement you’ll notice is the visuals and presentation. The environmental and player model textures and movement, which were jagged and choppy in the original, are much more believable and smooth this time around, making the experience as a whole much more pleasant. The animations are more varied and realistic. The new graphics engine is certainly capable of much more, and this game won’t compete with the top dogs, but we have a game that certainly holds its own, and visually, improves in just about every way on its predecessor.
The sound, sticking with the same theme, is also improved. I was surprised by the sophistication of the voice-acting, which for the most part avoids being tacky or over-the-top. The instrumental repertoire is well-done and serves to immerse the player in the experience and elicit the appropriate emotion from the player. The sound effects are pretty much what you would expect, and will neither blow you away nor disappoint you.
Some of the most noticeable shortcomings of the original title are addressed in Ghost Warrior 2. First and most importantly, the AI in the original was not the best. The enemies were, well, pretty dumb. Interestingly enough, this made some sections of the game easier, and some sections more difficult. While it’s not perfect, the enemy intelligence (or common sense as may be more appropriate) is much better. Also, by far the most frustrating aspect of the first title was the plethora of sections that were just ridiculously hard. I’m certain that I wasn’t the only one pulling my hair out. In Ghost Warrior 2, City Interactive managed to tone down the difficulty of the hardest sections, making this iteration much less frustrating overall.
The story in this game is so-so, and it has you taking on the role of Cole, a sniper assigned with completing various missions around the globe. I never like to spoil the story for the player, but it does enough to keep the player intrigued. You won’t be getting invested too intimately in the characters, as at times the sequences and storyline are somewhat disjointed. What the story does do successfully is create a fun and involved atmosphere for continuing the game. There are some nice set pieces, and some satisfyingly dramatic events. Chances are that you didn’t buy this game looking for an emotional masterpiece, so I don’t expect gamers to be disappointed with the storyline aspect.
My humble opinion is that it simply never will be possible to recreate the experience of military sniping completely realistically. There are just too many factors. If that’s true, then creating an enjoyable sniping video game must be done using a balance of realism and accessibility. While the original may have tried a bit too hard to be “realistic,” resulting in an experience that was at times frustrating, this time around the game plays slightly more like a console shooter – not so much that it becomes cheap, but enough to make sure that it avoids consistent frustration. You’ll still have to take into account your heart rate, breathing, wind, and distance, but it’s done in a much clearer manner that doesn’t make you want to throw your controller at the TV. Perhaps the biggest strength of Ghost Warrior 2 is the emphasis on the player’s positioning. Any sniper will tell you that your position, including distance, cover, terrain, etc., is the most important factor in the success of any mission. This game will reward careful and deliberate positioning, and absolutely punish you for the adverse. This plays a key role in your ability to remain undetected as well. You will NOT succeed by running out into the open, guns blazing. You’ll be cut down immediately. The process of methodically locating the most optimal sniping position, thinking ahead to what will happen when you begin shooting, is the most rewarding part of this title.
The biggest downside of this game – by far – is that it is still very repetitive. While the content here certainly is enjoyable, you won’t be able to escape the feeling that you seem to be doing the same thing over and over again in different settings. This, coupled with the fact that the checkpoints are often punishingly far apart from each other, creates the biggest gripe I have with the game. But again – if you’re going to do something over and over again, at least make it fun – and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 accomplishes that.
Ultimately, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 improves on the original title in virtually every aspect of the game, from the visuals, to the story, to the gameplay mechanics. Methodically completing a sniping mission in which you plan and execute using stealth, strategy, and patience is a very rewarding process, and there’s a lot of fun to be had throughout. The downside is that there simply is not that much variety in what you do, and small frustrations will still hold the experience back from being a top-notch experience. City Interactive has done a wonderful job of improving on the first Ghost Warrior title, and while this game still has a ways to go before being stellar, it definitely has succeeded in getting us excited for what the next sniping title may look like.
Reviewed By: Dan Nielson
Publisher: City Interactive
This review is based on a retail copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 for the Xbox 360 provided by City Interactive.