Hands-on preview: Sniper Ghost Warrior 2
I’ll be honest, I never really spent much time with the original iteration of Sniper: Ghost Warrior. Merely because in such a crowded FPS market the bad rumblings and ramblings it received were enough to put me off. Namco however weren’t put off by the bad words and experiences many had with what was widely considered an average title. Yes they are back with a sequel which, they hope, will finally break free from the shadows of modern giants.
I was lucky enough to get some serious hands on time with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 and was left with mixed emotions.
I started off in the boots of Cole Anderson, dropped on a dreamlike beach on a mission to single-handedly find a package for the military and free a fellow soldier from the clutches of a harsh enemy. All fairly standard I know but as with most FPS titles, its hard to expect a story written by Abrams or Goyer so this didn’t deter me from pushing on. When you get into Sniper 2 the first thing you’ll notice is just how great it looks, Namco and City Interactive have invested a large budget into the use of Cry Engine 3, which really has paid off. Surroundings look suitably lush and bright, with enemy detail up there with the best of them.
As I snuck around the beach looking for my next kill, I reached a cliff top giving me an excellent vantage point above a crowded guard hut. This was my chance to pick them off, one by one. After some study of course. Using my Binoculars I was able to tag each of my targets, making them visible on my radar and through cover, watching them in a very Hitman manner. I really liked how this brought me into the sniper mind-set, poised ready for the perfect moment to take a shot.
Depending on what difficulty level you decide to play on, taking that all important shot can be a bit trickier than you’d imagine. On harder levels you’ll have to take wind speed into consideration, a guide is built into your rifle but if you choose to ignore it then your shots will fall all over the shop, leaving everyone aware of your position. No one likes a sitting duck. This again for me was a really nice addition, showing once more that Namco and City Interactive have taken the time to focus the game’s purpose and spirit.
In another step towards styling their title, kill cams have a great presence, showing you the complete journey of your bullet straight to its last stop… Your enemies skull. Triggered only as a reward for the best shot, I did enjoy the fruits of my labour and you shall too.
As I moved throughout the level, I enjoyed mooching through the jungle thicket and waiting for my moments to strike but when I was eventually spotted my experience became unstuck. During all out gun fights I found the enemy AI pretty standard, running around in circles trying to find adequate cover and often just standing in plain sight, firing bullets like a street thug and waiting for me to put them out of their misery. If you were to go in guns blazing from the start (which is an option) then your experience would be hugely marred as it’s around this setting that Sniper 2 plays very average.
Another niggle I found is really the lack of choice, or the inclusion of a falsified one. From start to finish I found the level, though set in a jungle, felt quite closed and linear with only one section having a choice of path offered up and even this made no consequence. Essentially asking “would you like to go right round this tree or left?”. While this isn’t game destroying, I cant help but feel that without making the game world more open, Sniper 2 is essentially trying to go toe to toe with Call of Duty and its Hollywood-like production values. That I’m afraid is a tough fight to win.
For me Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is a tough one to judge. There are some really nice ideas mixed into a title with some great visuals but an essentially average narrative and action. So far it’s definitely worth playing as there are some great moments, taking position over an enemy encampment before picking the bones of it clean is always fun, but for now I’m not expecting this to beat its big rivals. I’m still not sure if it can even stand next to them.