When I think of sniper rifles, I conjure images of playing Halo online and watching teammates fight (and kill) each other over who got to play with one. For folks who have the itch for some long distance shooting, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 offers an entire game centered on the idea. While the core mechanics feel good, the surrounding game often leaves a lot to be desired, and the experience ultimately misses the mark.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is a first person shooter that follows Cole Anderson, a Private Security Consultant, on the trail of a stolen bio-weapon. Working both alone and with partners, he will travel from jungles to war torn cities in pursuit of the enemy. When paired up, the other person will often act as a spotter, calling out enemy locations and plotting the course of attack.
The game is all about getting in position to take out targets without being spotted or alerting other enemies. Shooting is a matter of managing variables like body position and heart rate, while adjusting for the wind and the distance to the target. Cole can kneel or lay prone to steady his aim, and hold his breath to minimize body movement before pulling the trigger.
On screen displays show heart rate as well as how long Cole can hold his breath, and a map shows the surrounding terrain. Enemies appear as icons on the map, and long-range foes can be spotted with binoculars or thermal goggles. On every difficulty except expert, a reticule in the scope displays the final target of the bullet, including the effects of wind and gravity, which is a big help for learning how those factors affect a shot.
The sniping in Ghost Warrior 2 feels smooth and responsive. A slow, smooth trigger pull will minimize recoil, while a quick pull will jerk the weapon. Everything works nicely, and it wasn’t long before I had a nice rhythm of holding my breath and gently squeezing off killing shots. Enemies react appropriately depending on how they are hit, whether being thrown backwards from a bullet to the chest or a helmet flying off after a headshot.
A lot of the problems with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 come from what it doesn’t do. In addition to his sniper rifle, Cole carries a pistol, but that’s never mentioned anywhere in the game. Clicking the right stick while behind an enemy will perform a stealth kill, but I only found out because I randomly stumbled upon it. The game does a good job explaining the sniping mechanics, but forgets to share much else, which is a problem because those elements are vital.
There are also scripting issues that are both annoying and game breaking. In one instance, after killing an enemy, his machine gun sound didn’t shut off, and I had to play the rest of the level with it in the background. Another time, I skipped a cut scene only to find that the enemy I was supposed to kill never appeared. In the worst example, the game actually crashed when I attempted to put on my night vision goggles.
Those issues are a shame, because Ghost Warrior 2 does have some legitimately good, tense moments. Using a .50 caliber sniper rifle from a bell tower to cover allies as they engage the enemy is a lot of fun, and so is taking out an enemy sniper before being spotted. Unfortunately, the combat outside of sniping isn’t satisfying at all, and I did everything I could to avoid using my pistol.
The game looks pretty, especially the jungle settings, and runs flawlessly aside from the occasional hitch when hitting a check point or entering a new area. Cole and other characters sound good, and the combat effects feel genuine. The music also does a nice job matching the tension in stressful situations.
The multiplayer is completely bare bones and feels like it was put in just to say that the game had it. The only option is team deathmatch, which supports 12 players but only has two maps. The environments are large, and there are no binoculars or scopes, so games wind up being a whole lot of looking through the scope and blindly hoping to see an enemy. For as much as I enjoyed the sniping in the campaign, I found nothing to like when playing online.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is good at what it does, but suffers from poor presentation, some bad scripting and useless multiplayer. For the $40 price tag, some of those flaws can be forgiven, but it’s still disappointing. As a sniper game, it’s not a bad choice, just one that’s saddled with some unfortunate gameplay and presentation issues.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.