Sniping has always been a major feature of first person shooters, although never really taking the spotlight other than games such as the classic Sniper Elite on Xbox. Well now courtesy of City Interactive they have brought Sniper Ghost Warrior to the helm, a first person shooter which puts you into the thick of conflict from the perspective of a sniper team. This approach offers a more stealthy kind of game, although seeing as the game isn’t just about sniping, you’ll feature in some moments where you’ll be going toe to toe with the enemy.
As mentioned, there are effectively two or three styles of play on offer here. On one hand you’ll be sneaking around the enemy with the onus on not being discovered and making kills from the undergrowth either during the day or night. On the other, there will be moments a la Call of Duty where you’ll be armed with an assault rifle and alongside two other team members, tasked with killing in traditional ways. The final offering has you providing sniper support for the other members of the team. There’s enough variation and what’s more, on some missions where you’re alone, you’ll be able to take more than one route to the objective. In fact, it’s often best to scout around rather than make a beeline to the markers as this often allows you to pass enemies without having to engage, or provide and elevated position enabling you to get the drop on the enemies before you get too close.
The game sounds perfect on paper, and when it does actually work, there’s some tense gameplay as you’ll feel pretty special hiding amongst the vegetation. The shooting is very good with the sniper rifles, and you’ll see a red dot in the crosshairs which indicate where the shot will land taking in consideration distance, gravity and wind. There’s also an option to focus breath (which slows time down) enabling you to make some pretty neat headshots (complete with dramatic bullet cam). From some distances, you’ll be able to take down entire camps of enemies without being noticed, and it’s a good feeling. However, when the game doesn’t work (which is often) you might get the urge to eject the disc and slap in Modern Warfare’s ‘All Ghillied up’ mission. In fact, Modern Warfare has a lot to answer for, because in this case, the developers have opted to go for more realism. Perhaps Modern Warfare spoiled us, favouring good gameplay instead of frustration. In this regard having a ghillie suit on means little as enemies will spot you night or day and regardless of whether you’re hidden in the undergrowth or not from 200 meters away. The game tries for realism, but ultimately messes it up because even on Normal, the AI are too in tune with where you are, making the stealth aspect totally broken and not fun to play.
Once things get on top, then the enemy accuracy is such that you’ll last seconds before dropping to you knees and having to restart the checkpoint. Sadly some checkpoints are a little sparse, and can lead to moments of more frustrations. It’s really hard to tell whether the good outweighs the bad here considering the sporadic nature of good and interspersed bad gameplay.
Using their own game engine, there’s some nice, fairly detailed looking environments set within the jungles of South America. You’ll get some contrast with the day and night missions, but other than that, don’t be expecting any city based antics, which is shame as this could have added some diversity. What’s annoying, is the fact that due to heavy foliage you’ll often not be able to see the enemies before they see you, which coupled with the poor stealth mechanics means some hair pulling moments. Invisible walls also detract from the game, and although there’s some reasonably open levels, you are restricted through several missions. From time to time you might notice some dips in frame-rate, which although not game breaking, is noticeable.
Tense claustrophobic music, colours the aural pallet alongside some ambience and spot sound effects. The voices are reasonably acted, and it seems like Alpha Protocol’s Michael Thornton takes on the leading role. Luckily there’s not loads of chatter, but what is on offer is fitting enough.
The single player campaign will take around 7 hours to beat on Normal difficulty, which isn’t bad. There are also Intel items to collect which could be an incentive to replay levels again, or a hard mode for purists. If that’s all too much once you’ve already beaten the game, then there is an added multiplayer mode where you can snipe out your opponents until your heart’s content.
Sniper Ghost Warrior screams budget title unfortunately, and whilst there’s some good ideas thrown into the pot, the execution and levels of polish let the game down. Somewhere along the line in the game’s development, it appears the team took out the fun in favour of pseudo realism, and in doing so have made a game that frustrates as much as it feels good to play. The end result leaves the player somewhat with a disjointed feeling towards the game. This is a shame as it could have been pretty spectacular had the stealth/graphical issues been fixed and some more variety added to the locations. That said, if you’re after one of the few shooters that cater towards the stealthier/ ranged side of combat, then this is possibly worth picking up. If you’re not sure then a rental would be perfect opportunity to see if it’s up your alley.