Sniping is considered one of the most engaging and enjoyable aspects of the modern first person shooter. If not the dedicated single player set pieces from blockbuster titles including Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, then the thousands of hours of Youtube “sniper kills” footage stands testament. By that logic surely creating a game which is dedicated to heart-pounding, mile-long headshots seems like a hands down winner for fans of those elements?
Sniper: Ghost Warrior follows Sergeant Tyler Wells and ground team Delta Force in a military operation to liberate the people of Isla Trueno, a fictional South American country now ruled by militant leader General Vasquez and his exploitative army. With the help of undercover agent Rodriguez you are able to lure the tyrant out of hiding, however the assassination attempt fails and Vasquez manages to flee into the jungle. It’s now up to Wells and his elite team of operatives to brave the open tropics to take down the dictator once and for all.
It's not all headshots and stealth sequences, at times you will have to use a pair of binoculars and direct your AI partner through hostile encampments.
Ghost Warrior follows a semi-linear level design. Though there are pre-set objective networks, the open environments allow players to tackle most missions as they see fit. It may sound like a dream come true for gamepad-wielding sharpshooters but the level structure doesn’t always go hand in hand with some of Sniper’s half-baked mechanics, the stealth system being a lead culprit.
Being spotted by patrols will either alert a small cluster of surrounding enemies, or in some cases, it will trigger more widespread alarm often followed by certain death. If you don’t fancy trying you luck by gunning down each guard in a perfect sequence, you will simply have to sneak around. The actual cover mechanics work nicely; depending on whether you are standing, crouching, or prone will determine how quickly your alert guage will fill if an enemy is looking directly at you. However, if you sneak through the island’s luscious vegetation, the chances of being spotted are reduced to the extent that it’s noticeable.
Where the system falls apart is the enemy AI and on-screen alert prompts. If a body has been found or a nearby soldier has been struck down guards won’t act accordingly, either ignoring it entirely or sprinting around in a frenzy, snagging on rogue bits of terrain. In a few sections of the game I would diligently take down every enemy in sight; with no hostile icons on the HUD map, I’d sneak towards the objective only to be suddenly spotted by a stray guard who I could have never seen, followed by the familiar ringing of an alarm.
Thankfully the shooting is near enough spot on, with an added sense of realism. Distance, wind and bullet spin must all be taken into account when lining up a shot, sometimes forcing you to aim away from a target to actually hit it. For those who can’t quite handle all of that, playing with the easier difficulty settings will display a red dot which will indicate exactly where the bullet will go. Landing a perfect shot or “skill shot” will trigger Sniper’s bullet cam. This visual effect simply allows the player the follow the journey of a well-placed shot from barrel to target; it’s a fun inclusion and one which grants an additional level of satisfaction.
City Interactive certainly missed a trick with Ghost Warrior’s multiplayer component. Though the basics are present (multiple loadouts, lobbies, standard match-types) the game completely lacks any sort of rank system which has become a staple of the modern first person shooter. With a good 90% of matches being hosted in “unranked” lobbies, there is little incentive to progress. However, when you finally get into a match with a solid connection and two big teams you’ll be surprised how addictive the online play can get. Of course there will be camping, but when dropped into one of the game’s more balanced maps such as Ruins it makes for some great multiplayer action.
Chaining two kills together with a single shot usually warrants a "bullet cam" cinematic.
As far as bugs and glitches go there are a quite a few in Sniper: Ghost Warrior, though none of them happen to be game breakers. In a number of areas, Wells would easily snag on terrain if crouching or in prone, frustrating you as try to keep out of sight. On top of that a number of trophies in Ghost Warrior are in fact glitched, one of the inclusions being General, which requires beating the game on hard. It won’t ruin the experience for everyone but hiccups like these are rare and understandably infuriating.
- Vibrant, organic environments.
- In-depth focus on shooting gameplay.
- Unique and enjoyable online play, despite limitations.
- Poor enemy AI and guard/stealth mechanics.
- Huge environments are somewhat of an illusion.
- Online lacks any sort of experience/rank system.
- Overall lack of polish in a number of areas.
Going into Sniper: Ghost Warrior with fairly low expectations, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. Despite some of the heavy-handed mechanics and under-developed online portion there is still an enjoyable experience to be had. It’s an impressive console debut for the Polish developer, and with a bit of work, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, which will run using the CryEngine 3, could be one of 2012’s strongest FPS contenders.