Sniper: Ghost Warrior Reader Review
The intro video for Sniper: Ghost Warrior paints an interesting picture. A ghillied soldier moves into position; a vantage point on the side of a jungle covered mountain. There's some banter between him and his partner who is in a similar vantage point off to the right. They scope out their target - the commander of a military base - and then it all kicks off as an enemy solider starts to execute hostages. Sniper number 1 quickly takes a shot and the camera follows the bullet in slow motion to the executioner's head... So far so good.
Then the game starts with the obligatory boot camp scene, but you don't play a rookie, rather an experienced sniper called Sgt Tyler Wells who is helping the instructor by showing rookies how to shoot/snipe/remain hidden. It's basic and totally clichéd but it still hints at a bit of sniping action that's different from your typical CoD-style corridor shooter. In this tutorial it introduces bullet drop over distance (with a handy, if tiny red dot to show where the bullet would hit) and rudimentary stealth meter at the bottom of the screen.
The problem being, and you may see this one coming, during the first mission you quickly discover most of the combat takes place at short to medium range. Instead of being a ghost in the jungle the character you're playing as, at the time, likes to take a route directly through enemy camps, bases and occupied villages. You're not quite in a corridor mind you, instead it takes the Bad Company route where you get a corridor shaped area to explore and play and seek the enemy. If you accidentally stray into the grey area on the map then you get 10 seconds to get back in to the play area.
Fair enough of course, but there are sections where this out-of-bounds area is a bit too close to where City Interactive expect you to be playing. This lead to one incident where during a scripted escape from an enemy camp to an extraction point, you're chased by a load of AI-controlled enemies all focused on providing your current character with a lethal dose of lead poisoning. Now one of the things I like most about is that your wannabe Rambo only takes a couple of hits to be taken down, which proved to be my downfall as the game check-pointed as I took a wrong turn during the chase leaving me with low health and 3 seconds left on the clock. Subsequent respawns either saw me die after time ran out, or die as I ran back into bounds and got cut down in a hail of AK47 rounds. It must have taken near 20 attempts before managing to fluke my way to a bank of sandbags behind which was a handy first aid box. Frustrating would be the best way to describe it and I was tempted to just quit but the thought of starting again was not appealing.
To be honest the story certainly wouldn't have drawn me back in. It basically involves Sgt Wells and his partner being dropped in the jungle of a fictitious South American country on a mission to kill a general who has been selling guns to other naughty people. The assassination attempt goes wrong, an undercover agent gets kidnapped and your partner is seriously injured. With him shipped back to base you're left alone with only the occasional bit of help from a team of marines. It's then up to you to "scout" (read: murder everyone) enemy camps and bases until the agent has been rescued. Then more killing until you find where the bad general is hiding. There are a few decent action set-pieces (defending a SEAL team from the top of a lighthouse being an early example), and there are a couple of run-and-gun sections where you play as a Mexican rebel, which breaks things up a bit but it never really rises above mildly exciting. Oh and then there's the ending... I won't spoil it, but let's just say I've not seen such an abrupt ending since the 8-bit days where you were lucky to get a "congratulations" message.
For those of you paying attention, you may remember that was originally released last year on the 360 and PC, and to be honest it wasn't in a good state. A lot of the problems were fixed in a patch, but the issue that aggravated most was the seemingly telepathic enemies with long range X-ray vision. Thankfully the PS3 version appears to have all the improvements that were patched in, so the AI now seems observant rather than half-eagle hybrids.
Just as well too, as despite my negativity so far in this review the actual core game play is actually really good fun. As I've said there's nothing new or stand-out about but it still stands up as an enjoyable romp through the blue skies (and not so blue skies in some levels) of latin America. The Chrome Engine 4 makes everything feel solid enough, the guns generally feel appropriately weighty and the controls are nice and responsive.
Something I will never get tired of is the bullet cam you get every few kills. It follows the bullet in slow motion as it leaves the barrel of the sniper rifle, following its inevitable path into the cranium of some poor unsuspecting sod. Part of the appeal to me though is that on impact the soldier rag-dolls away with some force, leaving their gun and head-wear hovering on the spot for a brief moment before falling straight to the ground as if they were Wile E. Coyote suddenly realising the cliff is no longer beneath him. Gets a chuckle from me every single time.
Multiplayer is a fairly standard affair, with the expected game types sprinkled in. When I searched for ranked matches it was rare to find a game with more than 3 or 4 other players in it which made it feel sparse, but tense, as you scan the obvious hiding places for enemy snipers knowing that if you stick your head out too far it'll likely get an extra ventilation hole. The problem I found with this is that although the graphics engine renders a nice long draw distance there's no anti-aliasing so I was often left wondering if the mass of moving pixels I was staring at was another sniper or a bush blowing in the wind. Oh and whoever thought it was a good idea to put a capture the flag mode into a game that only allows you to play as a sniper needs firing. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.
I just can't see anyone getting more than a weekend out of Sniper: Ghost Warrior. There's nothing offensively bad about it, but the game is just absolutely average. Maybe if you're itching for another modern day FPS or your a teenager with the PSN ID you'll get a bit more out of it. Everyone else will have long forgotten about it by November, let alone by the time the announced sequel rolls around.