A hand-held trip of long distance death-dealing.
If you have any interest in snipers, you may have heard of Carlos Hathcock, a United States Marine who was active during the Vietnam War. If so, you’ve probably heard the story of the mission where, over the course of three days, he crawled on his belly for 1500 yards, killed his target, and crawled out; undetected. This, clearly, categorizes Hathcock as a badass, but if that’s not enough, it would also stand to reason that Hathcock fired one bullet, because had he engaged his pursuers--or fired unnecessarily, giving away his position--he would not have lived to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, this is not the mindset you should enter the world of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 in. While City Interactive did not make a bad game, per se, the title certainly doesn’t capture the potential such a concept is capable of. Essentially, this “follow the leader to the next checkpoint and engage the enemy in a way that keeps you hidden” excursion is an extended callback to the sniping stage from COD 4 everybody knows and loves. And to be sure, that isn’t a bad stage to emulate, but it wouldn’t hurt to give players a little--or a lot--more.
The game puts players in control of a sniper named Cole Anderson, and the SGW2 story follows the standard modernized warfare storyline tropes. A bad guy from the Slavic region of the planet has some kind of weaponized bioagent and he wants to unleash it on the world. Standard stuff here, and while it probably won’t be optioned for the next video-game-to-movie series, that isn’t to say the game is an abject failure.
Far from it, in fact.
The story is told in three acts, and it takes about 8-12 hours to complete, depending on the difficulty level and how committed to staying undetected the player is; and the majority of the gameplay consists of following a leader (Maddox or Diaz), evading enemy detection, and arriving to a point where you can take out the targets laid out in front of you. Unfortunately, the game is very rigid in its approach to these missions. If you deviate from the path, you will be given a warning to return to the fight. You can guess what compliance failure leads to.
in fact, the game is so hand-holding that there are moments when the character being followed yells out the path to take, even though the player is already following allowing diligently. Of course, failure to keep up with your follow-the-leader leader will result in the red screen of death but yet, the game doesn’t mind taking its hand-holding to the point of yelling “GO THIS WAY” at the player.
I mean, I appreciate the assistance and all, but if the mission states “FOLLOW DIAZ” and we’re running through collapsing caves, and he’s in front of me, clearly taking the left route of the path, I don’t need him to yell “LEFT” at me. I’m well aware of what “follow” means, especially in today’s world of on-rails gameplay. While I may belabor the point here, the criticism of the game’s forced direction is a testament to the game’s overall shortcoming. Once the player gets to use his handy sniper rifle, the game begins to shine, giving us a glimpse of what could have been. It’s unfortunate the game’s finer points are buried beneath a rigid, linear presentation.
As for the SGW 2’s shine, there is something pretty satisfying in picking off an unsuspecting mark from an extended distance, courtesy of the godlike .50 caliber Barrett or the silenced death of the DSR-50. The scoped-in viewpoints give players a clear view of the scenario right before they unleash their systematically murderous barrage from whatever particular perch they’re comfortable in. In these moments, it’s easy to see SGW 2 has the makings of something special. It’s just too bad City Interactive decided to force hand-holding on their players, instead of giving them the freedom to accomplish the mission in whatever creatively undetected method they could come up with, ala, the sniper’s role model, the aforementioned Hathcock.
As for actually shooting these guns, the game’s difficulty plays a prominent role here. If playing on the easy or normal setting, when looking through the rifle’s scope, a red dot accompanies the view, showing the player where the bullet will strike when it’s fired. Clearly, this makes destroying your enemy from across the ravine a much easier task. If, however, you want to experience the challenge of gun ballistics--gravity drop, the Coriolis effect, wind--then pump the difficulty up to maximum and you’ll get your wish.
Just don’t miss with your first shot, otherwise, all the members of the neighborhood will descend upon you, and you’ll be restarting that particular level.
The game’s presentation is, run on my respectable-but-not-beastly computer, pretty damn good as the game takes the player on a trip around the globe--places like Tibet, Sarajevo, and the Philippines are included. Night missions require the use of night vision goggles, and, on occasion, the player has access to a “Predator vision” thermal filter. Too bad the latter is given nothing more than lip service, because it’s not required to get past the level(s) it’s available in.
In case you’re wondering, the reason the equipment across the missions is not the same has to do with the game’s Acts taking place in different times periods.
It should be noted that the game’s best segment, the Sarajevo stage, is the about as good as it gets when it comes to follow-the-leader/get-to-the-next-checkpoint stage. The trip across the park to the hotel gets close to capturing the concepts of the ideal sniper game; well, as much as the linear gameplay allows. The developers do a good job of presenting the war-torn capital city, and the issue of genocide and ethnic cleansing is included. While there isn’t much a two-man sniper team can do the way of stopping the atrocities, at least the player is allowed to sporadically intervene in Sniper 2’s universe.
Perhaps in a less linear game, the player would be allowed to hunt down and eliminate these death squads, becoming something of an opposing force who champions the civilians. If that sounds something like a mix between a sniper game and a Skyrim side quest, well, there’s probably a reason for that, but more on that in a moment.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 offers a multiplayer option that, too, doesn’t be all that it can be. Team Deathmatch is the standard offering, and it consists of just about what you’d expect: two teams of snipers on opposite sides of the map, looking through their respective scopes, trying to get a glimpse of the enemy’s scope flare before they see yours. The team with the most kills wins.
Again, just what you’d expect.
Not bad--I can’t lie. I did have a feeling of satisfaction finding a well-hidden spot, waiting for enemy reflections to appear, and summarily dispatching them with my Barrett--but it wasn’t earth-shattering either. Sometimes that style of gameplay backfires, however, as the wait goes on for a few minutes. Apparently, it doesn’t take long for other players to adopt a similar strategy.
With that in mind, is that enough to capture a multiplayer crowd that seems committed to playing its wargames in modernized, blackened conditions? It’s doubtful.