This is like, my second review of a game. My first was Race Driver: GRiD, which was awesome after some tweaking. For today, I’ll be reviewing a game from a little known publisher called City Interactive. It is titled with the very imagination-provoking Sniper: Ghost Warrior.
Before I proceed, I discovered something funny about this game. We all know how aiming using Analog sticks on consoles are. Workable yes, precise no. There’s usually auto-aim involved. However, a game that requires precise aiming such as Sniper: Ghost Warrior was also released on Xbox 360. Go figure out how to make precise aims with those sticks.
Anyway, I got it on PC, so let’s move on. What motivated me to try this game was that I was going to play as a sniper again. After going through the awesomeness of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s sniper moments, I thought that playing a sniper-simulation would be great too. And just check out that cover! Reminds you of something, eh?
Ok, enough ramblings, let’s get to the actual review.
The game runs on the Chrome 4 Engine, that was employed in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. I didn’t play that one, but I got to say, the engine is good. The foliage, bushes, trees etc… were nicely detailed, even if I toned down the settings a bit. Performances are good with a recent-enough computer. A Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM and a recent-enough graphics card, such as the excellent Radeon 4850 is enough to get you playing without too much degradation in Frames Per Second (fps).
The weather is another nice touch. The water effects impressed me most, without going into a lot of technical details. I’ve got a few pictures for you to see for yourself. The visuals are absolutely stunning.
On to the gameplay part. As its name suggests, you are going to be playing as a sniper. Yay! But no. There are some level where you play as a soldier, in a classic First Person Shooter (fps) situations. Such as the oil-rig level, which will remind you of a much more famous game. It is very similar. Very similar indeed. These moments are just run-and-gun, so aim-shoot-aim-shoot, dash for cover. In recent FPS games, when you hide behind cover, your health slowly goes back to full if you have taken hits. Not in Sniper: GW. You have to use the good old first aid, so you need to be conscious about getting shot. And boy, you’ll get shot a lot!
There’s not much to be said about those moments, so let’s go back to the actual sniper moments. Sadly, this is where the game sucks most.
When we think about “military sniper” and “jungles”, we think about a guy (or lady, why not), dressed in a funny suit. It’s actually called a Ghillie Suit. So, we have that guy in Sniper: GW, dressed in his ghillie, and sneaking through the forest.
BAM! Someone shoots at me! WHAT THE HELL?! CROUCH! Is there any sniper around? I scan the environment, I can’t find anything. I stand up again, more shots! Whaaat? I check the red pointer at the top, and see that the attack seems to be coming from the front. So I stand up, switch to the scope, and slow-down time using the appropriate key. Oh there you are, behind a bush. Sneaky bastard, die!
What I just described above is one of the very common things that happen in SGW (it’s getting shorter, I know). Your enemies seem to have eagle eyes! Sometimes, I wonder who’s actually the sniper, me or the AI?
When they are not aiming at me from the moon, and getting to hit me with their automatic rifles, they are plain stupid. They friendly-fire! I’ve seen a guy cross the path of another, and get mowed down by machine-gun fire! Sometimes, they just stand up and do nothing. Most of the times, they hear a gunshot, see their friends go down, and they won’t even bother to duck to cover, but instead scan the environment. Worse, they won’t even alert their friends, or sound an alarm! Pathetic AI.
They are only good at aiming me from kilometres away. Hell, a computer-controlled guy saw me, in a ghillie suit, while I was sniping from inside a bush! What’s the ghillie for, AI, if you can see me from a mile away?! And not only seeing, they are damn accurate at that! They shoot with pinpoint accuracy from long distances. Worse, sometimes a guy is running, turns and he is immediately aiming at me, and shooting. Not even locating me anything. He KNOWS I’m here. As if he’s got eyes in the back of the head. Or all around the head, for that matter!
That’s about the AI enemies. What about the AI allies? Worse! They can’t aim! They REFUSE to aim. I am sniping, they run in front of me. I shoot. They DON’T die. So much for realism. Interestingly, AI enemies’ friendly-fire are fatal.
Pathetic AI. That’s all there’s to say. Either they are TOO good. Or just plain dumb.
The Environment: Pretty but restrictive
Now let’s see the environment itself. We’ve often been shown open-worlds lately. GTA, Farcry 2, Crysis etc… have all been setting the trend of an open, reactive world. Much to my displeasure, SGW does NOT include an open-world. You are constrained to the paths and such. You can go astray a few, and you’ll hit with invisible walls. These totally kill realisms. Where we have reached nowadays, there should be open-worlds. If it looks like the player can climb on a rock, then jump a fence, it should be possible. Not that you jump on the rock, jump towards the fence, and hit an invisible wall that prevents you from going on.
The problem with those invisible walls? They block off all the spots that seem to be great sniper nests. Most are off-limits. This greatly annoys me. Sniping involves choosing your spot. It should be secluded, but offer great vantage point. It should provide cover if ever you are discovered and need to scram. It should also be high in altitude if possible. SGW does not allow this freedom of choice. Worse, sometimes it tells you to walk towards the front-door of an enemy camp. Where’s the stealth in that? Ever seen a ghillie’d up sniper walk up the front door of an enemy? Me too.
The game features a grapnel. Imagine how it could be used. You find a branch overlooking an enemy camp, with lots of leaves and stuff around. You use your grapnel, and climb the tree, sit there and start shooting. After a few shots, you change location to another vantage point that you’d have marked on your map. No. SGW does not let you do this. The grapnel is only used in some scripted situations. Sigh…
The Good Parts?
The great thing about Sniper: Ghost Warrior however, is how well the sniping system works. You got your variety of rifles on different levels, and your scope as you’d expect. You’ll also get a “stealth” bar at the bottom. The moment it fills up completely, your enemy sees you and is aware of your location. He’s going to shoot with pinpoint accuracy using his eagle eyes.
While sniping, you will have to monitor your heart-rate and wind speed, which have distinct gauges at the top. You’ll also have to keep track of the range, because the further your target, the more gravity will affect the path of the bullet. All these are taken into consideration in SGW, making it a great system. If this sounds too complex for you, don’t despair. If you aim for long enough, a red reticule will show you where the bullet will actually land. So you just aim the red reticule on an enemy’s head, and voila, headshot! Without having to care about all the difficult stuff. Bear in mind that this red reticule does not appear on higher difficulties, so those wanting a more realistic sniping experience may try the higher difficulties. Remember though, on medium the AI got eagle eyes. On higher difficulties, it’s like the AI enemies are seeing you through the Hubble telescope.
You can also “hold your breath” using the the appropriate key. This will steady the scope, and slow down time, making sniping easier. This is somewhat overkill. Steadying the cope is enough, without having to slow down time. It makes things too easy. Assuming you’ve been able to aim at the enemy without getting riddled with bullets first.
The sniping system is enjoyable. That’s the only reason I’m playing SGW. Not the story.
Why not the story?
Because SGW wants to be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The missions are exactly like CoD’s! You are pursuing a guy, so you’re following his trail all around, trying to take off his head. So you complete one mission, just to find out that the guy has escaped. However, in CoD, the process of getting to the guy is interesting. You take alternate paths from your friends. You get support. You are on your own. It makes your pulse race.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior’s story is like CoD, but without the fast-paced action. So you’re crossing a level, fighting your way in stealth, taking out guys etc… only to find that at the end, the main target is not there. The next level? Do the same thing again, with lots of patience, only to find the guy is not there. After 3 missions, you’re tired and ask yourself how people can frack up missions that much.
The run-and-gun parts are no better. I have no idea why the oil-rig mission is there. There’s no point at all. You storm in, save a guy, that has not much to do with the story. Nor are you told much in the mission briefings.
Overall, the story feels flimsy. Not on par with CoD:MW’s story in any case.
How it should have been?
So the enemies are no good. The environment is pretty but no good. The story is no good. Only the sniping system is kind of good. So is it recommended? Frankly, no. I’d not recommend that game to a friend. If you really want to give it a try, let its price fall first. Then get it.
But then, how could it have been interesting? Just imagine that scenario:
You get your briefing about a certain guy that is selling state secrets to an unfriendly nation, or something like that. You are given his general location, but do not know exactly where he is found. He is to be eliminated.
So your spotter and yourself are are left at your insertion point, with your equipment, a supply of food and drinks, a pair of binoculars, a grapnel and your ghillie suit.
You then make your way, slowly towards the enemy camp. The terrain is a deep jungle, with a river to the west, and mountains to the north, all in an open-world environment. The enemy camp is found near the mountains. Between you and the enemy is a civilian village, and enemy patrols in the jungle.
You have to find a vantage point to take aim at your target, so you move in stealth towards the enemy camp. You have to avoid both enemy patrols (you can’t kill them, missing patrols are soon noticed. If you do, you have to hide the bodies and expect heavier-armed guard patrols since they now expect an attack), and civilians (they panic and make a fuss, and you can’t kill them normally).
So you sneak by. You can’t take too long, because the target might leave the area, causing a mission fail. So you move quickly and stealthily.
While approaching the village, you hear civilians talking about the target’s habit of coming to the village at night, probably for some dirty business with local women. Now you have a choice. Do you find a vantage nearby and wait for the target, then snipe him when he’s in the village? This reduces the number of guards that’ll be on your trail after the hit. However, the target may not come to the village at all, causing a mission fail. Or you can go to the enemy camp, and take the hit there, where you’re sure the target will come sometime, or may already be stationed at. But after the kill, there will be many guards after you.
You choose to go for a vantage point near the village. So you scout around, and find a good spot and lay there, in an abandonned water tower, just outside a farm a distance from the village. The hole in the cliff looked interesting too. You mark it on your map as backup. You choose to “sleep”, while your spotter remains awake, and wakes you when the target comes. This causes time to flow by, up to the point where the target comes to the village (sometimes, he doesn’t, and mission fails). So you take aim, consider wind speed etc… as you are told by your spotter (or the red reticule, on easier difficulties). You take the shot, the target goes down.
Now you have to reach your extraction point. No holds barred. You can start shooting every non-civilian because they know they are under attack and will return fire. Keep in mind they don’t know where you are, but they know you’re around. So if you know how to sneak, you can prevent bloodshed. This increases your rating.
You escape safely. There it was, Mission 1, First Part. That was only a lieutenant, and not the actual guy. This hit will cause unrest, as it’d seem rival factions made the hit. This will somehow bring out the real target. That’s how Sniper Ghost Warrior should have been. In Multiplayer, there may be more snipers trying to take a target, and they might bring you down. The one who takes the target wins. The Farcry2 of sniper games. Open-world freedom to choose your path or how you get to your sniping nest, dynamic environments (rain damaging your cover bit by bit) and AI characters that do not shoot like monkeys. Not the CoD-imitation that it currently is.
As it is? Not worth it. But the series holds much potential. Only if City Interactive enhances the scenario, gameplay and AI. My note for this game is a paltry 3.5/10, for the great environments, and sniping system.
Other reviewers gave it a 5.5 or so. I’m more severe. I’m tired of being riddled with bullets from afar. I’m the sniper. I shoot from afar. Not the normal enemies!
So there ya go, the review of SGW, and how an utopian sniper game would be.