I’m not going to pretend like I went into this title without any skepticism. After all, the predecessor, despite being somewhat of a cult classic, was plagued with bugs and an atrocious AI. But considering the meager handful of releases within the sniper sub-genre, fans didn’t have too much to choose from aside from the excellent Sniper Elite V2. City Interactive promised major improvements to Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, and while they addressed most problems of the past, several questionable and outright frustrating design decisions prevent the sequel from being a consistently enjoyable sniping experience.
In terms of its narrative, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is no different from any other war shooter on the market. If you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. Spec Ops: The Line gave us a glimpse of hope within the genre, but we can only dream of another war-themed title leaning towards psychological tropes. And it’s a real shame, because Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 has potential to bridge that narrative gap. A big part of the game takes place in Bosnia (my home country) and I was quite excited to see how the developers would handle the sensitive nature of the war, especially the genocides. It’s actually the first video game that addresses the Balkan conflict so directly, but it unfortunately never does much to elevate the story beyond the rudimentary. There are brief moments where it seems the narrative might step off the predictable path, but it quickly tucks back into a derivative paint-by numbers approach. Of course, it’s easy to forgive the lack of storytelling effort if the gameplay is solid…but it’s there that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 stumbles the most.
"Several questionable and outright frustrating design decisions prevent the sequel from being a consistently enjoyable sniping experience."
Handholding, constant button-prompts, and quick time events are curses of modern gaming. If you have a problem with any of these ‘gameplay’ elements, then Sniper 2 will scar you for life. This is probably the most linear game I have ever played, pioneering some of the worst and most offensive handholding of any title to date. Your partner AI who is present on nearly every mission will instruct you on how to take each and every step. To make matters worse, you’re told where, when, and who to shoot. It’s as if the entire game is one giant tutorial. It is incredibly frustrating and outright boring. It’s a real shame too, because when the game does let go, it plays surprisingly well. The shooting feels smooth and planning a stealthy approach (when you’re allowed to) is very gratifying. Unfortunately, over eighty percent of gameplay consists of following direct orders. I’m not exactly sure what the developers were thinking.
Not only do you feel like you’re tied to a rope, but the screen is filled with distractions...or rather unnecessary aid. There’s a map in the lower left-half of the screen displaying enemies, there’s a giant way-pointer in the middle of the screen pointing in the right direction, enemies are almost always tagged with little arrows above their heads…there’s nothing left for you to do but pull the trigger. I’ve never felt so restricted in a game before…never.
"Not only do you feel like you’re tied to a rope, but the screen is filled with distractions...or rather unnecessary aid."
When you’re granted some freedom, the game can be enjoyable. Switching between your knife and silenced pistol for close-quarter stealth kills and then taking out an entire guard post with your sniper rifle is admittedly satisfying. But you never feel like a stealthy sniper. Your vantage points are always laid out for you so never get a chance to experiment. It’s insulting.
Visually, the game boasts some really nice environments. While it doesn’t take full advantage of the Cryengine 3, it’s quite a looker for a budget title. The Jungle environments are lush, filled with dense and detailed vegetation and the urban landscape of Bosnia is surprisingly authentic. The same can’t be said for level design. The linearity butchers the nice scenery and no thought went behind the terrain layout. The levels don’t feel realistic. Everything seems so perfectly positioned that you cannot mess up even if you play blindfolded. Health packs and ammo are around every corner and you just have to hold the analog stick forward to make progress. There are no opportunities to explore, there are no opportunities to experiment…heck, there’s rarely an opportunity to actually play the game. Enemy AI has improved a little, but not enough to feel competent. Enemies either stand around as you land head shots, or they discover your precise location the moment you fire your first shot, even if you’re miles away in camouflage disguised by thick vegetation.
"There are no opportunities to explore, there are no opportunities to experiment…heck, there’s rarely an opportunity to actually play the game."
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is a game that doesn’t want to be liked. It disrespects you as a gamer and will make you feel like an incompetent fool. It never makes you feel in control and continually guides your every move. I tried very hard to enjoy myself…I really did…and even though beneath all the gameplay-aid rubbish lies a solid sniping experience, the linearity and campaign shortness is quite frankly unbearable and unacceptable. The multiplayer might offer a few rounds of sniping freedom, but isn’t worth the asking price…even at the budgeted price of $39.99.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360