Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sniper: Ghost Warrior Review

Sniper: Ghost Warrior, developed and published by City Interactive.
The Good: It looks very nice
The Not So Good: Very linear scripted missions, extreme scope movement induces more luck than skill, lackluster inhuman AI, limited controls, faux realism, annoying multiplayer
What say you? This sniping game is quite unimpressive in almost every way: 3/8

Snipers: the bane of the competitive online shooter. Everyone knows they cheat and ruin games, taking down proper players with a single shot from a secret hiding spot. Boo/hiss. Well, why not concentrate the hatred in a single game? That’s what Sniper: Ghost Warrior hopes to do, highlighting the trials of Tom Berenger as he hunts down his prey in the jungle of Panama while hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos and Dancing with the Stars! What a talented fellow. On with the long-distance killing in the face!

Sniper: Ghost Warrior looks very nice (somebody reads the header!). The tropical locations are all impressive, with a nice variety of foliage and tons of South American-type towns with ruins-a-plenty to walk around. Things do tend to get a bit repetitive after a while (one can only take so much tropical paradise), but it’s nice while it lasts. The character models aren’t quite as good as the environments, though, but they don’t lag too far behind. Sniper: Ghost Warrior also features a bloody kill cam to satisfy the gory impulses of snipers everywhere, though it’s more a smattering of blood rather than this. The sound design is more average, with not-completely-terrible voice acting and appropriate effects for each of the game’s weapons. Still, the visually impressive Sniper: Ghost Warrior delivers for those looking for nice graphics.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior features a rather short single player campaign where you travel to through the jungles on the hunt for hostile leaders. There is no cooperative play and the levels are very, very linear: you rarely are able to choose your own sniping locations, as the maps are full of invisible walls and other obstacles preventing true freedom in stalking your prey. This is in stark contrast to something like ArmA II where you really feel like a covert operative, carefully planning your attacks instead of going down poorly disguised corridors as in Sniper: Ghost Warrior. At least the campaign has numerous, verbose objectives to guide you down the path of righteousness, and you can skip some tutorials if you perform well in the first five minutes.

For a game that features a primarily solitary profession, it is somewhat surprising that Sniper: Ghost Warrior has multiplayer. That said, it may come as no shock that multiplayer is far from fun. Most know how snipers can ruin conventional first person shooters; now imagine a game where everyone is a sniper. It’s the ultimate camper’s game, where newly spawned individuals are shortly disposed of. I swear I never actually saw anyone else while playing any multiplayer game, but I sure got killed a lot. The game features six maps split between deathmatch and team deathmatch modes. You can choose between four classes, each equipped with a different rifle and a balance of health and speed. In the end, I was disappointed with multiplayer, but I suspect those who enjoy playing the sniper might find the chess match enjoyable.

Staying hidden is very important for a sniper, so Sniper: Ghost Warrior gives a visibility and stance indicator (in single player only) to show how close you are to being spotted. Healing syringes are used to regain health (it automatically regenerates over time in online matches), although since once you are spotted you die, their usefulness is questionable. A huge issue in Sniper: Ghost Warrior is scope movement, which is highly exaggerated. Apparently the shooter is doing a jig while trying to line up a shot. This really makes shooting more luck than it should be, leaving you to hope the reticule was over the enemy when you pressed the mouse button. You can tone it down by holding your breath, but you rarely have time to wait that long since most encounters are heavily scripted. Simple randomness has more of an effect on your shots than wind or bullet drop. You are a world-class sniper because you can concentrate and hit your target every time, not because you luck out and shoot when the scope drift is in the right place.

Another oddity is the use of the same button for changing stance. You are supposed to tap for crouch and hold for prone, although while playing online the game seems to choose one at random for you. This is a really strange simplification for a game that purports realism. Speaking of realism, Sniper: Ghost Warrior falls somewhere between an arcade and simulation game, highlighting enemies in bright red and displaying the exact bullet trajectory on the normal difficulty level. The four rifles you have access to don’t feel any different: just scope and shoot. Attaching a grappling hook for traversing up and down cliffs is a simple gimmick that’s simply not fun. The AI are simply cannon (well, rifle) fodder, walking back and forth or standing around, waiting patiently for your incoming bullet. If you miss or are spotted, it’s automatic death: the AI will kill you instantly upon sight, upping the difficulty of the game tremendously. The game is simply not satisfying as a whole, with inconsistent glimpses of realism, linear missions, randomized aiming, and frustrating multiplayer.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior lets you snipe people from long distances, and that’s about the only thing it gets right. The highlight of the game is the graphics, which effectively put you in a tropical paradise ready to be dominated from afar. The level design leaves a lot to be desired: most of the time you are confined to one location to snipe from, rather than letting you choose where to attack from. The enemies range from general stupidity, where they just wait to be shot, to omnipotence, engaging you from long distances with deadly accuracy once you have been spotted (or missed your shot). The controls are even odd, binding crouch and prone to the same button and having an extreme amount of scope drift that far exceeds the effects of wind or gravity. Multiplayer is, as you would expect, full of campers that shoot you as soon as you spawn: no surprise for a sniper game. I would much rather play ArmA II and have a whole bunch more content beyond sniping. Sniper: Ghost Warrior is uneven from beginning to end and ultimately falls well short of providing a compelling sniping experience.