A Budget Game Which Is Great If Played Right
Sniper: Ghost Warrior, is a budget title, at only £30, and although it does contain some quality, its budget roots do show through. The game has a thoroughly entertaining single player, if at times frustrating and glitchy, and a multiplayer component that feels a little lacking.
The focal point of the game, and that which the developers obviously spent most time with, is the main campaign. Spanning 8-10 hours in 16 different missions, the campaign isn’t short by today’s standards (at least in comparison to similar titles like Modern Warfare 2.) The large majority of it is set deep in the jungle, and the Chrome engine does a good job of creating an immersive and lush jungle environment, despite lacking the sort of polish to its textures that you would see in a higher budget game.
In the campaign, you can enjoy all the features that Sniper: Ghost Warrior has to offer, and they certainly bring a real realism and challenge to sniping (much like the classic Sniper Elite) that can’t be found in other contemporary FPSes. Things like windage, elevation and even your heart rate affect your shots, and when going for that perfect headshot at ~500 metres it can make for a very testing yet enjoyable experience. Despite the realism you can enjoy at the highest difficulty level, the lower levels offer help you by showing where your bullet will land, and the “Concentration Mode” can be used on all difficulties to steady your scope and slow time to pull of that perfect shot (and give you a chance to take windage – which does fluctuate rapidly – into account.)
As you can guess, sniping is the strong point of this game, and the stealth based missions which require you to remain undiscovered by the guards are the most exciting that Sniper: Ghost Warrior has to offer. Because of this, it is rather disappointing that these missions do not make up the entirety of the game’s campaign. At a certain point it would seem that City Interactive believed they had to do something to engross the “Call of Duty” market, and interspersed the sniping missions with your usual FPS run-and-gun moments. One example of this would be the oil rig level (yes, almost literally lifted out of Modern Warfare 2). The level was by no means poor, the shooting is competent if a little janky – plus using health injectors isn’t as intuitive as you think, and the AI can be a bit too “sharp” sometimes – but it just wasn’t fun at all. It felt like these sections just had to be put up with so you could get back to sniping. In fact a couple of times City Interactive even tried to turn the sniping missions into more action-focused sequences, which was just frustrating really.
Briefly mentioned earlier was the Chrome engine, and as I said it does an okay job of creating jungle scenes that are pleasant to look at. In fact, the water is particularly good in Sniper: Ghost Warrior. But there are a few things the engine does fall down at. Occasionally, the AI can be seen to be facing the wrong way and shooting at you, yet still hitting you, which is frustrating, but can of course be fixed with a quick bullet to the head. At one time I did encounter a game breaking bug which forced me to restart a mission – the game was killing me repeatedly when I tried to progress further along a path to the next objective – but that was the only real issue. Also, some people do say that the AI is far too accurate at long range, but I believe if you play the stealth parts as they are meant to be played, it is never an issue.
That brings me onto my next point – the single player is great, if you play it like it was meant to be played. Sure, you could run through the levels pistoling everything or taking advantage of any little issues you find, but it’d be no fun. The enjoyment in this game comes from playing the role of the sniper, and being immersed. Which is why when the game itself takes you out of the immersion with the action-orientated missions, it’s a real disappointment.
This still leaves the multiplayer untouched, and it’s a shame really. The multiplayer definitely has potential; just the lack of modes, maps and most importantly players really kills it. At the moment (on Xbox 360) you can find around ten hosts online at any point, but never really any ranked games. Also I’m not entirely certain how robust the networking is – there always seems to be that hint of lag, even with a decent host, and in a game in which you are trying to pull off a complex shot on a moving target’s head, it ruins it. I’d go as far as saying I only shoot at stationary targets now, because it’s impossible to hit anything else. The multiplayer would be really enjoyable if it were more stable. The concept is great – hiding in a bush and pulling of the perfect shot on another human being is a great feeling – and you get glimpses of that in Sniper: Ghost Recon. Plus, the few maps the game come with the game (only six, and only three of those can be played on Team Deathmatch, which is about the only game mode you will find online) are solid and varied enough to make you want to play.
So, there you have it: Sniper: Ghost Recon is a budget game, and it shows, but that doesn’t mean it should just be ignored. It displays often enough what potential it has, and even achieves most of it in the single player. If you can pick it up cheap, and are interested in a realistic and entertaining single player experience then I would recommend it – but take it for what it is, and make sure to immerse yourself in it, then you’ll be guaranteed a good time.