Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 – PC
Publisher: City Interactive
Developer: City Interactive
Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Genre: Action, FPS
Reviewed by Mitch Cullen
Review Score: 3.5 of 5

It’s just shy of a year since I reviewed my last dedicated sniper game, Sniper Elite V2, and while other FPS games usually offer sniping in some limited capacity I always enjoy playing a game that revolves around my chosen military specialty. As a veteran Army sniper and former instructor at the U.S. Army Sniper School I try not to be overly critical of these games. There is a careful balance of fun factor versus reality, and the simple fact is that the reality of real world sniping usually doesn’t make for a good game.

Being an Army sniper takes a patient person, a disciplined person, a person who is willing to work alone for extended periods of time, often in hostile situations. In addition to marksmanship skills, you also have to be an expert on detecting and stalking a target, concealment and camouflage, and estimating the range of a target while factoring in values for wind and bullet drop. You have to have a keen observational awareness of your surroundings, not only in picking the ideal sniping spot, but also in anticipating enemy response and planning one or more escape routes.

Unlike last year’s WWII vision of military snipers, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 gives us a look at present day snipers along with the various tactics and tools of the trade including an impressive collection of sniper rifles and some vision enhancements like thermal and night vision. You also get some binoculars that allow you to spot and “mark” targets even after you put them away and switch to your scope view. It’s the same principle as the Nanosuit helmet view in Crysis 3 that allows you to pre-mark your enemies – not exactly realistic but this is just a game.

Honestly, my favorite moments were the few realistic encounters where I was working with my spotter who was calling out my targets; their location and distance. You also have a wind indicator, stance, and heartbeat variables to factor before making your shot. I found the heartbeat to be an interesting and realistic component that other games overlook. Most games allow you to slow your breathing but seldom do they factor in your racing pulse after you just sprinted a half mile through the jungle to reach your sniping perch. If you don’t wait for that heartbeat to slow down your aiming will be much harder to control. Additionally, crouching or going prone will also increase your accuracy.

Along with all of these variables you also have to factor in distance to target and any crosswinds that may adversely affect your shot. Having a spotter calling out your range makes things easier as does the wind speed and direction indicator, but only if you know how to read and correct using the tick marks on your scope. The game eases you into this by providing a red dot that will show your offset correction, but I found it very counterintuitive to continually aim my shots to some invisible offset and wait for the red dot to confirm my educated guess. In the real world you would use your scope adjustments to realign your crosshair center to that red dot so you could instinctively put your target in the actual crosshair. I would love to see one of these so-called “sniper simulations” actually allow you to adjust your scope, perhaps with the D-pad, to compensate for wind and distance.

For those with patience and a smooth trigger finger your accuracy will be often rewarded with a slow-motion bullet-cam that follows your round from the tip of the rifle to enemy impact. It’s a pretty slick presentation and not overdone to the point where it gets annoying, and it’s not nearly as violent as the X-ray camera from Sniper Elite that showed shattered bones and exploding organs.

One new mechanic added to the mix is the Motion Sense Trigger System. While I almost always recommend playing PC shooters with a mouse and keyboard Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 actually uses the analog motion of the trigger to replicate the squeeze of a real trigger. A slow steady squeeze gets you a clean shot while a hasty jerk of the trigger will send your shot wide and usually alert the god-like AI to your precise position. While I did appreciate the confrontational enemy AI that always kept me on my toes and checking my corners I was a bit annoyed that the enemy could somehow always pinpoint my exact location after a 1,000 yard shot, especially in a war torn district in Bosnia where echoes would make that impossible.

The game spans three chapters that take you through three distinct locations including a very dense and realistic series of jungle levels, a tour through some of the most densely detailed bombed out urban levels in Sarajevo, and finally to an almost Indiana Jones style series of missions high in the mountains of Tibet, complete with temples and giant statues. The new Cry-Engine is pumping out some serious graphics, and even though the cutscenes are a bit flat and faded, anything and everything in the actual game looks outstanding, and in some instances even better than some of the levels in Crysis 3. From the detailed modeling of the guns, to the lens flares, raindrops, and even pooled water dripping over your screen after emerging from the water; Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is one gorgeous game.

The audio is impressive enough with some respectable voice acting (despite poor lip synching), a reasonably well-crafted story, if not a bit clichéd with the whole traitorous comrade second act twist and some outstanding weapon effects and immersive environmental sounds that really put you in the levels. There is also some good music to enhance the action and the storytelling, and the soundtrack is available as part of the Collector’s Edition.

Expect a 6-8 hour game on Normal difficulty and perhaps another two hours if you kick that up to Expert, as the AI gets brutal and you’ll find yourself replaying sections over and over despite generous checkpoints. I did appreciate the return of medkits to heal your injuries rather than the hide-until-healed system that has become the norm in these games. And there is even a nice multiplayer component with some exclusive playable characters for those who want to test their sniping skills against human opposition.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is a competent shooter that gives gamers a somewhat realistic glimpse into the life of a modern day sniper. The game engine creates some deceptively open and immersive worlds considering the linear path you are forced to take through the levels, which can often make the game feel like an on-the-rails shooting gallery at times, but there is still enough variety and challenging gameplay to recommend it, especially given the $30 budget price for the basic game or $40 for the Collector’s Edition.