Sniper: Ghost Warrior Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior
Release: 6/29/10
Genre: FPS
City Interactive
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Players: 1 (System Link/Xbox Live  2-12)
MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M (Blood, Drug References, Strong Language, Violence)

Sniper: Ghost Warrior is a First Person Shooter that follows the actions of a special ops unit as they work to uncover why a hostile military regime has overthrown the government of a small-island nation.  Throughout the 6 hour, 4 Act campaign, you will uncover secret deals, evil masterminds, and other sinister plot lines.  The story is delivered through both cut scenes and in-game dialog, and moves along briskly (and predictably).  You’ll find most of the action taking place in various junglescapes, with the occasional fort, port  or village thrown in for good measure.

The title is a little misleading, as you play not only as a Sniper in your unit, but also a spotter, gunner, and infantry specialist as well.  The game controls should be very familiar to anyone who has played an FPS before, particularly Call of Duty, which means its immediately accessible.  You will have access to a variety of tools at different points in the game (rappel ropes, claymore mines, C4) but for the most part, you will be running with a primary weapon, a handgun, some grenades, a throwing knife or two, and medical stimulants.  Yes, this game uses heal packs, versus SuperTrooperMagiHeal2000, so some care needs to be taken in playing the levels.  It seems the developers couldn’t QUITE commit to not having regen completely, though, as you will regenerate health back up to 30% (but no more), so you won’t ever get stuck with an auto-save of 2% health and no med packs.  Ammo is also plentiful on the primary and secondary weapons (I never ran out), and to be honest, the grenades and knives were really an afterthought – I hardly used them at all.

The Sniper Rifle, on the other hand, is anything but.  If nothing else was done right, sniping is nailed in this game.   A realistic ballistics system is in place that will have your shots affected by bullet drop, wind, fog, rain, distance, trajectory and even your heart-rate.  If all of this sounds a little intimidating, fear not: on easy or normal mode, you will get a red dot in your sights that will show where you need to be aiming to hit your target (this does not exist on Hard).  As an added bonus, every once in a while, a headshot from distance will result in a “from-the-bullet” perspective that shows the shot travel from the rifle to the target.  This view is fantastic, gratifying, and not overused (it’s not on every head shot, so it doesn’t get too old).  As mentioned before, you also play as a gunner, spotter, and infantry unit, and while these alter egos are not as engaging as the sniper mode, they are also far less frequent.

There is also a multiplayer option to the game, featuring 3 game modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and VIP, which is basically Deathmatch with someone glowing yellow instead of red) across 6 maps.  I will warn you now, if you don’t like camping, stay away from Multiplayer.  The game IS called Sniper, so this is to be expected.  All the classes are snipers, and most guns are strong enough to drop a target in one shot.  The ballistic system is still in play, so it’s not as simple as lining a head up in the center and firing, which adds some replay in trying to master a different style of deathmatch.

It should be noted before I get into likes and dislikes that the released version of the game suffers from some issues that will be identified below.  These issues were identified by City Interactive, and a patch is in the works that will be addressing some of the major ones.  In the interest of getting the review out timely, as well as fairly representing how the game plays to someone who will be playing the game out of the box without patching, I will address these issues, and update if and when a patch is released.

Sniper does does do some things very well, beyond the aforementioned sniping system.  Some missions will have you moving between the sniper and a ground team in-mission, and it is both fun and interesting to see how your success in clearing out the enemy from above translates to an easier run through the area for the ground team.  The mission that has you spotting for the sniper was also fun, as you delivered death to your enemies indirectly by telling your sniper where to shoot.  I thought that adding heart rate to the list of variables in sniping was brilliant as well, as it prevents someone from running around for 20 seconds only to bring up the scope and pull off a perfect shot.  Now, you must wait until your heart rate slows down before you will have a chance at the shot.  Performing actions while scoped will also cause heartrate fluctuations (as does holding your breath).  It’s a great balance that was nailed perfectly.  There’s also a decent variety in the levels from a gameplay perspective: aside from the different roles you take you will also partake in gunning on a boat and truck – a noble attempt at mixing things up a bit.  The music was appropriate, swelling and falling when in and out of action.  Character continuity was also good in the story – you will get to know your characters, and while they aren’t exactly deep, you will enjoy hearing how they talk to each other, especially from different perspectives.

That is, if you can stand the voice acting, which ranges from bad to awful (I’d call it an attempt at humor, but I don’t think this is a Deadly Premonition attempt, it’s just bad), and subtitles also don’t always match what the characters are actually saying.  Enemy AI is probably the biggest issue I have with the game, though.  While this may be addressed in a future patch, as it is, the AI goes from completely oblivious to allies dropping dead around him (accomplished by keeping a low profile while performing kills), to having Predator-Terminator-RoboCop-Vision(tm) 2.0.  Seriously.  If your enemy becomes alert to your presence, it will be able to see you from any distance, regardless of your attempts to take cover in vegetation (cover behind solid objects will break line of sight, but your enemies also have Google.Earth.Navigation [beta], so forget trying to crawl to a new location).  Mind you, if you’re undetected, taking cover in vegetation and moving slowly works as intended, but once detected, nothing but breaking physical line of sight will work.  This works to your advantage in one way: you will be able to deduce where your enemy is by slowly creeping around a corner until you see the detection monitor increase. Why do you need to do this? Because seeing your foes is also very difficult at range.  That enemy shooting at you could be behind 5 layers of vegetation that you will never be able to see through, but thanks to PTRCV(tm) 2.0, they see you fine.  You will get used to this fault as you play, but you will go through many retries on certain spots as you try and figure out the positions of the bad guys (since they don’t always show up on your radar – another annoyance). Playing as the infantry unit is also frustrating, since your bullets have a unique feature of going from live ammo to blanks once the bullet travels about 100 meters.  Forget about trying to have a fire-fight at distance; you will have to figure out how to close the gap in order for your gun to be effective.  The game also wants you to hate crouching, as you will often get stuck trying to move up any elevation, and be ready to despise ladders.  Sounds effects and graphics are meh – not awful, not great.  Finally, multiplayer sessions might be hard to come by soon, as only 11 active games were running during prime time just a month after the game had been released.

vttym’s take: Priced at $40, you already know you’re going to make some concessions on the quality of the game; you just hope that there are a few aspects that make the game worth the pickup. Sniper: Ghost Warrior wanted to take what people liked about Call of Duty sniping (even utilizing laptops as the collectible secret item in each level) and enhance it.  Unfortunately, other critical parts are lacking; enemy AI, bullet hit detection for non-sniper rifles, and a quality presentation being the worst offenders.  The game just has the feel of being rushed to production.  There are aspects to this game that are worth playing for, and the multiplayer might make this game worth picking up for more than just a rental, but the shortcomings in single player make this a tough game to recommend.

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