Sniper: Ghost Warrior review
Sniper: Ghost Warrior is a first-person shooter that focuses on sneaky, stealthy gameplay. It attempts to build an entire campaign out of intense sniping moments from games like Modern Warfare, and it even imitates factors like wind speed and heart rate for each bullet. Unfortunately, the most basic stealth mechanics are poorly executed, and the resulting experience is too frustrating to be enjoyable for most shooter fans.
When I first started playing Sniper, I was immediately familiar with movement and shooting because the controls are similar to Modern Warfare 2’s. In fact, my only major complaint was the sluggish feeling of the melee-knife attack. The sniping was easy enough to pick up, even with the technical aspects taken into account for tougher shots. The red dot indicator for each shot was helpful, and ensured that I could enjoy sniping without learning rocket science to consider the distance, bullet drop, and wind speed effects.
Sneaking around seemed simple enough – hide in the bushes, stay behind rocks, and watch the meter that indicates the enemy alert level. The environments are full of foliage and other objects to hide behind. Simple enough, right? Wrong. Sniper, on almost all accounts, fails as a “stealth” game. Staying quiet was never my problem – I just couldn’t see a damn thing. Some enemies had a red glow that made them easier to spot, but some of them were completely hidden. Of course, those enemies could still see me through walls, behind rocks, and hidden in thick bushes, all before I knew they were there.
The alert meter at the bottom of the screen helps you stay hidden and out of sight but it is buggy and seems to jump from empty to full far too quickly. I struggled to see a majority of my targets until I ran out in the open, drew their fire, and memorized their positions. The HUD radar is too fuzzy and hard to read to be much help, and sometimes enemies don’t appear on the radar at all.
Sniper’s visuals are nothing special by today’s standards, but the levels were certainly large and full of detail. It’s too bad that the choppy frame rate, stiff animations, and bland character models stand out so much – at its best, Sniper looks like a mediocre full-priced game. The “bullet camera” gimmick and the resulting blood splatters are cool, and they fit perfectly, but the pleasure wears off before the 50th headshot. The music can be intense, but the sound effects are confusing and fail to imitate any sense of direction. I played this game on a 26” 720p TV with 5.1 surround sound and still couldn’t figure out where bullets were coming from. If every enemy in Sniper was armed with a sniper rifle, I would understand the confusion, but they typically stand around with assault rifles until you pick them off.
This could have been a really special game. The sniping mechanics work very well, and when the going gets rough, pulling out a pistol or picking up an assault rifle works. This isn’t Rainbow Six by any means, but you don’t stand a chance against more than a couple enemies at a time. The level design caters to patient gamers who don’t mind going prone and crawling around in tall grass for long periods of time. If you’re playing on the Hard setting, you’ll even get to sit motionless for ages like Sniper Wolf to avoid detection.
Most missions have at least one high-priority target, and you typically have to stake out the target and escape as silently as possible. It can be an exciting experience, but the instant-fail missions are never enjoyable due to the chore of trial-and-error. I understand that a real-life operative would be FUBAR if they were spotted in a tactical situation, and many of these situations are being imitated in Sniper. Regardless, the broken stealth mechanics make it far too frustrating for a smooth, satisfying gaming session.
The single-player campaign is a decent length, and there’s even an online multiplayer (if you can find anyone to play with). Unfortunately, Sniper is a “meh” experience with a very limited appeal; gamers with extreme patience and a passion for sniper rifles might enjoy themselves. Personally, I would never expect a budget-title to look or play better than Halo 3 or Modern Warfare 2, but I also never thought I’d get bored with sniping bad guys through their eye sockets in slow-motion.