The sniping is good; you’ve got to give it that. It isn’t super-realistic (the game shows you a little dot to help you take bullet-drop into account, for instance) but it’s still good in that it’s fun and accessible. It takes just enough thought and precision that even seasoned FPSers will need to slow down and consider their shots, but it doesn’t force you to account for wind-resistance and so on.
So, the sniping works pretty well. The only problem is that the rest of Ghost Warrior doesn’t and, in almost wilful rebellion against its own title, Sniper doesn’t actually feature all that much sniping. The more you play, the more it feels like Modern Warfare 2 on a budget, with some features and scenes almost copied wholesale.
This is a shame, because Sniper: Ghost Warrior actually starts off quite well and the opening levels had us thinking that it could be a diamond in the rough. The graphical bugs and awful modelling that makes NPCs look like webbed mutants on close inspection make the rough very rough, but there’s a glint of beauty in the tutorial stages.
But that would be murder!
Hell, we practically swooned when we were given an option to skip the tutorial after every exercise, meaning that the training segment wastes no time at all. It starts by introducing you to the nuances of the sniping system straight away, gives you an option to skip the rest and then moves on to the next exercise, repeating the offer to skip regularly. The result is that FPS familiars can learn about what Ghost Warrior does differently to other games (the sniping) and then skip over the stuff it shares with other titles (using grenades, for instance). Why every game doesn’t do it like this, we don’t know.
The first level is full of little highlights, too. The plot is quickly glossed over – you’re a sniper tasked with killing baddies in the jungle – and you’re told to sneak through an enemy base, guided only by your spotter who watches you from afar. It’s a pretty direct rip-off of MW2’s blizzard level, but it’s still fun and the lush undergrowth replaces the snowstorm quite effectively. Tension builds slowly as you wait in a ditch for unseen enemies to pass before being told to move on and working with the ally AI to silently remove troublesome guards is as slick as you could hope.
Oh, go on then
There are definitely flaws that crop up even in these early and most promising sequences, but they rarely ruin anything totally. We were honestly willing to overlook a few texture glitches and design oversights given Sniper’s budget origins. At first, anyway.
Unfortunately, by the time the second level has started Sniper is already losing focus and devolving into a different type of game altogether. We were barely an hour in before it was clear that the tense, if occasionally clumsy sneaking that marked the start of the game was gone for good. The problems which had previously been just below the surface began to rear their heads in full and Sniper starts emulating Modern Warfare 2 a little bit too closely for its own good.
The biggest blunder is when the player is dropped into the shoes of a different soldier with no stealthy or scoped weapons, effectively detaching you from the sniping element completely. It’s a completely nonsense move given the marketing, the title and the obvious appeal of a good sniping game - and it’s only a warning of the nonsense to come.