Once the sneaking and sniping is removed from the fore you quickly start to notice how badly put together most of Sniper: Ghost Warrior is.
The storyline, for example, is drivel – but, more than that, it’s drivel which isn’t even told properly. There’s no opening cutscene to explain who the baddies are or why you want to kill them, nor proper introduction or mission briefing. Instead, the four-page paper manual dedicates its centre spread to two character bios – one for the player character, one for your target. To dismiss that as lazy would be an insult to sleepwalkers.
The missions seem to jump all over the place too and few of the characters are ever really introduced, which makes it hard to keep track of what the hell might be going on. One moment you are trying to escape with your life after a blundered evac attempt, the next you’re rescuing hostages on an oil rig. In the latter example there’s literally no explanation of who the hostages are, why they are being held on a oilrig, who is holding them or why the US has taken it upon itself to free them.
The only clear fact that shines out of all this mayhem is that Sniper’s developers are big Modern Warfare fans, because they’ve sure copied large chunks of it across into Ghost Warrior. The oil rig section seems to only come about so the team could copy the breach and clear sections from Modern Warfare 2, with the slow-mo action kicking in when you bust in the door. It’s not even a semi-decent forgery either.
Part sniper, part bush
The silly thing is that there’s nothing hypothetically wrong with the idea of Modern Warfare on a budget. The problem only arises when you try to blend that with stealth and sniping, because the two just don’t go together that well in terms of pacing and style. The constant flitting between careful headshots and cavalier mass murder serves only to confuse and disappoint players, regardless of how much they might like the individual elements.
In short, if you buy Sniper because you want a decent sniping game then you’ll be annoyed that the action so frequently devolves into spray-and-pray with clumsy assault rifles. On the other hand, if you buy Ghost Warrior because you want straightforward, brainless shooting then you’ll be frustrated at having to slow down for the stealth sections.
Even if you can bear with the constant shifts in pace and focus then it’s ultimately hard to ignore that, unlike the sniping, the rest of the combat just isn’t that good. Enemies are about as varied and intelligent as a horde of Kobolds, inconsistently responding to the sound of gunshots and prone to all sorts of bugs. We have, for example, wiped out an entire squad mid-conversation only to be stuck listening to their corpses continue the conversation. It was... unnerving.
Stop! Bullet time!
The tragic thing is that, as we said at the start, the actual sniping isn’t half bad. If there was more of it and if Ghost Warrior consistently played to its strengths then it would probably end up as a quite good game. In that scenario we’d be able to look past the terrible nonsense storyline and we’d forgive the less serious graphic bugs.
But the reality is that Ghost Warrior doesn’t do those things. Instead it waters things down with some faulty, fumbling combat and sequences that have been clumsily copied from other, better titles. The early sections and a few choice levels are fun while they last, but the vast majority of content is shoddily put together and not something we’d at all recommend for fans of either sniping or action games.
In short: It’s good when it works, but it doesn’t work reliably and for long enough to justify anything more than a bargain bin price, which is saying something considering how few sniping games there are.