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Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 preview

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Preview

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: City Interactive
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release date: January 15, 2012

Like a sniper's bullet itself, the original Sniper: Ghost Warrior seemed to come out of nowhere. It shot straight to the top of the retail charts, ricocheting off shelves and into homes in a way which took everyone by surprise. There hadn't been any real hype, developer City Interactive wasn't renowned for making super-quality titles and it's generally accepted that 'good sniping game' is an inherent contradiction...

And yet, it seemed the name sounded close enough to a Tom Clancy novel and the screenshots looked decent enough for most people to take a punt. Unfortunately...

Well, it wasn't exactly a stellar game. It wasn't bad in the sense of being broken or offensive - but it was certainly not good and the hope this time is that City Interactive will be able to add a bit more polish, with Namco Bandai's help.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 preview Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Preview
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At this point in the preview event Namco spent a few minutes outlining how it's working with City Interactive on the sequel, but we have to confess that we were off inside our own heads for that time. We were thinking about how we'd improve Sniper's formula. We'd probably start by introducing better, more reliable stealth systems and making the environments less linear, we feature missions which focused more on actual sniping and spotting, we'd...

Not that any of these thoughts matter, however. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 doesn't do any of these things.

Instead, what Sniper: Ghost Warrior does is double-down on what it did before, polishing what was there but not really adding anything. It's become a legitimately better version of the original, but since the problems with the original go deeper than the lack of shine...

The result is that it's difficult to tell if Sniper 2 is actually a better game overall, or just a better-bad game.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 preview Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Preview
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It's still not what many would consider to be a 'real' sniping game, that much is for certain. There's little in the way of undirected stealth and there's no ballistic depth - no bullet drop or spin-effect, for example. Instead the paths through levels are even more defined and scripted than before. When stealth and planning show up they are necessities, not options.

[UPDATE: Namco Bandai has confirmed that Sniper 2 does feature bullet drop and more advanced bullet simulation on higher difficulties.

It should be telling, for example, that only one of the two levels we played through actually required us to wield a sniper rifle in any real sense. In fact, the second level took place entirely in a cave complex and started by forcing us to drop our rifle and proceed on foot without being seen. This, even despite the fact that we had a silenced pistol and knife still and were often capable of killing the guards stealthily.

That didn't matter, apparently. In one section we repeatedly tried clearing a group of three guards, getting to the point where we could do without anyone yelling and without missing a shot - but the alarm still went off...and that still meant game over.