Friday 6 August 2010

Game review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior

I'm not a great fan of military shooters. When given a choice of FPS games, I'd take an over the top sci-fi adventure over a realistic Andy McNab-a-thon. So when my editor slapped a copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior on my desk (if you can believe that's how things go on here at I was understandably disappointed. However, nigh on 8 hours later, I found I had run through an entire gamut of emotions, from pleasant surprise to incredible frustration. From relatively unknown developers City Interactive, Sniper: Ghost Warrior promises strategic sniping and stealth action, but can the Polish publishers lure the military crowd away from Call of Duty and Ghost Recon long enough to score a headshot?

The first thing that struck me upon loading the game was the incredible visuals. From the opening sequence all the way to the last level, I was entirely blown away by the absolutely breathtaking environments. I really can't emphasise enough how impressed I was by the scale, detail and intricate design of each and every stage, as well as the immersive weather and lighting effects. However, while the amount of foliage present on each level was visually stunning, it often impacted negatively on the gameplay by obscuring vital shots. You would have thought that a professional sniper would learn how to clear grass and leaves from in front of his scope!

From a gameplay standpoint, I was curious to see how Sniper: GW would keep players interested as in my opinion, sniping is only one aspect of FPS games and while it often takes skill to be a good sniper, I couldn't imagine a whole game based on this single discipline holding my attention (no, I'm not counting Silent Scope as an FPS game). Luckily, Sniper features a detailed sniping system, which asks players to adjust their aim according to distance, wind speed and heart rate. On normal difficulties a red dot slowly resolves on screen to help novice players make the shot, but dead-eye sharp-shooters can opt to do without in hard mode.

The developers do well to mix things up, alternating stealth with sniping sections, often asking players to choose who not to shoot in order to slip by unnoticed. However it is during these stealth sections that the erratic AI reveals itself, often spotting you at inhuman distances and draining your health within moments. On the earlier levels it was a lesson in patience, but towards the end of the game I found myself furiously cursing the apparently telepathic AI and unfair checkpoint system.

At certain points the player is asked to engage in close-quarters run-and-gun segments which, while they are a fast-paced break from the slow tension of the majority of the game, are fairly forgettable. Speaking of forgettable, Sniper: GW's story is so throwaway that I was tempted to not even mention it in this review.

All in all, I actually did enjoy most of Sniper. Lining up a shot until your breath stabilises and scoring a perfect headshot from over a mile away (complete with the celebratory bullet-cam) is definitely satisfying, but there's not much scope (har-har) for replay value here and the main game is not terribly long. There is a simple online component which provides some cat-and-mouse sniping fun, and I dove in for a session. You know those frustrating moments in online shooters when you are suddenly killed by some unknown assailant from across the map? Imagine that, but FOREVER. That's like my own personal Hell.

Lukao gives Sniper: Ghost Warrior 6 headshots out of 10. Which is only 60% accuracy!

CeX Rathbone Place

Lukao Rosales-McCabe

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