Our hope for Sniper: Ghost Warrior was for an experience somewhat akin to the glorious best of the Hitman series. The desire was for slow meticulous stealthy scoping out of the target. Checking out their routine, and making sure that our arching bullet wouldn’t disturb anything but the brain stem of our foe. Discovering that perfect leafy hidden spot to settle down where we can finally aim down our sight. Waiting for our prey to unknowingly wander into view, allowing us a brief few seconds to hold our breath, wait for a drop in the wind levels, and finally squeeze that trigger. Boom. One bloody mess, with no-one any the wiser where it came from as we swiftly skulk away.
What we’ve received however is a cheap Call of Duty knock off that simply doesn’t do enough of what is a pretty special selling point. Sniping.
It all starts so well too. Discounting the opening training section which does it’s level best to put you off with drab textures and inglorious pauses – which continue to occur at every checkpoint which hits every hundred yards – once that first mission is underway you do start to truly get into the mind-set of a sniper. A brief section of heavily led and signposted stealth gives way to the first proper sniping section. Lining up your shot, you let fly and witness your target fly backwards in agony. If this opening gambit was what Sniper: Ghost Warrior offered all the way through to its conclusion then we would have been not only pleasantly surprised, but a surprise new hit would also have squeezed its way into an already jam packed genre.
Once that blast has hits its mark, all hell breaks loose. Well, if ‘all hell’ means that you continue to take pot shots from exactly the same point while a batch of enemies happily stand in the open taking pot shots at your sniping nest anyway. It’s a swift come down, but still satisfying when you back a replay ridden headshot.
A rope ride down a sheer cliff face – which itself glitched like crazy causing a pair of restarts – however puts paid to the optimism. Once you hit the floor, you’re urged to progress forward and catch up to your enemy who apparently survived your attempted kill. You trudge on to the next checkpoint, only to find yourself still coming across a few pockets of enemies. Only now you’re not up on a hill, raining down heavily targeted death. Now you’re slap bang in the middle of a Call of Duty esque run and gun title, wielding a sniper rifle.
Yes you can quickly grab a dropped machine gun, or even flick through to use your knife or pistol, but that’s beside the point. As a sniping title, Sniper: Ghost Warrior has potential. As an attempt to steal some of the Call of Duty/Medal of Honor audience, it’s bog standardly average at best.
Sniping is undoubtedly the most impressive part of Sniper Ghost Warrior. Lining up a perfect shot – taking into account all kinds of variables – and finally pulling off a glorious headshot displayed in super slow-mo from a few hundred yards away is absolutely superb. And if this had made up a good 90% of the gaming action, then we might have had a title on our hands that managed to at least slot right slap bang in the middle of that second step of shooters just behind the big two. Unfortunately the design decision to include all the standard FPS style run-and-gun just doesn’t culminate in an impressive package.
It doesn’t help that technical errors are never too far away. Bits of scenery finally become viewable when they’re little more than yards ahead of you. Textures are a constant mish mash of surprisingly detailed foliage, mixed with solid blocks of grass that look more akin to the kind of offering we’d expect from a previous generation console.
It’s not just the aesthetics that have us cause for concern. Just a few minutes into the full game, we found ourselves having to swiftly despatch two guards from behind. These two fellows are happily gabbing away, until a silenced pistol puts paid to their chatter. Only the voices continue. Despite the lack of a beating heart, these two corpses continue to utter a few more sentence of dialogue before they finally shut up. It’s a shame really, as the kind of immersion required for a sniping title is ruined when the two mouth-less voices witter on despite the previous owners finding themselves stone dead.
Enemies can at one moment spot you a hundred yards away while in deep undergrowth, while his less intelligent friend will happily stand transfixed at your sniping form a few metres ahead. And as much as you may desire to stay sneakily hidden, some foes will only become known once you round a corner, with your first knowledge of their whereabouts being when they slot a bullet into your backside.
And that epitomises Sniper: Ghost Warrior. It certainly tries its best, and when it concentrates on the sniping portion of its name it can be an intriguing and atmospheric shooter. The only problem is the vast majority of the title attempts to be Call of Duty, minus the glorious set pieces, the vast budget, and the gorgeous aesthetics. And that’s just not something that any of us need.
Rating: Below Average
You can buy Sniper Ghost Warrior for PS3 here.