Sniper: Ghost Warrior Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Jul 06, 2010

While Sniper may look like yet another clone of Modern Warfare, it actually distinguishes itself, most of the time, by employing stealth action gameplay coupled with long distance shooting. Sadly, it also distinguishes itself by having serious glitches, wildly uneven enemy A.I., and times when the sneaking around is replaced by run-of-the-mill Call Of Duty-style gunfights.

The Pros
  • Interesting concept: first-person stealth action
  • Visually stimulating
  • Employs some realistic sniper mechanics
The Cons
  • Enemies are either idiots or superhumanly good
  • Some glitches are a life-or-death matter
  • Non-sniper parts are rote and uninteresting

One of the things shooter fans have loved and hated about multiplayer in the Call Of Duty games is that, because it shows you who just killed you, it’s eliminated all camping. As a result, trying to be sneaky or a sniper in those games is pretty much moot. Sadly, if you’re looking at Sniper: Ghost Warrior and hoping it’s Modern Warfare for snipers or stealth fans, you’re half right and all wrong. Sure, that’s kind of what it’s trying to be, but it fails on so many levels, in some many ways, both deeply and subtly, that it ends up being nothing for no one.

Hey Man, Nice Shot

The set-up of Sniper is a pretty common one. There’ a fictional banana republic, a dictator who must be deposed and loyal soldiers who either don’t know or don’t care that they’re working for some jerk. Which gives you “just cause” — get it? — to come in and shoot up the place.

When it works, it works well. It’s deeply satisfying to sneak into an enemy encampment and stealthily take out all the guards before anyone knows you’re around, especially since your best kills are rewarded with a slo-mo “follow-the-bullet” cutscene of your precision shot. The game is also visually up to snuff, with foliage that’s as detailed and lush as the jungles seemed in the first Far Cry.

Much of your time is spent sneaking through bushes like a peeping tom. While most missions have you working from the insertion point to a predesignated spot where you’ll best be able to take out your target, others have you vandalizing private property, sneaking into an enemy’s base to steal some documents, and being a spotter for a fellow sniper. But since there are numerous bad guys who’d rather you didn’t shoot their boss, most missions also have you shooting anyone who gets in your way.

Despite the name, however, you don’t spend your entire time taking out high value targets from far away. Some missions are typical first-person shooter gunfights, like a certain contemporary combat game I’d rather not mention (again). But while these bits are the game’s least interesting, and least original moments -- the first has you storming a familiar-looking oil rig -- they’re also, thankfully, the least common.

Long Distance Runaround

Sadly, Sniper’s occasional lack of originality is the least of this game’s problems. As we said, when it works, it works well. It just doesn’t work as often as it should. As a stealth game, it’s a bit shallow. While you do crawl through the underbrush like whatshisname in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can’t use any kind of distraction techniques, or shoot out lights to create shadows you can hide in, like whosits in Splinter Cell.

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Not that it matters, since many of your enemies seem to be deaf and dumb. On several occasions I found myself being shot at by someone with a very loud machine gun, only to be ignored by his friends who were standing within earshot. I also saw an enemy gunned down by a coworker simply because he was standing between me and his colleague.What’s worse is that when they are competent workers, they’re model employees: they know exactly where you are, respond quickly, and use plenty of ammo.

The game also has some potentially fatal technical issues. If you pause the game while crouched or lying down, and then either hit the crouch button or the jump button to continue, you’ll actually stand up or jump, respectively, when the game resumes. That can be a real problem if you were kneeling or prone because there were enemies nearby.

There are also times when you get hung up on things you shouldn’t, like steps. The game also stutters when saving at a mid-mission checkpoint, and the frame rate is sometimes unstable. Clearly, Sniper needed more polish.

Then there’s the conceptual issues, the game’s internal struggle to be bring realism into the unrealistic genre of action games. This occurs specifically, and most significantly, with the sniping. When really shooting over long distances, snipers have to consider such variables as gravity, the wind, and their breathing. Sniper takes these into account by placing a red dot on your crosshairs to show where the bullet will actually go, since, because of those aforementioned variables, it might not be in the center.

But this realistic detail is countermanded by the ability to enact a temporary slo-mo mode, which lets you target more accurately. Other games with sniping have used something similar, letting you slow your breathing, but here it’s a Matrix-like time-altering mechanic that slows everything down. And while it works as advertised, it’s incongruous with the aspiring realism and, quite frankly, unnecessary, since holding your breath would work just as well.

Besides the story mode, the game has the requisite online multiplayer ones: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and V.I.P. But while they aren’t what you’d hoped for -- to be fair, some of the blame rests with the people playing. Camping and sniping are viable and practical, since there’s no killcam. But because your loadout also includes a silenced pistol and some grenades, the ideal of stalking your prey and laying in wait for them is somewhat nullified. Or at least it was with most of the people I played with, since they acted like this was a runnin’ and gunnin’ kind of thing.

Snipe Hunt

As with so many games that start off with great ideas (I’m looking at you, Metro 2033 and at you, Darkest Of Days), Sniper: Ghost Warrior doesn’t live up to its own ambitions. What should’ve been an interesting mix of two solid genres, first-person shooting and stealth action, instead ends up being shallow mish-mash of both thanks to a lack of polish, poor A.I., and other issues that could’ve -- nay, should’ve -- been avoided.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?