Know who benefits from hidden, mercenary driven war? Ski mask manufacturers. In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, everyone except narrative critical characters wear one, hiding identities on cloned models and keeping nationality indistinct. This is America versus RussIrafghanastan. Hoo ra.
Something something Siberian bioweapon fuels the need for two snipers, one a pure bred American Cole Anderson taken hold of by the player. With inconceivable accuracy and uncanny ability to crouch through AI enemy forces undetected, Anderson is right for the job. His trek is charted over the course of 20 years, oddly no one aging a day. Locations spread the globe for a peek at Tibet and other locations most people cannot find on a map.
This is, to its credit, a booming sequel. While the first game was shackled with its budget-driven status, the follow-up douses the visuals with CryEngine 3 and cinematics lay claim to their production value. Jungles, mountains, and ruins are sharply rendered, plus conveniently laid out as if ancient civilizations knew of their eventual use.
Patience is rewarded, Ghost Warrior praising a player who waits in position for the right shot, even if the canned routines set the stage automatically. Part stealth and part puzzle that involves dead bodies, situations never change, only their set-ups. Few hitches will crop up to break the eventually passe methodology used to craft the level design. Certain soldiers always exist on an open peak overlooking the battlefield, others bunch together to draw excitement from multi-kill, one shot bullet routines.
Ghost Warrior’s problems always revolve around its restrictiveness, unable to break away from set paths that are so obvious as to mire the tension. Do not take that as definitive; the very idea of being under the sight with the risk of being caught is genuine. Rarely are mistakes allowed without immediate repercussions. That all becomes sapped when an AI partner misses a cue, or the player takes too many steps ahead, breaking the designed pathway. It either glitches, preventing progress all together, or awkwardly plays catch-up with stumbling dialogue.
Most of these levels, split across three acts, are sprawling. Many can take upwards of an hour in the first half, the second more expedient with regards to chopping up the mission structure. Checkpoints are awkward, recycling cinematics or high action instead of a sniping drop point. This is not a lengthy title, low on resources but making up for it with a purposefully deliberate pacing that make it seem beefier in the value department. Checkpoints with the attitude of tossing the player in reverse only push things further.
This is a general sniping challenge. There are a handful of rifles, although in actual execution they feel identical. A nice conceptual break within the design is the strength of the trigger pull: Tighter pulls create forceful kickback, and a steadier trigger with less pressure keeps a stable scope.
Ghost Warrior renders assault rifles and such for enemies or AI counterparts, but never places one in the hands of Anderson. His sidearm is the only break from the scope. Copying rival Sniper Elite, a bullet camera will signal a final kill in each area, although without the gruesome body piercing effect. However, shots bearing down on an opposing gunman’s face in slow motion are unnerving; those are his final milliseconds of conscious thought barbarically celebrated.
Just for the sake of completion, Ghost Warrior 2 does have multiplayer (and a shooting gallery side challenge doubling as training), but on all of two maps and in all of one mode, team deathmatch. It is as expected, opposing snipers vying for prime visual position on basic landscapes. The lack of content will be detrimental to the community, assuming one even forms. Lobbies were barren during the review process, so maybe ski mask manufacturers will have to take a pay cut.