Sniper: Ghost Warrior follows the tale of a special ops team sent to a fictional Latin American country to help local rebels restore their recently overthrown government by eliminating...some baddies. Short of reading the grammatically challenging loading screens, you’re unlikely to get much more detail than that. The majority of the campaign has the player take of the role of sniper extraordinaire Sergeant Tyler Wells whose role in the proceedings is a mix of long-range sniper combat and vegetation molesting espionage.
Sniping takes the centre stage here and is, initially, quite fun. The crosshairs take into account bullet-drop and wind and, on the default difficulty, feature a red circle that highlights exactly where your bullet will travel in relation to the centre of your scope. Headshots are also rewarded with a slow-motion camera that follows your spinning bullet all the way to its bloody destination (think Fallout 3’s VAT feature). Wells’ arsenal is rounded off with a silenced pistol for dispatching foes at close range, throwing knives for those who have somehow run out of ammunition and grenades – not entirely sure what those were for.
So where does it all go wrong? Sniper is truly a test of patience and, by the time you’ve completed the first ‘stealth’ mission, even the most hardened of sadists may wince at the thought of another. Several sections are coupled with the caveat that detection equals instant failure. This would be manageable if the AI wasn’t equipped with some sort of alien sensory technology that instantly detects you from 500 metres away at seemingly random intermissions. Furthermore, the game’s radar consistently throws up anomalies often incorrectly indicating the direction a guard is facing or even negating to acknowledge their existence altogether when they’re quite clearly standing 2 feet away from you. Granted, these maddening flaws do turn what should be 10 minute levels into 30 minute long adventures of trial and, mostly, error.
Even the bog-standard sniper missions fall prey to the most school-boy of issues. Various geometry inconsistencies and invisible walls often mean you’ll have to wait for the AI to shift itself to a new position before you can actually hit them - naturally their pinpoint accuracy and god-like vision means they can still happily take you down with their machine gun from distance while you wait. Poorly implemented lighting effects also mask the muzzle flashes of enemy guns in daytime levels which leaves you totally lost as to where that elusive final enemy is hiding.
There are some sections of the game that allow for some more traditional FPS action. Some of the longer missions see you covering the Delta Force team from afar whilst they battle on foot but then periodically you swap the player’s role and put you directly into the firefight. Although these sections are fairly short lived and don’t feature any particularly impressive set-pieces, they’re a welcome break from the monotony and frustration of the rest of the game.
Admittedly, the 6-8 hour long campaign is peppered with a few nice ideas that demonstrate that, perhaps with a larger budget, City Interactive has the potential to produce something far more memorable. One particular mission in the final act sees you and your AI partner stealthily navigate the rooftops of an urban area patrolled by group of enemies. However, unlike earlier sections, it’s up to you to scout and mark the targets in an appropriate order to help guide your partner safely through the level. This pseudo logic challenge not only displays one of the few instances where the AI actually works, it also provides a rare feeling of true dominance and control that the game strives to permeate so often.
Another note-worthy piece of design is arguably lifted from the Call of Duty series but, in many ways, works better in this title – the first person chase sequence. Several of the ‘stealth’ missions task you with infiltrating and navigating an enemy base or camp undetected in order to obtain some sort of classified document but, rather than having you sneak all the way back out, you’re often left to race back to your extraction point after being spotted in a cutscene. Providing the first section hasn’t left you wanting to slowly carve a bloody chasm into your wrist with the games manual, this blend of 10 minutes of tension to a climactic 2 minute burst of adrenaline is fantastic.
The Chrome 4 engine struggles noticeably throughout. The frame-rate chugs even when there’s relatively little happening on screen and screen-tearing is unavoidably prevalent. Audio also cuts out altogether for brief periods for no obvious reason. Sniper’s multi-player component is a totally sub-standard and uninspired affair that, as one would probably expect, pretty much consists of 12 players lying in corners waiting for someone to foolishly move or worse, spawn in the open.
Although, not deserving of total damnation, Sniper: Ghost Warrior is riddled with flaws and, even as a budget title, only just about warrants the weekend rental recommendation for those really short of something to play.