BEING a sniper is one of those things that is perfect video game fodder yet is so rarely done well.
CI Games have certainly had more than a few shots at the target with their Sniper series of games, and the latest entry, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is a lot closer to the mark, even though it’s still got some flyers bringing down the overall score.
I was mostly underwhelmed by the previous entry in the series, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, so am very pleased to say the sequel is a lot better. It’s still not a perfect game, but it’s a much more enjoyable experience that captured the feeling of being a precision long-range marksman far better than its predecessor.
This time around, you play an operative codenamed “Raven” who appears to be an ex-US military sniper (judging by his accent), contracted by a mysterious organisation with a geopolitical agenda and guided to your objectives by a British handler on the other end of the radio.
The game is set in the fictional Middle Eastern Republic Of Kuamar, whose despotic leaders have attracted the displeasure of said geopolitically involved organisation, and you’ve been called in to invoke Rule .303 on anyone involved in keeping the regime in power.
One of my criticisms of the previous game was that the shooting distances were too short, and this has been rectified in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, with some levels involving shots taken at distances of more than 1.3km.
At those distances, regardless of the calibre of rifle, wind and bullet drop are significant factors, and pulling off shots with precision requires a lot of skill, both in real life and in the game.
The game has a mixture of traditional sandbox levels where it’s you, your rifle, and it’s up to you to make your way around the area to complete the objectives, and some long range contracts where you’re positioned in a smaller area (such as a mountain plateau) and the focus is on picking off targets with precision from extreme range.
I really enjoyed the long-range contracts in the game, especially the ones that went beyond “Shoot this guy and run away before anyone works out where the bullet came from” – some of them, for example, required shooting electrical panels to short them out, causing an enemy to come out of a previously locked room, enabling you to A) shoot them and B) shoot an objective in the previously locked room.
The game looks absolutely incredible, thanks partly to the CryEngine engine that developers CI have used. I was running the game on a Nvida RTX 3070 with all the settings maxed out (the game is also available on Xbox Series X/S and PS4) and it was running beautifully and providing some really impressive effects, from reflections on metal surfaces (including the bullet jacketing) to explosions, blowing dust, and muzzle flash from firearms.
The plot is pretty thin and while it has pretensions of a kind of Hitman-like mystery to it, it’s effectively an exuse to introduce a lot of people to the spitzer end of a .338 Lapua Magnum projectile.
The enemy AI was absolutely atrocious in my experience, no matter what difficulty level you are playing on. Even at higher difficulty levels, if they spot you, they will simply make a beeline for your position, allowing you to pick them off with either your sniper rifle or secondary firearms as they come at you like goons in a B-grade action film; the ever-increasing pile of bodies is apparently not a cue for them to change their tactics.
It was so bad in some instances it was actually better for me (from a difficulty point of view) to fire a deliberate distraction shot into explosive petrol drums or whatever and just pick off the enemies as they ran out to attack me, obligingly coming at me in more or less single file.
I was also surprised at the accuracy of some of the return fire, given how far away I was from the target. There is absolutely no way a random soldier with a Kalashnikov fitted with iron sights (or even a red dot sight) could possibly hope to hit a trained sniper wearing camouflage and hood more than 1km away.
While the main way to find enemies is to tag them with binoculars, you can also sneak up on enemy soldiers, grab them, and interrogate them to reveal the locations of their comrades. Unfortunately, after you’ve done that, you dispatch them in bloody fashion with a combat knife – even if they’ve co-operated and are asking you not to kill them. I really would have liked a non-lethal option to incapacitate enemies who weren’t my primary target. After all, my character is supposed to be a professional sniper/assassin, not a one-man army intent on wiping out the country’s entire military single-handed.
You have access to a range of special equipment, including a drone, EMP grenades, and a remote turret – and you don’t really need any of it. Most of the maps are covered with “Anti-drone towers” which prevent you from deploying the drone, EMP grenades are only useful against sentry gun turrets (which are easy to sneak around) and the remote sniper rifle seems like a cool idea, but it’s not suppressed so whenever you fire it, all the enemies hear it and come running – and sometimes it just won’t fire at targeted enemies, claiming the shot is obstructed when it isn’t.
The kill-cams which trigger when you pull off a shot are pretty cool (although they’re also pretty gruesome, with exploding heads and brain matter going everywhere – fortunately that can be turned off) but they’re not enough to hold an entire game together on their own.
Overall I thought Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 was a competent sniper game, but still not quite up to the same level as Sniper Elite 4. The non-sniping shooting parts are pretty uninspired at best, and mostly underdeveloped, which is a shame because there’s a lot of potential here that just hasn’t come together as effectively as it could.
The game is a marked improvement on its predecessor and will be a lot of fun for gamers looking for a “slow-mo blowing generic baddies’ heads apart at range” simulator, but it lacks the complexity and endless rewardliness of the Hitman games (which, ironically, don’t tend to involve using sniper rifles much).
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 isn’t a must-buy at the moment – but keep your scope zeroed for it on sale down the track.