PS3 Review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior



Not every game is a revolutionary masterpiece. That’s not a bad thing either; there’s countless hours of genuine entertainment to be found in those numerous games that come along with simple intentions and humble aspirations, just focusing on just being a solid, fun title. Sniper: Ghost Warrior does exactly that, and when it’s playing to the strengths of its particular niche (that of the sniping game), it delivers plenty of tense, entertaining gameplay with a stack of fun ideas and style. Unfortunately, when it veers away from sniping mechanics to focus on running and gunning, it bites off more than it can chew and shines a light on some glitchy design problems and wonky AI.

As the ‘does what it says on the tin’ title suggests, Sniper: Ghost Warrior is all about creeping around, finding opportune vantage points to take aim on some unfortunate communist lackey and stealthily put a high calibre round in their noggin. The plot is generic military shooter fare: An evil rebel leader needs relieving of his life, and since Tom Berenger and Billy Zane are busy, you’re the sniper sent behind enemy lines to nudge the gears of political stability along with the aid of a high-powered rifle. It’s nothing too riveting, but it sets the stage for some engaging sniping gameplay.
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Once you’re up on high with an enemy in your sights, the game’s pretty fantastic and the sniping mechanics intuitive and challenging. Aim is affected by the wind, your heartbeat and breath, so lining up shots and focusing your breathing to accurately take people down – especially multiple targets in quick succession – can be a tense experience. Landing a killshot is immensely satisfying, too, and only made more fun by the stylish bullet cam that the game rewards you with, tracing the bullet in super-slow-motion from the barrel of your gun to its blood-spraying destination in your enemy’s head. Despite getting used a lot throughout the game, the bullet cam headshots never get old, and fill you with a disconcertingly giddy sense of accomplishment that really shouldn’t come with blowing a guy’s face off. The game looks great too; it’s no system-strainer, but it’s no slouch either, and offers some attractive, detailed jungle environments.

There’s an amazing slice of variety to the sniping at times, too. A later level sees you switching roles and acting as spotter for your sniping partner. You’ll be given binoculars rather than a rifle, and will have to scour the landscape for enemies, pulling the right trigger to mark them as targets for your buddy to take down. Even without gun in hand, there’s a great sense of satisfaction to these moments and it’s great to see a side of the sniping dynamic that rarely gets covered in first person shooters. It’s a shame that acting as spotter is restricted to a single level, but it’s great all the same, and there are plenty of thrilling sniping set-pieces dotted throughout. When the game is focusing on those, Ghost Warrior is incredibly fun.
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Then there’s the opposite side of the equation, when the developers seem to lose either interest or faith in the game’s concept. In a game that focuses predominantly on sniping, it’s odd that such a large portion of the game is spent sprinting around on the ground getting up close and personal with pistol and grenades in hand as you make your way to vantage points, or find yourself on the more beneficial end of a mounted gun. It’s intended to add variety, but these sections often prove tiresome as they lose sight of the game’s strengths and expose Ghost Warrior’s more glaring glitches and design issues.

The need to be stealthy in an action game can provide an entertaining, challenging diversion from run-and-gun chaos when complimented by smart enemy AI or multiple avenues of completion. Ghost Warrior doesn’t really boast either. If you’re spotted once, opposing soldiers spontaneously develop psychic powers and will omnisciently know where you are at all times, even if you remain out of sight and sneak to another position. Some early levels seem to pointlessly demand a particular order in which to kill your enemies – diverge from that order and alarms will get raised, whether anyone saw the kill or not.
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Things get even more frustrating later on. One level sees you sneaking out of an enemy camp through a gap in a fence, and when a scripted alarm goes off and fire starts raining down, you’ll need to high-tail it across a field strewn with points of cover. Though it doesn’t tell you outright, the game wants you to run without pausing until you reach a hilltop gun nest. If you follow your common sense and instinct and stop along the way to take cover, the game will take this as a personal insult and punish you accordingly. Even though you’re out of the line of fire of all enemies and entirely protected by impenetrable cover two feet thick without an enemy in sight, bullets will somehow teleport themselves into your flesh, logistics and physics be damned.

The PS3 version, which arrives a while after the PC and 360 incarnations boasts new single player ‘Challenge Missions’ to beef up the campaign considerable and give the game even more longevity, though these missions are considerable tougher than the main game. There’s also a solid multiplayer option which offers up to 12 player battles and the standard play modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and V.I.P.) and a few difficulty tweaks (you can choose to have all players visible on the radar, which kind of defeats the purpose of a stealth sniping game). The fact that there’s no ‘Sniper & Spotter’ team mode is an unfortunate missed opportunity, though.

While it falls apart to a large degree when it strays from the up-on-high sniping set-pieces, when it plays to its strengths, it’s a tremendously fun game with some great, tense action and well-tuned gameplay mechanics. Thankfully there’s plenty of that to be found, leaving Sniper: Ghost Warrior an unfortunately flawed but undeniably fun and incredibly worthwhile budget shooter once you get through the lesser moments.

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Sniper: Ghost Warrior is available to buy on PS3 in the UK now.
Click here to order the game from Amazon.co.uk