Few games have had a service record as erratic as Sniper: Ghost Warrior. Within hours of receiving a review copy in late June, the publisher asked if I could hold our review until the game was properly patched. While this tactic isn’t unusual (a number of PR agencies have made a similar request) the end result certainly was. Unlike previous experiences, this title update significantly improved the overall quality of the game. Whereas the pre-patched Ghost Warrior was mired in frustrating mechanics, enough changes were made to allow the game’s visceral interior to sporadically shine through.
Regrettably, no improvements were made to the title’s skeletal narrative, which follows the pursuit of a Latin American dictator after a bungled assassination attempt. While both the storyline and dialog lack originality, the game attempts to keep the action from becoming tedious. Beyond the requisite long-range ballistic delivery, gamers will also be sent on stealth missions as well as simple run-and gun operations. It’s unfortunate that none of these divergent assignments measure up to the exhilaration found in the game’s sniping segments. Allowing marksmen to survey the landscape for an ideal hide site, then dropping a handful of scurrying targets is undeniably thrilling- especially when players are rewarded with a grisly slow-motion head shot.
Before the recent patch, enemy perception was uncanny, allowing antagonists to detect the player with ease. Once gamers were located, foes armed with standard sub-machine guns peppered protagonists with fire, whittling away their heath bar. Now, Sniper: Ghost Warrior‘s artificial intelligence has been tuned so that opponents no longer have super-human vision or accuracy. As such, the title has become more enjoyable, allowing gamers to take diversionary excursions around each lush locale, as they hunt their human prey.
It’s too bad these thrilling expeditions still sporadically come to a screeching halt. Occasionally, the game fails to convey the magnitude of a situation. Taking cover after dropping two enemy snipers, the game expected me to eradicate a new target. By the time I peered over the safety of an embankment, Ghost Warrior had sent me to the ‘mission fail’ screen. More often, these abrupt game terminations are initiated by being spotted during the aforementioned stealth sequences. While stealth is an undeniable attribute in any sniper’s repertoire, its representation here is lackluster. Skulking through vision-obscuring patches of vegetation generates neither suspense nor gratification.
A stronger portrayal of a marksman’s minutiae can be found in the game’s difficulty settings. While the easy and medium levels offer a convenient sighting aid to assist players in procuring distant kills, no much help is offered on the highest level challenge. Here, players are compelled to use their mil-dot scope to gauge distance, as well as take into account wind and elevation. It’s a mechanic rarely seen on consoles (save, Namco’s Sniper Elite), and serves to elevate Ghost Warrior above the common first-person shooter.
Beyond the game’s core campaign, the title offers three multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, as well as a VIP variant. Compared to other console competitions, matches are deliberate, as players creep to elevated positions, and then scan the map for targets. As such, games can last for an full hour, which might place Ghost Warrior‘s contests beyond the tolerance level of those seeking a swift ‘shoot and scoot’.
While a post-release patch is preferable to allowing a flawed title perish, this method introduces new problems. I can’t help but feel for valiant day-one purchasers, who might have sold Sniper: Ghost Warrior after experiencing the game’s initial annoyances. Fortunately, owners who endured the wait as well as new purchasers, will be able to experience the game which City Interactive originally intended. Despite a few lingering blemishes, the title does a decent job at allowing players to step into the well-worn boots of a eagle-eyed scout/sniper.