Sniper: Ghost Warrior review

Not exactly a new game, Sniper: Ghost Warrior came out a year ago on Xbox 360 and PC, and it was initially a buggy mess. Over the last year those versions have gotten patches and additional content, all of which have been included in the new PS3 version, along with some PS3-exclusive additions. If you’re wondering how we felt about the 360 version you can find ithere. How we feel about the PS3 version is certainly a bit happier, but not by too much. Despite a year’s time for polishing, Sniper on PS3 is still a buggy, unfinished game, which is baffling for something that still costs forty bucks – yeah, that may count as budget, but it’s not budget enough for what you get.

Above: Okay, we don’t know what they did to these screenshots, but the game does NOT look this good in motion

It’s really too bad that the game’s execution is what it is, because in its best moments it reveals the seed of a great idea: an entire game built around sniping. It’s almost pornographic in its lustful embrace of all things involving huge scoped guns and the enormous bullets said guns ejaculate, and frankly we have no problem with that whatsoever – obsessions can be beautiful things. Again, that’s why we wish we didn’t have to talk about all the parts of the game that are objectively terrible – we wish we could say Sniper is an immaculately-penned love letter to sniping. Instead, it’s a hastily scribbled note with obvious good intentions.

One of the biggest problems of the game’s initial release was the existence of supernaturally aware AI who could detect you hiding across the map and then snipe you in two shots with a pistol. The PS3 version does indeed remedy that problem (mostly). In what seems to be a bit of overkill, though, the game has turned the dial from “psychic,” well past “human,” and wandered into the territory of “functionally brain-dead.” It’s not consistent, though: sometimes you can pop a dude’s head with a non-silenced rifle that sounds like God farting and the victim’s homies will crouch down and look around cluelessly, never bothering to head for cover. Occasionally the AI will become ultra-wise and figure shit out way too easily, becoming reminiscent of its pre-patched behavior, but this happens not too often. The game shifts wildly between a cakewalk and a naked sprint through hell.

It’s also still obnoxiously buggy and unnecessarily restricted in its design, even after a year of supposed polishing. We got stuck on all kinds of geometry. We died after falling literally three feet down a ledge. In one section we couldn’t get the stupid grappling hook to descend after multiple attempts. Enemies sometimes appear out of thin air, or even disappear. Perhaps most shockingly, because we’ve never seen this in a shooter before, a handful of times the fire button stopped working. One of our favorites, which happened multiple times, was when we sniped two guys in the middle of their conversation and the dialogue just kept playing, long after they died.

Above: With your spotter present it almost always has a whiff of Modern Warfare’s ghillie suit mission

As for design restrictions: we have no idea why the level designers did this, but there are arbitrary, invisible barriers you can’t cross or you immediately have five (five!) seconds to return or you die. Okay, fine, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but then the game presents you with seemingly intentionally designed alternate paths that when explored trigger the “Get back in your area!” warning. The whole point of the game is to be sneaky and find cool sniping spots, but then it punishes you for trying to be creative – and it’s especially weird because beyond the instant-death border you can clearly see large areas of the level that some designer built, and which will sadly never see a player’s feet step upon them.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior, despite being quite terrible in many ways, is also sometimes awesome. Simply going into scoped view feels perfect: your character’s breathing becomes amplified, you can see your heartbeat readout, and the reticle sways realistically with your breaths. And of course there’s the headshot cam, which shows the bullet sliding almost sexually from your gun barrel and then soaring across the landscape in all its death-delivering glory before perforating some chump’s dome. Really, this feature alone makes the game worth playing, although it would need to be cheaper to truly justify it. Also, when the bugs and AI don’t get in the way, sneaking through foliage and popping skulls one after another can make you feel like the deity of long-range mortality.

Above: Creeping around does frequently make you feel badass

If a sniper-centric multiplayer game sounds really appealing to you and you don’t care about single-player, well you get to avoid this game’s biggest faults; in which case, have no fear in picking this up other than the warning that there might not be enough people playing online. As a single-player experience, it’s mostly humdrum, frequently irritating, but also sometimes pretty damn cool. It’s certainly budget in its lack of polish and its brevity (even with the additional PS3-specific missions added it totaled to barely five hours), so if you really, really have a hard-on for sniping you’ll be able to wring some fun from this, but you’ll have to swallow some crap along the way.

Jun 30, 2011

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