City Interactive – Sniper: Ghost Warrior review

rather flawed shooter which explores the art of sniping
Photo of City Interactive – Sniper: Ghost Warrior

Compensate for the wind… inhale slowly… exhale slowly… squeeze gently… having a dump in the woods is no laughing matter, and then you’ve got to find something to wipe yourself with. Luckily, as a sniper you’ll have a handy bunch of absorbent yet strong leaves already attached to your helmet.

Ghost Warrior places you in the role of a highly trained marksman who can fire long distances from a concealed position, using a scope and high powered rifle to take out infantrymen who can’t even see him.

Hence the Ghost Warrior moniker, a hidden shadow who dispenses lead justice with a penchant for head-shots. At least, that’s the theory. Unfortunately, the enemy infantry in City Interactive’s first-person shooter seem to have been equipped with assault rifles that can match the player’s range. And they can spot you, unerringly at times, even when you’re crouching in the middle of a thick bush (wondering why you ever signed up to the US Marines with Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

And these enemies are accurate to a punishing extent even on the medium skill level. During one scene, where we had to ambush a convoy of soldiers from atop a nearby cliff, when they began to return fire they completely pinned us down. Wherever we stuck our head out a little to try and aim at them, a veritable hail of highly accurate gunfire forced us to quickly duck back down lest our health was torn to shreds.

Ghost Warrior is a traditional stealth and snipe shooter, set in the South American jungle. Of course, the harsh level of enemy accuracy is designed to encourage you to sneak slowly into the perfect position to make your kills. The patient player prospers here, and there’s also a tool to help facilitate quick multiple executions; a limited amount of slow-motion bullet time. But still, the lopsided range and accuracy mechanics do grate when things inevitably go wrong on occasion. That’s when you end up with a bunch of alerted enemies pelting your position with heavy fire from their automatic weapons which are magically every bit as accurate as your scoped rifle.

The difficulty level does self balance itself out somewhat in another way, but unfortunately, it’s not a very satisfying one. Namely, our old drooling friend, erratic enemy AI. Some soldiers will just stand there as you take pot-shots at them. On a number of occasions, we walked right up to frozen enemies to just pop them in the head point-blank with a pistol. However, our favourite lobotomised guerilla moment was the two guys having a conversation across a camp fire. We shot one, he hit the floor, and his friend continued to argue with his corpse, as if nothing had happened.

This isn’t the only rough edge Ghost Warrior has, either. There are some clipping problems (which admittedly can be handy when an enemy head appears through a wall), and the scenery does a good job of making a nuisance of itself. Little flat rocks which look like they should be easily traversable require walking round or jumping onto, for example, which just niggles.

Thus far we’ve been pretty negative, but there is one thing the game gets right, and that’s the actual art of sniping. When you’re staring down the scope, the wind and distance to your target also has an effect on your shot, so it won’t land quite at the centre of the sight’s cross-hairs. Even your breathing and heart-rate matters, so if you’ve just been running hell for leather through the undergrowth, taking precise aim is quite tricky. All this is commendably realistic, although to prevent it being overwhelming, unless the game is set to hard difficulty, aiming guidance is provided in the form of a red dot to show the actual landing spot of your bullet.

While this might sound like it could make sniping too easy, there’s still an art to judging when the at-times swiftly moving red dot is in position for that perfect head-shot. Speaking of which, when you score a forehead bullseye, Ghost Warrior cuts away to a third-person cinematic scene which follows the bullet through the air, and then through the enemy’s skull, a satisfying reward for a carefully aimed kill. As a bonus, and another slight leveller on the difficulty front, you can sometimes spot the position of other troops during these cut-scenes.

City Interactive has attempted to spice the levels up a bit, introducing some more action packed levels which don’t revolve around sneaking and hiding, such as an assault on an oil rig. These add a little variety, but in some ways they only highlight exactly how linear the game is, with only one channelled path through the rig and the dreaded invisible barriers to stop you from going anywhere else. The campaign’s storyline isn’t particularly imaginative or coherent, either, and there are no between-mission extras on offer such as selecting your equipment before a level.

Ghost Warrior does come with online play options, although not a huge range of them. There’s straight deathmatch, team deathmatch and a VIP mode. The latter is essentially a variant of deathmatch where one player, who’s marked out on the radar, is the VIP and gets bonus points for his kills. Whoever kills the VIP becomes the new Very Important Person, with the resulting score boost. The old VIP becomes a VDP (Very Dead Person).

The multiplayer is much, as you’d expect, involving a lot of sneaking around, hiding in dark corners and peering out of windows. When you’re forced to move across open terrain, it’s wise to swerve and jump like a madman in an effort to put off the aim of the inevitable snipers targeting you. One aspect that comes to the fore during online bouts is the game’s excellent sound, which is slick in terms of the directional pin-pointing of players, and letting you know how close an enemy is from the volume of their gunfire or footsteps. There aren’t a huge amount of maps with just the six, but they are custom built for multiplayer, and this is a decent enough online effort with a largely lag-free playing experience.

Company: City Interactive

While Sniper: Ghost Warrior simulates sniping with some authenticity, it falls down considerably on the realism levels elsewhere. The enemy can fire their assault rifles with withering accuracy equal to your sniper scope (that's when they're not standing around frozen). The campaign and level design is also disappointingly linear and rather unimaginative. The online play is reasonable, though, and if they can pick this up cheaply enough, those addicted to the patient art of sniping might be able to eke out some hours of enjoyment here.