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Precision, stealth, and timing are the essential traits of a sniper. One mistake can mean the difference between life and death, and knowing when to pull the trigger can determine whether a mission is a success or a failure. There's no margin for error. Developer GI Games attempts to simulate the pressure of being a real-life marksman in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, bringing players to exotic locations to take down global threats with a single shot rather than a barrage of gunfire and grenades. But while this long-range, FPS strikes the nail on the head with its sniping mechanics, it misses its target entirely when it comes to creating an overall engaging experience.
In Ghost Warrior 2, you take on the role of mercenary sniper Cole Anderson as he works with the CIA to stop a biological weapons dealer. The story takes you through dramatic twists and turns, flashbacks, betrayals, and contrived plot devices like keeping the protagonist on a need-to-know basis. The narrative passes as a decent excuse to shoot terrorists in the head for a few hours, but the characters' cringe-worthy dialogue and overly grizzled voice-acting makes paying attention almost unbearable. The mission commander--who orders you around over the radio during missions--in particular is angry to the point of being comedic. Almost every time characters open their mouth, they take you out of the immersion, turning an otherwise passable shooter story into a goofy distraction.
Corny dialogue isn't the only fault you'll find in Ghost Warrior 2. The visuals don't do much to help keep players focused on the mission at hand. Textures are often blurry up close and pop-in far too regularly when peering down your sniper scope. On top of that, enemies and characters look bland and have robotic animations that don't even remotely resemble trained, military soldiers. When compared to the motion-captured animations of other modern shooters, watching the characters in Ghost Warrior 2 feels like you've stepped into the 3D animation Stone Age.
The 6- to 8-hour campaign has few high points and rarely features any memorable set pieces. The missions take you through a series of sneaking and sniping sections in environments like the present day Philippine jungle and the war-torn city of Sarajevo during the early 1990s. The action is slow-paced, with mission paths that are incredibly straightforward and linear. Breadcrumb objective markers guide you every step of the way. They take all the fun out of sneaking through enemy-infested battlegrounds, leaving you without the ability to discover your own path through an enemy compound. Instead, every stealth kill and hidden path is neatly laid out in front of you, making levels feel like a guided tour.
If Ghost Warrior 2 excels in one aspect, it's the sniping mechanics. With every shot you take, you'll have to compensate for a number of factors, including bullet drop, travel time (when aiming at moving targets), and wind speed. Your posture (crouched, prone, or standing) and heart-rate, as well as how slowly you physically pull the controller's trigger, also affect each shot. All of these elements combine to make a realistic-feeling sniper experience every time you set up your bipod and aim down the scope. It's extremely satisfying when you correctly line up a shot or take down an entire guard patrol without raising an alarm. On top of that, the camera will occasionally follow your bullet from the end of your barrel to the terrorist's cranium in slow-motion, rewarding you even more for your precision.
Ghost Warrior 2 also accommodates those who don't want to calculate every trigger pull by providing a helpful red-dot bullet-impact indicator to get you through engagements. On easy and medium difficulties, a red dot in your scope shows where the bullet will hit, essentially doing all the math for you--which comes as a relief at excessively long ranges. This simplifies each engagement significantly--which is great for players with a little less patience--but those who want a true sniping challenge will find that wiping all assists clear on the hard difficulty is the most satisfying experience.
Outside the single-player campaign, the multiplayer offering is incredibly disappointing. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 drops its competitive mode in with the bare minimum of features. Team Deathmatch is the only match type, which has a measly two maps to duel other snipers online. The action is (once again) slow-paced, so instead of running-and-gunning, you'll have to strategically move about the map to get the best vantage point on other players. The hide-and-seek game is initially entertaining, but once you score a few kills on each of the two maps, you've essentially seen everything there is to see.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 misses its mark when it comes to being an overall fulfilling sniper experience. All of the sniper mechanics that go into making a precise, one-shot-kill shooter create some thrilling moments as you play through the campaign. However, everything surrounding the long-range shooting makes this far from a satisfying experience. The muddy visuals, cheesy dialogue, predictable level design, and lacking multiplayer leaves plenty to be desired.