E3 2011 – Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Preview

The original Ghost Warrior was a budget title that managed to both underwhelm and disappoint. Clunky controls, sporadic A.I., and regular clipping issues held the first Sniper from surpassing mediocrity. The team at En Masse is hoping to change all that early next year with Ghost Warrior 2.

Powered by the CryEngine 3, Sniper looks really pretty. The playthrough I viewed was still in the early stages so graphical issues were definitely present. But putting those aside it’s easy to see that the team has thoroughly rethought their graphical intents. I was told to expect locations such as Bosnia, arctic mountains, and jungle locales.

During my private meeting two levels were demonstrated. The first was a daytime level in the Himalayas. The architecture and scenery is an amalgamation of real-world areas within that region. The graphic design is focused more on creating something visually interesting and less on replicating realism. While foliage showed significant pixelation and particle effects were still flat, there was a distinct water effect demonstrated on the camera. Though it looked to me like Vaseline had been greased over the world it had certainly been given a lot of attention, just as the architecture and weapons had.

The guns demonstrated looked sturdy and weighted, adorned with the myriad of dials that accompany real life sniper rifles. Aiming down the sights revealed a red dot on the target that often did not correlate with the center of the reticle. It represented the actual place the bullet would land when factored by wind and heartbeat. I asked about its inclusion and was told that it is a feature only available when playing on easy. Advanced players will need to take external factors into account on their own, but there was currently no means of determining this as of yet (Sniper 1 displayed wind direction and a heart rate meter).

After sniping his first target my guide took cover against a wall and switched to his knife. It was noted that while this moment was scripted, melee combat could be used anytime when appropriate. As expected, two guards walked past and were quickly given the point.

Around the next bend the player found himself challenged by the spotter to take out two enemies with one shot. As luck (or scripting) would have it, there just happened to be two tangos standing next to each other. Though the move was obvious, watching a bullet pierce through one enemy’s head only to lodge itself in the heart of another is darkly satisfying.

Moving on the team reached the courtyard of a temple’s ruins. A gunship suddenly appears and lets a pair of missles loose into a nearby wall, sending the player flying. Once recovered, the duo made a run for a derelict tower, dodging the chopper’s machine gun fire. At the top of the tower the player was instructed to take out the pilot – a task that proved quite impressive and, I suspect, feels very rewarding to achieve.

After this the player splits off from the accompanying spotter to take separate vantage points on the next two targets. Once an aim was obtained the spotter counted down from three and they initiated a synchronized execution of their targets. When asked about co-op the demonstrator was tight-lipped but said with a smile, “That’s a good idea”.

The second demo level was still in the Himalayas, but at night. There wasn’t much of note to see except for the thermal goggles that proved effective over an absurd range. Another gunship appeared proving that, apparently, helicopters truly are the antagonists of snipers.

The first thing that I immediately noticed about my time watching Sniper 2 was the absence of “standard” gun play – SMG’s, combat rifles, etc. These other weapons had been available in the original game but, like the rest of the title, were not considered to be of any real quality. Fortunately, En Masse has taken this criticism to heart and chosen to focus entirely on stealth sniping and melee combat. They were quick to remark, however, that they had many ways to fluctuate the pace and tempo of the game to keep things interesting. They’ve given themselves a challenge in this regard, but I respect their willingness to acknowledge a shortcoming and make the decision to focus their attention on the core mechanics of the game. It seems that all around they’ve been listening to the feedback of players and are trying to craft a truly worthwhile sequel. And I think they might just be on to something.

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