Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 Might Actually Be Good
Sniper: Ghost Warrior was one of those interesting instances in which negative critical acclaim and healthy sales were not mutually exclusive. Criticized for linear levels, boring run and gun portions, and a famously difficult AI that gave NPCs wielding assault rifles and pistols greater accuracy from huge distances than someone using a sniper rifle, it seemed destined to be one of those great ideas that stuttered and flamed out. Except it more than 2 million copies, quite a coup for a developer from Poland with a sizable expansion but a reputation for making games like Chicken Riot and Farm Frenzy, trying to break into the overcrowded market for shooters. Obviously, that called for a sequel.
The sequel, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is set to launch March 12 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Subject to numerous delays (it was originally planned for last August), the dev team has a lot to prove, particularly since the game isn’t being as heavily marketed as one might expect. In advance of the release, the team from CI Games, including SGW2 producer Michael Sroczynski, gathered for a round table call with members of the video gaming press to talk about their game, and Game Front was on the case. While the whys and wherefores of the game weren’t answered as completely as they could have been due to the limitations of the roundtable experience, what was revealed during the call suggests that Ghost Warrior 2 might end up being what it was hoped the first game would have been.
First and foremost, about those delays. When asked why Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 has been pushed back twice, CI Games was quick to kibosh any suggestion of turmoil behind the scenes. The delays were decided on because the game wasn’t ready; rushing it out to meet a release date would, they said, keep them from delivering “the best game we can make”. They’re confident, so they told us, that the extra 6 months allowed them to do just that.
Making ‘the best game’ they can means fixing a lot of what people hated about the first, and while we won’t know for certain until launch, to hear the SGW2 team tell it, they did just that. Gone, we were told, are the run and gun sections. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 will in fact be all about the skill set you’d expect from a trained sniper (though more on that shortly). While the levels will still be mostly linear, we were told that they will include more – unspecified – variety. The game has three regions in which missions take place – Tibet, Burma, and Sarajevo, and though that’s not an incredibly diverse globe-trotting adventure, based on comments made during the call the levels will offer more for players than simply going from A-B, including stealth-based objectives and hand-to-hand assassination.
Perhaps most importantly, AI has been improved. In the first game, it was common for players to be killed because NPCs didn’t have to account for wind, recoil or range when shooting with weapons not designed for long distance shooting. That’s been corrected, so we were told, as players will now have a fighting chance of completing objectives without being turned into swiss cheese because AI knows exactly where they are. However, to keep things from getting too bent in favor of the player, the game’s sniping mechanics (one of the unambiguously good things about the first installment) have apparently been tweaked.
The physics of sniping in Ghost Warrior 2 build off of what was created for the first game; you’ll still be able to play on lower difficulty that gives you hints on where to aim, but on higher difficulty resistance factors are increased in their importance. That means a greater degree of verisimilitude, but don’t call it ‘realism’. Sroczynski was quick to tell callers that they prefer ‘authenticity’ to ‘realism’ when describing the play experience. “We consulted with snipers from Polish Special forces,” Sroczynski said, but the snipers made it clear that the game was far more action packed than a sniper’s lot in real life. Most snipers sit around camped for days waiting to take a single shot, he pointed out, something that would get incredibly tedious for gamers. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2′s missons will provide more for players to do, hence the discomfort with calling it ‘realistic’.
Finally, we come to the question that most concerns us here at Game Front. As with the first game, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 will be released on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. And this means that PC gamers expecting to be given the spa treatment might be disappointed. As Sroczynski confirmed during the call, the game is first and foremost intended for consoles, with Xbox 360 the primary platform. PC gamers should also put modding out of their minds. When asked if the company is considering mod support, the Sroczynski would only say “that’s not something we can answer at this time.” But, he told us, the PC version was developed in-house and wasn’t a port, going to far as to say PC gamers can expect it to look better than on console. (Note: no specifics were given; we assume until we see otherwise that the ability to tweak PC graphics, and not anything built into the game, will be the reason for this.)
It’s important to note that we won’t truly know anything until it launches, but based on the call, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 aims to improve on everything wrong with the first game. However, it is absolutely not going to be a game for PC hardcores. Rather, it’s going to be a matter of preference how you play it. That’s disappointing in an environment that still treats PC gamers as afterthoughts, but it’s hard to feel too butthurt about it. If SGW2 delivers a satisfying experience, all will mostly be forgiven.