Snipers are always some of the most satisfying guns to use in FPS titles. Removing the difficulty of holding the barrel and the multitude of stamina issues real-life snipers have, games have managed to emulate its punch with none of the drawbacks.
Needless to say, many games have explored them and some have been much more successful than others. Games like Sniper Elite have nailed an arcadey sense of fun, while Sniper Ghost Warrior tried for a slower, more realistic pace.
Though this pace isn’t always consistent, and its serious tone is betrayed by its laughably bad story, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 has cemented itself as a somewhat worthwhile sniper game in a market filled with competitors.
A Skippable Narrative
Let's start with that story. You are tasked with taking down a totalitarian syndicate that have circumvented democracy to instil themselves in a conflict in “a lawless region of the Middle East, located along the Lebanese and Syrian borders”.
It’s a barebones story that tasks you with taking freedom, democracy and other dogmatic platitudes into your own hands to decide what’s best for that region.
It does deal with this moral absolutism in a funny tongue-in-cheek way but doesn’t do nearly enough to ground the baddies. This is the thing Far Cry usually does very well with its cartoonishly bad guys - it empathises with and understands their twisted reasoning.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 doesn’t bother with this, actively misrepresenting political positions - presenting bad guys that don’t really have any reason for what they do.
That being said, the story is more or less something you can entirely ignore. Just get in there and shoot some guys.
For the most part, snipers feel weighty and punchy, the action accentuated with slow-mo shots and decimated limbs. You can’t skip the slow-mo sections and any actions done in slow-mo will continue after the scene happens.
This means that, if you are holding forward while in slow motion, you can find yourself hurtling down a mountain or jumping wildly when you get back.
You can turn this off completely, but it is a middle ground that doesn't really work. Giving the option to skip the more tedious slow-mo shots and watch the good ones would have been a much better choice.
Explore The World
These slow-mo shots can often go over 1000 meters at a time so the world has to be interesting enough to make that shot worth it.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is split up into a group of semi-open world missions, all with central objectives you have to complete. Where one mission might be primarily focused on taking out a handful of targets, another could be all about taking down generators and defences.
There are only a handful in total but each one could take you an hour and there’s a degree of replayability to each map with side objectives and collectibles to find. You likely won’t replay it much unless you’re a huge fan of the gameplay loop.
The loop itself is conceptually well thought out, having you scope out areas from a distance and tackle it in a few central ways.
This loop is rather close to the original Contracts game with a little of the weight cut off. You can bank your objectives at any point and exit the mission, different to the first game. Maps feel a bit more enclosed than the original, having multiple objectives in similar areas, making extractions much easier.
If you think you’re good enough, you could simply aim for the big bad as they’re moving and go onto the next area. If you’d like more assurance, you might hit a generator first or take out their guards from 1000 meters away.
This freedom of choice almost makes Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 feel more like a puzzle game than anything else.
That being said, the formula gets a little tiring quite quickly due to very similar setups and not very varied enemies. Although the maps take different forms, the layouts of bases tend to be similar and you discover every enemy type in the game by the time you've finished the first mission. While the sniper feels great, the rest of the guns feel a little stiff, meaning freedom is left behind somewhat with the smaller locations and more close-quarter maps.
Not every encounter happens from afar and the close-range ones are easier to handle by cowardly hiding in a bush or running away to a vantage point. There’s this odd humour to being a highly trained sniper taking down totalitarian dictators only to run with his tail between his legs anytime a guard gets a little too close.
These encounters are made more rewarding with upgrade systems, perks and nice new gadgets.
Changing out your sniper for a quieter or more powerful one is fun, especially when you take into account all the accessories for it, but gadgets often get left unused due to occasionally poor AI and limited use.
There’s this unfortunate give and take to most of the systems in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 that often leaves the experience feeling a little hollow.
The Sniping can feel great but general jankiness often betrays that cool feeling of taking someone’s head off. The map designs and ideas are interesting but it's not quite varied enough to stay consistently appealing. Every good action comes with a small downside.
The Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise has come a long way over the last decade or so. I remember picking up the collectors edition of Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 on a whim almost a decade ago and found a game that was ambitious yet very flawed.
Its story was jingoistic and very forgettable but the dev team tried to do so much with the gameplay with a clearly limited budget.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is both a sign of how far the franchise has come but also how far it still has to go to compete with the best sniper games out there.
RealSport Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
We reviewed Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 on PS5 via backwards compatibility & Review Code provided by the publisher.