Back at E3 last year, I attended what was described as a tech demo for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2. It was an early look, not based on any final gameplay, that hinted at some of the improvements--both minor and major--that moving the series to CryEngine 3 would afford. This week, the game's producer, Michal Sroczynski, stopped by the Shacknews offices to show me an updated demo from the game's single-player campaign on the Xbox 360. Though I have yet to actually play it myself, what I saw of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 the other day impressed me quite a bit more than I expected it would.
As Sroczynski played through a couple of Sniper 2's missions--one he described as a flashback mission set in war-torn Sarajevo, and another which took place in a lush, jungle environment--I was immediately struck by how much prettier the game is than its predecessor. The jungle environment was particularly impressive to me because it easily demonstrated the improved visuals. The richness of the color palette and improved lighting provide an welcome visual departure, giving the large playing areas a level of depth and richness absent from the first outing. As Sroczynski slunk toward his next objective through a waist-deep river--tall grass parting and lily pads bobbing as he passed, and sun piercing through the overhead canopy of trees--I found myself glued to the screen.
One of the biggest complaints players voiced about the first Sniper: Ghost Warrior was that regardless of how proficient of a sniper one was, much of the game degenerated into infantry-style run-and-gunning (not exactly situations a good sniper would find himself in on a regular basis). Furthermore, the AI in the first game had the superhuman ability to spot the player across a map and shoot him despite attempts to be stealthy. Sroczynski assured me that, thanks to CryEngine 3, both of these issues are being addressed, and the gameplay sections he showed me certainly supported those assurances.
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To that end, missions in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 are being structured to help players feel like a sniper throughout the experience. The urban-based mission I was shown had the player marking targets with binoculars, lining up and timing perfect headshots (or blowing off limbs), and using battery-powered thermal goggles to spot enemies hiding behind cover or obscured by smoke. Sure, you can still blow your cover and end up fighting for your life, but a skilled sniper will now be able to proceed deliberately from target to target, dishing out long-range shots and close-quarters stealthy kills without alerting the rest of the enemies on the map. Based on what I saw, it seems like City Interactive is really keyed in on the attributes that make the idea of a sniper-focused game appealing in the first place.
As someone who was fairly disappointed with City Interactive's initial Sniper offering, I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised with the new directions the developer is taking with the sequel. Many of the improvements are based on extensive feedback provided by fans of the first game, and it shows. I think there are a lot of gamers out there that would appreciate an experience that really hones in on the role of a sniper--sort of like if you took the "All Ghillied Up" level from Modern Warfare, added a few more sim-like mechanics, and blew it up into a full-length campaign. Though the developer may have missed the mark with its first attempt, my early impressions of the sequel mean I'll be keeping Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 in my sights leading up to its simultaneous Summer 2012 release on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.