CI Games invite players, once again, to take potshots at unsuspecting enemies with Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2.
The sequel to the well-received Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts, itself a continuation of the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series, sticks with the same format of having a series of open-world mission areas. CI Games tried a huge open-world in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 with mixed results. Saying that, each of the Ghost Warrior Contracts 2’s mission areas is very large.
The story is as throwaway as they tend to be and not very memorable. Players take on the role of Raven and contract sniper working for an unknown agency instigating a regime change in the Middle East. Directed by his operator, Raven must infiltrate the mission environments and locate and dispatch his targets. Missions have multiple objectives. Usually, there are multiple targets as well as other multi-part objectives that are a little more complex than just lining up the cross-hairs. Some of the objectives are not really what I’d call sniping operations and more like black ops missions, to be honest.
The game has five huge environments plus one training area. The missions are classified as either Long Shot or Classic. The three Long Shot missions require players to reach the sniping point, dispatching or avoiding enemies on the way, and then taking out the targets from an exceptionally long distance. The two Classic missions give players the freedom to take out targets up close, if necessary, and infiltrate deep into enemy territory to complete objectives.
The target/objective areas are marked on the map. Here, depending on the mission type, players will usually find an overwatch position to scan the site for targets and objectives using binoculars. As each objective is completed, players have the opportunity to exfiltrate at various locations on the map and upload the mission data.
As well as the main targets and objectives, some maps have optional bounty missions that involve identifying and dispatching additional targets. Challenges can be completed for extra rewards.
To carry out missions, Raven is equipped with a sniper rifle, a secondary weapon, and a sidearm. He can also carry gadgets and equipment such as medkits, a drone, a portable gun turret, and, of course, a selection of grenades. Oh, and some C4 for when being discreet is really off the table.
The game does still cling to one the mechanics of its predecessor that really shouldn’t be there. The Raven’s mask view is like a radar system that can be used to better interpret the surroundings. It’s an upgradable ability that I think would be better explained as the instinct of an experienced sniper than an implausible hi-tech bit of equipment.
All the weapons are customisable and can be upgraded using parts purchased with in-game currency. Additional weapons can also be bought with in-game currency. Secondary weapons include assault rifles and a cheekily named compound bow called a Ram-Bow, complete with an inscription that’ll be familiar to fans of a certain 1982 movie. By adding silencers and muzzle-flare suppressors, and will and choosing from a selection of optics, Raven’s arsenal can be tuned to taste and the mission requirements.
The game takes a very R-rated path with the depiction of bullets impacting a human body. Slow-motion bullet cam animations are triggered for particularly interesting shots, the frequency of which can be adjusted in the options. These animations are not for the faint-hearted, especially the headshots which show skulls shattering and skin flapping as the target’s head explodes. Very gross or very satisfying, maybe both. Similarly, body shots show bullet entry with the bullet exiting with a wake of blood. Shots to arms a leg, depending on the ammo can result in appendages being several and flying off in all directions. The game makes no judgment nor does it excuse the actions of a hired gun.
Gore aside, the physics of sniping targets is very well done, especially on the high difficulty levels without the aiming assistance. The range finder needs to be adjusted to the target distance, with wind and bullet drop factored in to make the shot. On the easy setting there’s a red dot to help. The range can be determined using binoculars or a figure height depiction through the optics.
The knife, bow and silenced pistol allow for mid-range and close-quarters stealth kills. If you are resorting to grenades and assault rifles things had gone south and are likely to continue to go south. Contracts 2 is a game that rewards careful infiltration and punishes a gung-ho approach to stealth.
On the higher difficulties levels alerting the enemy to your position is a death sentence. On the easier settings, you can still expect mortar fire if your location is exposed.
Enemy AI isn’t bad but seems to scale up in resilience rather than strategy on the higher difficulties. I found crafty enemy sniper and the heavily armoured enemy soldiers to be the trickiest. Dispatching an entire outpost using a silenced pistol and melee knife attack is very satisfying. Stealthily approaching a lone enemy gives players the choice of instantly killing them or interrogating them so you can find out the location of other enemy soldiers.
Contracts 2 further refines the series. But it’s not just the gameplay mechanics that get a boost. Long loading times are now a thing of the past compared to its predecessor. The shonky overdramatic briefings have been replaced by a two-way conversation with an operator that has an unintentionally comedic tendency to be passive-aggressive. Also, instead of the weird sci-fi-looking mask in the last game, your sniper is wearing a facemask that looks a little more realistic.
The game does a really good job of scaling the difficulty. The easy Markman difficulty level is great for folks that want to go in like Johnny Rambo popping headshots without consequence. This easy mode provides a red dot to help dialling in the range and consideration for bullet drop. At the other end of the four difficulty settings is Deadeye, with realistic sniping mechanics and deadly enemies. There’s no help available for aiming and there’s limit HUD assistance.
On the whole, the environments are well designed, offering a variety of different areas, from rocky canyons to settlements, to sneak through and infiltrate. The climbing is a bit off, with designated climbing areas and other rocks that whilst looking climbable, are not. The game offers lots of nice vistas over target areas.
The visuals are very good, offering an immersive experience. The mission takes place at different times showing off the game’s great use of lighting. CI has stuck with Crytek’s aging CryEngine for Contracts 2. As with the last game, this means visible jagged edges in the distance, no matter how high the anti-aliasing is set. You get used to it, though and it’s only a minor niggle.
The game has a disappointingly high amount of day one DLC that’ll more double the cost of the game if you were to purchase it all. Most of it is superfluous skins, but there are a few nice weapons that would have been nice to have in the base game instead of as premium DLC.
The only thing that’s missing is an editor mode, whereby players can customise the game picking new targets and target locations, similar to that of the recent Hitman games. This would expand the game. Maybe something for part 3.
Overall, Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is a great game. It caters for players with zero patience that just want to get right into the combat as well as would-be assassins, with nerves of steel, that are prepared to wait for that perfect shot.