Perched high up on the cliff edge overlooking the enemy warehouse across the lake, target marked over 2000 metres away, I take aim, set the range of the scope, adjust to factor in wind direction, breath held, trigger pulled…missed. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is a stealth-based milsim, and is the 6th edition of a series that began all the way back in 2008. Contracts 2 follows a similar formula to its predecessors but it is certainly the most challenging, with sniper shots ranging almost as long as the game’s title. It boasts one of the most realistic and challenging sniper mechanics I’ve ever played draped in some beautiful visuals, but the story and layout of the game feel somewhat dull and unpolished.
Set in the fictional middle eastern dictatorship of Kuamar who’s newly powerful autocrat has decided to invade a neighbouring country, the world’s response is to send in one man and his sniper. The story itself feels all too common for military shooters, stereotypical evil dictator and his cronies are up to no good again, and your job is to put a bullet in them. After a brief tutorial handholding you through the various mechanics for sniping and the different gadgets to play with, you’re thrown into the action with your first target. From there, the campaign spans a series of individual contracts in which you track down and assassinate members of the evil network, and when you’re not sending bullets into heads from 1000+ metres away, you’ll be interrogating enemy grunts, corrupting communications and sabotaging equipment. To help with this there is a wealth of gadgets at your disposal, a drone to help mark hard to reach targets and hack CCTV camera as well as a range of special bullets which vary in realism, from the standard armour piercing and explosive all the way up to sci-fi style tracker bullets and ones that don’t factor in wind or distance.
With each target to assassinate comes a wide variety of ways to do it, you could go in full guns blazing, locate the target, fire and exit, or you can make use of the environment to get creative. In a style similar to a Hitman game, I was able to lure one of the key targets underneath a shipping container, and will a well-placed shot that squashed him with it. It is kills like these which I found most enjoyable from the game, the big finale moments and the payoff from getting creative allow you to take your targets out in a whole wealth of different ways. Those calculated sniper shots against the target miles in the distance were brilliant and served as the standout high point in Contracts 2, but unfortunately, the rest of the game felt a bit soulless and packed full of filler. After being helicoptered into each new area comes a very rinse and repeat process of sneaking around clusters of enemies, interrogating certain ones to find information on the next target and the occasional up close and personal firefights with your assault rifle and pistol. For the sake of fluidity, the developers had to add something in between sniping from vantage points, but unfortunately, these other elements feel very rushed, even though you play from the first person and have the standard automatic rifle and grenade loadouts it doesn’t feel like a polished FPS, but instead a repetitive, unavoidable mechanic that had me constantly searching for the quickest way to get to the next target.
Contracts 2’s strength comes from that point beyond reaching the vantage point, scanning the area, planning your move and executing the attack feels very rewarding and really felt like I was behind the scope myself, with a great deal of weight behind every minor adjustment or decision. Rather than rushing in to kill the target and get out of there, I was much more inclined to take time and meticulously scan and plan out the method of attack. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a sniper rifle in a video game, the mechanics are very realistic and challenging at first, but once you get a hang of adjusting for target distance and wind direction you start to feel like a true sharpshooter. Unfortunately, the other mechanics pale in comparison, the stealth is fairly basic and minimal with clunky enemies that all seem to struggle with hearing, must be from all of the newly acquired fighter jets and helicopters ploughing through the Kuamarian airspace. Movement in general just looks a bit too robotic and very jerky, I thought I was wearing an exo-suit with the way you snap up ledges in the rare bit of climbing you have to do, it put my back out just watching it. The visual layout of the HUD and menus are quite clunky as well, for a game with a pretty simple premise and core mechanics comes a mess of different menus, upgrade screens, HUD options and customisation sections that can be all quite overwhelming until you’ve gotten used to how they all combine together, it feels like this element of the game got the smallest slice of the budget.
Visually Contracts 2’s world and objects are stunning, currently there is only a last-gen (PS4/XBOX One) version but the CryEngine powered graphics holds its own against some of the next-gen optimised games that I’ve played. As expected from a game that requires you to take shots from multiple Kilometres away the render distance stretches for miles too, even without looking through the binoculars or scopes you can see figures as tiny as ants pacing back and forth where the target’s location is, all player and object movements are very fluid as well, thanks to Contracts 2 running at 60fps on PC and next-gen consoles. All of this culminates into an aesthetically marvellous world that really does a great job of adding to the realism and immersion of traversing the rocky and sandy terrain of Kuamar.
Overall, the experience of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 boils down to a mixed bag. On the one side, there is the adrenaline pumping thrills of hitting a high-stakes shot from thousands of metres away to take out one of the big targets and hightailing it out of there whilst the chaos in the distance ensues, but this is marred from then having to wade through clunky stealth and fps mechanics that leave you trying to rush to the next sniper’s nest. The gunplay with the sniper and the wider process of executing the kill once you get into position doesn’t get old or boring and is probably the most fun I’ve had with a sniper in a video game But I’ve also found these big moments being too infrequent and far apart, it felt almost underutilised. The previous 5 editions to the series follow a trend of having solid sniper mechanics but never breaking into the FPS elite like Call of Duty or Battlefield, and unfortunately Contracts 2 doesn’t deviate from this trend. That’s not to say that this is a bad game or that it should be immediately disregarded, the experience of the sniper alone is enough for me to recommend giving this game a try, but be prepared to see some rough edges along with way.
GameRev was provided with a digital download of the game for the purpose of this review.