The lights are on
Color me surprised. Who knew a game called "Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2" would be any good? SGW2 surprised me in more than one way though, and thoroughly entertained me from start to finish. Right from the get go, you'll notice that the game doesn't look as good as a Cry Engine 3 game should. It is by no means ugly, but clearly they didn't have the resources to take advantage of this powerhouse engine. Worse than that though, is the frame rate on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
If the game ran at a consistent 20fps the whole way through I'd be surprised. Compared to the first game, which ran smooth on consoles, it is frustrating and a little bit insulting that they couldn't, or didn't spend the time to optimize the game for consoles. If you can look past the frame rate though, you'll be in for a great ride.
The game doesn't make any secrets about where it gets its inspiration from. This is a 6 hour long Call of Duty sniper mission, and that's not a bad thing. It's linear, sure, but they make up for it in tension. Quite a few times I could feel my hands shaking as I desperately tried to line up a shot on a guard who was just seconds away from blowing my cover. The A.I. can be inconsistent, but generally they are much smarter than they were the first time around.
You'll grip your controller tight as you watch your perfectly timed shot miss and hit a wall behind an enemy, who turns around to look at the fresh bullet hole, and then screams for his allies to find the sniper. And then, all hell breaks loose. It's fin in SGW2 to be stealthy and not get caught, but they also made the act of getting caught just as fun.
When you blow it, and you will, enemies won't just stand there and let you take them out one by one. They'll scatter, run for cover, poke their heads out slightly to get a bead on you, and unleash hell on your position. And when you think you've found the right opportunity to take their heads off, they'll already be running to a new position. I was constantly surprised by just how smart and dynamic they were. They'll even rush your position if they think they have nothing to loose.
Besides the great A.I., another thing SGW2 does well is set piece moments. These aren't the same type of set piece moments you might find in a AAA blockbuster like Uncharted, but more subtle. Imagine you're covering an ally whose trying to invade a camp to rescue a hostage. You're getting cocky, since you haven't missed a shot yet. You watch him run into the entrance of a building and suddenly stop.
From behind a few boxes, you see what looks like his hands raised in the air. Unsure of what's going on, you decide to stay calm and keep watching. Before you know it, he's walking backwards out of the building, hands raised, and in front of him is a very agitated enemy with an itchy trigger finger mere seconds away from blowing your buddies head off. You try and quickly line up a shot, but you're nervous now, and your crosshairs are over the place. You hold your breath, hope to God you've led your bullet far enough so the hostage taker walks into it, and pull the trigger.
The game is full of moments like these, where they take you by surprise, and set up a scenario where you don't have much time to think, you just need to react. And this is where SGW2 really succeeds. It may not be the prettiest game, or the most polished, but they know what makes sniping fun, and they condense a bunch of it into a 6 hour package.