Sniper: Ghost Warrior
Sometimes a game comes along that stops and forces you to think. Sniper: Ghost Warrior is one of those games. I've been racking my brains trying to work out if it's the worst shooter of the generation - there are so many bad examples to choose from, after all - but I honestly can't think of one that's even close to being as awful as this. In case you need me to spell it out: don't buy Sniper.
Yes, the game has been out for weeks now. We've seen it do reasonably well in the charts (outselling plenty of other, worthier titles) and subsequently prove there probably isn't a God. Why hasn't it been reviewed until now? It's simply too awful, that's why - an unbearable slog of a game, where progression is so excruciatingly slow and miserable that I've only been able to play it in 15 minute bursts, else I'd be in danger of deeming my 360 unholy, burning it to a crisp and storing the ashes underground, in a lead tube, for the rest of eternity.
You're Sergeant Tyler Wells, an elite sniper who spends the game doing surprisingly little sniping. He's so noble and heroic he probably poos out little American flags, and has never downloaded an illegal MP3 off the Internet in his entire life. It's about half an hour before the game completely betrays its title, although Generic Shooter: Ghost Warrior has much less of a snappy ring to it.
Here's just a few of the things in Sniper that are bad: the environments, the story, the graphics, the lack of any decent weaponry, the AI of the enemies, the grappling hook, the voice acting, the framerate, the terrible Chrome 4 engine, the physics engine and the way it pauses for a second or two as you hit each checkpoint.
Here are some of the things that are good in Sniper:
You'd almost feel pity for City Interactive if it wasn't for the fact the game is just so unforgivably poor. There's a small glimmer of hope in the introductory sequence, as a spotter guides you through a rather muted and covert assassination of Mr Nasty Man. It works quite well, in that you feel a bit like a sniper doing sniping stuff.
Ten minutes later you're roaming around a jungle/village/terrorist camp and blasting away packs of baddies with your sniper rifle. The whole idea is that, because of the aforementioned sniper rifle, you are doing it from ever so slightly further away than you might in another game. Say, Modern Warfare 2. Which is totally what this wants to be.
If Modern Warfare 2 is a pert and sassy Kylie Minogue, then, Sniper: Ghost Warrior is a Danii that's been wrapped in a towel, set on fire and then forced to consume all the food in a Tesco Extra. It's ugly, slow and bloated, crammed to the brim with all kinds of unnecessary padding and simply not necessary in the first place. It's not like there's a drought of quality shooters or anything.
Every time - every single time - you think it might be onto something (clue: some sniping) it goes off in a different direction, getting you to dispatch some soulless meat puppets (for freedom) but with the thoroughly unexciting twist of being in a ghillie suit. Excellent. I used the pistol for most of the game, actually, and swapped the sniper rifle for a machine gun (from the corpses of my fallen, freedom-hating foes) ever chance I got. You're not so much a Ghost Warrior but rather a Poorly Equipped Soldier. In a crap game.
It smacks of a poorly made attempt to cash in on the current success of modern shooters, and its relative non-failure in the sales charts is proof that the shameful tactic has paid off. That's the biggest crime of all, actually, right alongside the abysmal level design and unforgivable bugs. Did I mention it was bad?
It's hard to tell why Chrome Engine 4 has such a hard time with, well, everything, but some of the funkier bugs (that happen every time you play) involve being suspended in mid-air with your grappling hook or watching enemies shoot straight into the ground while their bullets continue to hit you. The game often manages to make it feel like you are wading through an invisible, knee-deep pool of treacle and, seconds later, floating through a parallel version of Earth where gravity doesn't exist. It's absolutely baffling, and I'd love to meet someone from City Interactive's QA department and ask them if they just skived off for four months.
Lack of any technical stability isn't the worst part of the game, though - there are plenty of completely broken games (see: Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption et al) that manage to be fun. The problem is that Sniper: Ghost Warrior lacks any discernable sense of ambition, as if the design team just went through a checklist and cobbled together a nasty hodgepodge of a game solely to appease some box-tickers in the slightly nicer upstairs offices.
Maybe I'm just wrong, though. Perhaps Sniper: Ghost Warrior is the kind of game that people want to play: a turgid, unexciting proposition of clamouring through dull, vacant jungles and shooting soulless bad guys at close range, with a sniper rifle, for the best part of eight hours. Then, maybe, they want to take it online and play Deathmatch games where they do nothing but camp in corners of the map and wait for anyone stupid enough to pass by. But I seriously hope not, for both my sanity and the sake of gaming in general. I can only hope the people who've purchased Sniper did so by mistake.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior, then. It's awful. I'd rather play Rogue Warrior.