Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 Review: Greatness in Sight
The military first-person shooter genre is easily one of the most saturated in gaming. There are multiple annualized franchises, and no shortage of new shooter titles released each year. It can all start to feel like a bit much.
Enter Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 (SGWC2), itself the fifth entry in the Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise. Where other titles seem content to merely dip their toes into the depths of what military shooters can be, SGWC2 yells, "Cannonball" as it jumps in, delivering one of the most fun and engaging experiences of the year.
With polished gameplay and mechanics that play like a greatest hits collection from the best shooters of the past generation, SGWC2 aims for something great. But can it make the shot?
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 Review: Greatness in Sight
SGWC2 puts you in the role of Raven, a lone-wolf sniper dropped into a fictional Middle Eastern nation. You're tasked with assassinating, sabotaging, and liberating various targets to prevent a war that could destabilize the region, which could bring the world to the brink of economic ruin. It’s a competent, if plain, setup made better by quality voice acting and a faceless protagonist that looks like he would be the baddest man on the battlefield.
SGWC2 is often compared to the Sniper Elite series, and for good reason. Both are built around sniping mechanics and reward perfect shots with slow-motion bullet cameras that highlight the damage done to targets. What separates the two, besides Sniper Elite being presented in third-person and being set in World War 2, is the variety of content available in SGWC2 and more in-depth sniping mechanics
Levels come in two varieties. Classic maps drop you into large overworlds, with your objectives located in smaller open sandboxes. These smaller areas are all connected via branching linear pathways, very similar to those found in Metal Gear Solid 5.
You travel from area to area completing objectives in whatever way you see fit. You may assassinate a person with your knife in one section, sabotage some radio jammers in another, then snipe a bounty target and a rival sniper you’ve come across as you move to the next zone.
The best way to complete each objective is left up to you. Do you have the skills to silently pick off every guard in a base from a distance? Or do you prefer to get up close and personal, using an arsenal of gadgets and the advanced technology in your mask to sneak into the base undetected?
Going the Distance
Long Shot maps are new and highlight just how difficult sniping can actually be. These maps tend to be smaller overall, and in each case your tasked with sneaking to a perch overlooking some sort of facility a kilometer or more away. Assassinating targets at this distance is much more challenging; the high caliber rounds take multiple seconds to reach their targets after being fired and are under considerable influence from wind and gravity.
The Long Shot maps are more akin to a long and lethal game of chess. The majority of your time is spent scouting the areas, identify targets, eliminating counter snipers, and planning out when and where to take the shot. There are electric panels, explosive barrels, and various other environmental targets that can be influenced by a well-placed shot, and a good autosave system gives the player plenty of opportunities for experimentation.
Moving targets are extremely challenging to hit at this distance, so these zones become sniping puzzles, as you look for ways to get the target stationary and in the open. Sometimes that means shooting large machines to cause your target to inspect a malfunction or having the patience to wait until two targets meet, allowing you to take out both with one well-lined-up shot.
It is difficult to overstate how satisfying it is to carefully plan a shot, calibrate your gun, and see the camera follow the bullet into your target from 1,500 meters away.
Damn, It Feels Good to be a Sniper
All of the Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 weapons feel great. The gunplay is finely tuned, and Raven moves with a great combination of agility and weight. Multiple ammo types give you the ability to further customize your loadout for upcoming missions, and bullets land with a visceral quality.
Some of the slow-motion kills lean into the gore, but with enough of a cartoonish over-the-top quality to not seem exploitative. The gore can be turned down in the menus, which is appreciated.
Completing objectives rewards you in a few ways. Money can be used to buy equipment. This includes suppressors, optics, and larger magazines for guns. It also allows you to bring a sniper turret with you into battle, allowing you to tag enemies and have the gun take them out at your signal. This is perfect when multiple enemies are grouped together and you want them all to go down at once. Other pieces of equipment include a manned drone to help tag targets and various explosive elements.
Objectives also reward you with tokens, allowing you to take advantage of a solid upgrade tree. This is your chance to further tailor the game to your playstyle. Upgrades can improve your sneaking and knife skills, letting you run silently and chain melee kills like a modern-day Ezio. Or you can put a dart gun on your drone, increase the effectiveness of your sniper turret, or upgrade your armor to shrug off more damage.
Levels also have significant replayability in the form of challenges. This mechanic feels pulled right out of the modern Hitman trilogy. You can return to previously cleared targets and earn additional tokens and money by completing the tasks in specific ways.
Maybe this time you kill your target after silently eliminating every target in the base. Or you lure them next to some explosive barrels to send them off in style. Or, perhaps, this time you give them a chance to enter their getaway vehicle, then shoot the hook holding a shipping container suspended from a crane right above them.
Completing challenges means you can purchase new upgrades, which often make it easier to complete challenges. This relationship is well balanced, and the complimentary loop is compelling. That “just one more game” pull in other games becomes “just one more challenge” in SGWC2 and is every bit as effective at making time disappear as you salivate over the next enticing upgrade.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 does experience some jams, however. The Xbox Series X version runs at 4K 30FPS, which is very noticeable now that so many current generation games run at 60FPS. Since the PS5 version has been delayed, we weren't able to test performance there, though CI Games has said that it runs at 4K 30FPS there, too. Of course, some PCs will be able to outmatch that depending on build.
It is worth noting, however, that a post-launch patch added in 2K 60fps modes for both the XSX and PS5 versions of the game, so there are options, if somewhat limited, to hit that 60fps threshold.
There are some technical hiccups here and there worth mentioning. I found myself stuck on climbable terrain a few times and had to load prior saves. The climbing and drop-down mechanics are very hit and miss when it comes to displaying the button prompt to complete those actions.
Overall, the scope of SGWC2 often errs on the side of modesty. The game itself isn’t overly large, just a half dozen maps total. The world is moderately interactive and detailed, but not in a way that elevates the experience. The story underpinning it all is forgettable if unobtrusive. And as compelling as the upgrades system is, the trees can all be completed fairly quickly.
The thing that makes these Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 hiccups frustrating is that the game is so damn good. Nearly every aspect of SGWC2 ranges from pretty good to extremely good, with the sniping action itself bordering on the incredible.
Yet despite that across-the-board success, I can’t help but wonder what could have been. A little more ambition, another layer of polish, an iconic narrative — really anything more. This game firmly toes the line between good and great but does not take that next step over it.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 Review — The Bottom Line
- Phenomenal and realistic Sniping
- Varied and exciting levels
- Compelling progression system
- Held back by limited ambition
- Could have used more polish
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contract 2 is so much fun to play. The action is dynamic, the levels are well crafted, and the progression system is compelling. This is a very good game, built on a strong execution of good ideas.
It is separated from games like Hitman and Metal Gear Solid 5 by more modest ambition and mediocre polish but should be at the top of the list for fans of those franchises as the next best thing.
[Note: CI Games provided the copy of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 used for this review.]