Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts puts you in the shoes of a gun-for-hire known as “Seeker”. Seeker sets off to Siberia to pull of a few assassinations and earn his daily bread. On his travels, he uncovers a poorly written storyline that’s something about Siberia getting its independence from Russia, only to find out they’re being run by goons who are far worse than their old government. Goes to show that politicians and goons are equally bad, so trust no one but your trusty head-poppin’ sniper rifle.
That’s about all I got from the uninteresting cutscenes between missions. The story in my opinion, should have been this; you’re a guy who loves shooting stuff from far away. You love your little shooty stick and the money that you get from shooting things for people allows you to buy upgrades to become better at shooting things from like, really really far away.
With record breaking low expectations, I set foot into the first mission. The blizzard worn landscape of the desolate tundra definitely made for a rather unlikely setting for sniping. With low visibility (thanks to the constant snow storms), most of the first few bits of the game played out in close-quarters. Most of this time was spent sneaking behind patrolling soldiers, interrogating them to find out where their pals were, just to do the same thing till everyone and their grannies were dead. For the dreaded two-man patrols, I’d fling a stone to distract one while I’d take out the other. I’d invariably trigger an alarm every now and then, which meant switching to an assault rifle and mowing everyone down.
For a whole lot of time, sniping felt rather unnecessary and I was just about to give up on the game. I somehow persevered and I’m sure glad that I did. By the end of the second mission, sniping out enemy encampments became a necessity and that’s when the game began to shine. Thinning the herd out silently made for much easier infiltration later on.
Figuring out the sniping mechanics takes a bit of time but it’s totally worth it. You have to compensate for distance, bullet drop, wind direction and bullet velocity. This seems a bit daunting, but once I figured out the user interface, I realized that the game does a great job of simplifying things to point where I’d land those perfect headshots ninety percent of the time.
To help you become a god-like assassin, Seeker is equipped with a hi-tech mask that gives you access to some really cool abilities. You can trace footsteps in the snow, mark enemies from afar, use thermal vision in low-visibility areas and lots more. To add to hi-techery, you gain access to a plethora of special ammunition and gadgets, enough to give James Bond a complex. My favourites were a remote controlled sniper turret that helps you pull off double assassinations, a dragonfly-like drone that helps you EMP enemy electronics and disable them, and gas mines to take care of those pesky heavily armored fools who are so damn hard to shoot down. The large arsenal coupled with the intricate level design ensures that you have plenty of approaches to pick from. Want to snipe half the base before you blow shit up up-close? No problem! Want to sneak your way in and maul the enemy like a bloody-thirsty jungle-cat? By all means, go for it! The game really allows you the freedom to play it the way you like to, and that’s what I love about it the most.
In summary, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts doesn’t try to do too much but what it does, it does well. If you like sniping, you’ll likely enjoy this one. Just don’t expect much of a storyline, or a very lengthy campaign from it. That is, unless you’re one of those incorrigible completionists – in which case, there’s a fair bit to be collected and unlocked that really increase your time spent with the game. Also, thanks to some great level design and gameplay flexibility, there is a decent amount of replayability in this one. I found myself replaying one of the missions over and over, trying to finish it without dying. I never managed to do it, but I sure as hell enjoyed every minute of it. I whole-heartedly approve of this game and for once, I’m rather interested in what the franchise will bring us next!