With Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, the developer CI Games aims to add to the evolutionary path of the series a new stage designed to enhance the good things done with the previous chapter, while filing away the most evident asperities of the production (at this link you can find the review by Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts). Set aside the experiment open world di Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, the Polish team had reworked the playful offer of the series to offer the public a more varied and rewarding gameplay, pushing the accelerator on the freedom of approach granted to players (the Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 review is just a click away) . The sequel to Contracts seems to fully recover these precepts, but leaving behind many of the technical ailments of the predecessor, as we have had the opportunity to verify during a recent hands-on with the title.
Abandoned the icy Siberian expanses, this time our mercenary sniper will have to accumulate a good number of excellent victims in the dunes of a Middle Eastern scenario, a region between Lebanon and Syria under the control of a ruthless paramilitary organization. In line with the prerogatives of the saga, the new Contracts does not show particular ambitions on the narrative side, limiting itself to creating a useful framework to provide players with a simple pretext for their own lethal exploits.
A more than reasonable creative direction, which makes pure gameplay the pivot of a promising and multifaceted play budget, composed to offer users a wide range of variations on the theme of ballistic assassination. Consistent with the more challenging traits of its predecessor, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 therefore returns to making freedom of approach one of its distinctive elements, offering digital shooters a rich bouquet of deadly opportunities that amplify the replayability of every single mission.
In this sense, the route followed by CI Games has more than one point in common with that carried out by IO Interactive with the Hitman series (if you want to learn more, at this link you can find the review of Hitman 3): the level design is designed for guarantee players a good degree of autonomy in defining their strategies, within maps that host a rather generous assortment of alternative routes, points of advantage and opportunities to be seized on the fly.
If the structure of the campaign is the same as seen in the previous chapter, divided into missions set in scenarios of varying dimensions and with different objectives (main and secondary) to be completed, this time the Polish studio has included two different types in the offer of contracts. Next to the more traditional assignments, with a structure very similar to those of the first Contracts, we therefore find the “long-range contracts“, which require users to test themselves by executing kills from really considerable distances, sometimes well beyond a kilometer. The level that we were able to test in advance required precisely to reach a trio of shooter perches placed at several hundred meters from as many targets, to be delivered to the harvester with a well-placed shot or by exploiting the environment to obtain an equally “definitive” result. Once we selected our access point to the battlefield, we then found ourselves under the scorching sun of Kuamar in the middle of a decidedly hostile environment, dotted with militarized outposts, armed patrols and natural obstacles.
Taking note of the overwhelming numerical superiority of the opposing forces, we immediately opted for a more cautious and silent approach, taking advantage of the characteristics of the scenario and the gadgets of our alter ego (primarily his high-tech mask) to grab every possible tactical advantage.
After having marked the enemies with binoculars, we moved cautiously between bushes and abandoned huts, trying to reach a position that would allow us to eliminate all threats without arousing unwanted attention. Reaching the inside of a shack, we watched the conversation between a pair of soldiers through a crack in the wall, holding them at gunpoint with our silenced sidearm. The removal of one of the soldiers gave us an excellent opportunity to crush the other with a bullet to the head, just before a stab in the back marked the bloody end of his companion.
Already here we could have decided to attack the opponents head down, avoid the fight altogether or limit ourselves to stun them, perhaps after trying to extort from one of the two some information on the disposition of the enemy units. All alternatives whose value depends both on our personal propensities and on the conditions of the battlefield, which can vary according to the number of enemies present, the conformation of the environment and the characteristics of our war equipment (modifiable and upgradeable by spending the accumulated money from mission to mission).
In the following fight, for example, we underestimated the noise of our high-powered rifle (the best solution for long-range shooting), performing a double kill which – in spite of the relative isolation of the victims – triggered the immediate reaction of all soldiers nearby. After quickly eliminating the outpost officer to avoid the arrival of support troops, we therefore moved to a decidedly more direct and brutal approach, thinning out the remaining units with a mix of precision shots and well-placed volleys.
Regardless of your personal warlike leanings, the gameplay of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 proves pretty solid both during stealth and in the midst of the loudest shootings, although some uncertainty remains on the artificial intelligence front. If the shooting dynamics do not struggle to offer considerable doses of satisfaction, especially when holding a sniper rifle, the behavior of the enemy hosts can sometimes be a bit erratic and reckless, with fluctuations that also affect the “sensory sphere“of the forces in the field.
In fact, on a couple of occasions it has happened to alert an opponent while finding ourselves outside his field of vision, or to come across practically infallible shooters, capable of hitting us without problems from sidereal distances. Based on our experience with the game, however, we feel we can minimize (at least for the moment) the impact of these occasional failures on the overall balance of the experience, especially considering the current state of the work. To be honest, AI in general seemed more responsive and efficient compared to the one seen in the first Contracts, as well as able to respond more credibly to the actions of the protagonist, adding a substrate of complexity to the missions.
In search of the perfect shot
This is an improvement that we have been able to verify by hand once we have reached the first target “long distance“, engaged in reviewing the troops in an industrial complex about a kilometer from our observation point. In this case, the conditions of the contract did not impose any particular conditions on us, leaving us free to kill the target in the way we thought best. appropriate.
Scrolling through the bonus challenges related to each kill, however, it is easy to understand how wide the range of solutions available to the player is: the list includes unlikely parabolic shots with the target in motion, explosive kills or unfortunate fatal “accidents”. In our case, we decided to eliminate the opponent after luring him into his office, first by hitting the support hook of a container that obstructed the view, then sabotaging – always with a precision shot – the fire protection system on the roof of the building. , in order to push him to rush to the place.
Taking advantage of the solid “Dynamic Reticle System“, the aiming system introduced in the first chapter, we then proceeded to close the practice with a phenomenal shot from 1300 meters, while the” kill cam “followed step by step the path of the bullet from the barrel of the gun to the head of the target, exploded in a riot of gory details. The sensations of pure enjoyment unleashed by the success of the shot confirm the effectiveness of a shooting system as spectacular as it is refined, which is the real highlight of a playful offer composed to respect the canons of the classic sequel “bigger and better“.
Although at the moment it is impossible to unbalance in considerations on the general variety of the experience (a key element in this kind of productions), on the quality of the progression system and consequently on the estate of the campaign, we can certainly be satisfied with the first taste offered by CI Games.
A speech that also concerns an improved technical sector, which shows a decidedly more solid optimization profile than that of the predecessor. In the face of a general improvement in the models, the lighting system and the textures, the title proves to be much more stable, so much so that we have not had major difficulties in maintaining the game anchored at the threshold of 60 fps, all without particularly burdensome waivers neither in terms of resolution nor in terms of details.
It goes without saying that the desert setting of the level, naturally more “bare” than the previous standards of the series, makes it difficult to get an idea of the overall value of the staging, and to deepen this aspect we will necessarily have to wait to get our hands on a more complete build.
We also noticed some qualitative fluctuations in terms of animations, sometimes rigid or inaccurate even when moving (the movement system recovers the “parkour” model of the last iteration), but in general the title marks a rather evident step forward compared to to the first Contracts, as proof of the experience gained by the study with the difficult CryEngine. According to the team’s words, the situation is destined to improve further from now to launch, and therefore we can only be optimistic about the final outcome of the development process, both in technical and playful terms.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 therefore seems to have all the credentials to offer digital snipers an abundant dose of brutal fulfillment, among the links of a production that is so conservative but still able to enhance the strengths of the saga of belonging.