Many shooters have the same goal in mind: send you right into the action and have you dispatch all of the enemies on the way to your objective. Even in the most well executed shooters this can get a bit repetitive, leaving you with the feeling that you've played the same game before. City Interactive aims to break this shooter mold by taking you out of the shoes of a grunt on the ground and into a highly specialized Sniper in Sniper: Ghost Warrior. We got a chance to go hands-on with this soon to be released title at E3 and walked away rather impressed with what might just be the first stealth shooter created.
Sniper drops you into the shoes of a member of a special ops team which has been sent to a South American country. Turns out that a US backed government has been overthrown by a dictator, and you are responsible for taking him out. Early on you are separated from your team, forcing you to fight through South America mostly solo (more on that later).
Rather than simply slap a scope on a bunch of Guns and have you shoot from far away, City has created a deep sniping system to accurately reflect the elements a sniper has to take into account for a successful shot. So, before you pull the trigger you will have to consider wind, distance, your pulse, and even bullet drop (on higher levels) into account to to take out your target. Once you are in scope all of these factors are laid out in an easy to read manner which makes putting together the different parts a sinch.
Of course, the creators of Sniper knew that everyone would not come to the game with a knowledge of how these factors impact a bullet's flight. They have actually created two solutions to this problem. First, they did the obvious and created a tutorial where you can learn how to become a master sniper. Second, they have included a little aid in the form of a red dot on easy and medium modes. This dot effectively becomes your reticle, showing you exactly where your bullet will go. Only on hard mode will you be forced to go it alone and take everything into account for yourself.
Sniper runs on the chrome 4 engine, meaning it looks purty
Sniper includes the cool feature of a concentration mode. This allows you to slow everything down for a bit, highlight enemies brightly, line up your crosshairs and pull off the perfect headshot. If you do so, you will go into bullet cam mode. Bullet cam is a sweet little cinematic sequence which follows your bullet from the barrel of the gun directly into the target and is triggered any time you get a headshot or kill multiple enemies. However, even the coolest animations can become old after a while so the developers allow you to turn it off, although I don't know why you'd want to.
In another smart move, the developers of Sniper realized that playing just one way the entire time would become quite mundane and included a variety of missions. In the level we demoed we were teamed up with a spotter, although City revealed that this wouldn't always be the case. We were also told that there were assault missions and even a mission where you play as the spotter as a change of pace. Each mission will feature a variety of different weapons as well, each with its own pros and cons.
After seeing everything that City's new game had to offer we got a chance to go hands on with one of the levels. Shortly after we began the level we got the first chance to try out our sniper rifle and were able to pull of a headshot. Although bullet cam may seem gimmicky, it is incredibly satisfying in practice and had me aiming for headshots for the rest of the demo just to get that cool animation. As we progressed through the level, set in a rainy military camp with a parade field in the middle, the importance of stealth was introduced to us.
Stealth is broken down into a couple of major components in Sniper. The first of these is position, of which there are three. Prone is the least visible, and therefore the most stealthy, however, it is also the slowest. Next up is crouched, which will provide increased visibility to the enemy but will allow you to move quicker and see higher. Last up is standing, which allows you to sprint but also makes you the most visible to enemies. Then there is concealment. You will obviously be wearing a gilly suit, so if you are in grass you will be less visible then on the road. Noise is also included in stealth, so you can't just go sprinting past enemies and expect them not to notice.
All the information you need to pull off the perfect shot is located above
All of this is tracked by a handy meter at the bottom of your screen which fills up as you become more visible. Once it starts to fill up you best start finding cover, as it is quite difficult to run and gun your way through Sniper. Once your stealth meter becomes completely filled the alarm is raised for the rest of the level, which can have varying effects ranging from failure to your life becoming very difficult for a while depending on the level. City has also made it so that if individual soldiers see a body they will enter "urgent mode", this makes them hyper wary, for the rest of the level. No longer will your enemies find a dead body, be very concerned and then forget about it one minute later. Because stealth plays such a big role in the game, it sometimes makes more sense to leave someone alive than kill them.
The demo also showed off the use of a grappling hook. This handy item allows you to reach sniping spots that would otherwise have been inaccessible to you. However, it should be noted that not all levels will allow you a grappling hook, be on the look out for otherwise unreachable spots when you have it though.
However, Sniper will not be a single player only experience. City has also promised that Sniper will ship with 12 player multiplayer spanning over 6 maps and full online support. The developers who we talked to said that they were well aware that camping could present a major problem in a sniper multiplayer game, and as such has given user a radar system which gives them the direction, but not exact location of their opponents. Sniper will ship with three game modes: VIP, Deathmatch and Team Deatchmatch.
Even though we failed in our demo, Sniper was still a fun experience. It has a unique take on the shooting genre which will be refreshing to fans who may have become tired of the typical shooter games. One thing that may be an issue is that it sometimes seems sort of random as to if your victim is spotted or not, which can might be the cause of some frustration on the part of gamers. Other than that, it seemed to be a quality title from the Polish developer. Look for Sniper: Ghost Warrior on June 29th for the PC and Xbox 360 for the budget friendly price of $29.99 and $39.99 respectively (although Amazon has it cheaper on X360).