Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 Review

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While the sniper rifle is standard issue in almost every first-person shooter, few games manage to capture the challenge and coldblooded thrills of being an actual expert marksman. At its best, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 does a good job of satisfying the desire to splatter bad guy brains with a buzzer-beating bullet from way downtown – but it all too quickly unravels into an average action game the moment your cover is blown.  

In Contracts 2 you slip on the augmented reality equipped mask of Raven, a super soldier in possession of steady aim and a penchant for a particularly deadly form of social distancing. Raven may be a newcomer to the series, but his mission will be eminently familiar to anyone who played the previous game since it centres around yet another tale of international espionage and political upheaval, told very loosely by forgettable flurries of mugshots and confidential documents that put the ‘brief’ into pre-mission briefings. 

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The mission structure, however, is slightly different to that of 2020’s Contracts. Whereas the last game presented you with a series of sandboxes to sneak around in, Contracts 2 brings some welcome variety by alternating between two traditional open mission areas and three concentrated ‘long shot’ contracts. The latter restrict your movement to smaller maps, such as the top of a mountain range, but task you with eliminating targets that are in some instances over a thousand metres beyond your perimeter. I found these long distance executions to be the strongest sections of Contracts 2. Zeroing your scope, adjusting your aim for wind and bullet drop and then nailing a headshot in another postal code remains thrilling long after the novelty of the skull-shattering slow-mo gore shots has worn off, but the annoyingly accurate return fire from humble enemy assault rifles at such long ranges admittedly shatters the sense of realism somewhat. 

Poor Patrol

Enemy soldiers might be blessed with supernatural levels of precision, but their actual smarts aren’t nearly as sharp. At times they show some signs of tactical nous, by tossing a smoke grenade to mask their movements or bombing your last known position with a mortar strike in the more open areas, for example. But mostly they’re far too easily dispatched, either with a long range headshot or, should you miss and therefore raise an alarm, by simply hiding in the nearest bush with a silenced pistol and calmly picking them off as they form an orderly queue like it’s all-you-can-eat night at the Hot Lead buffet. 

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Since I only faced the same handful of recycled enemy types over the course of Contracts 2’s 12-hour campaign, I found myself becoming increasingly cavalier with my infiltration methods because I knew that no matter how many CCTV cameras or automated gun turrets were alerted to my presence I could always fall back on the old conga line of carnage method to reduce each area’s enemy numbers down to zero. This gave each objective an air of predictability, and it didn’t help that the bulk of Contracts 2’s key targets and optional bounties lack the flexibility and flair of the more devious assassinations in Io Interactive’s Hitman series in order to make them each feel unique. I certainly didn’t go in expecting to be able to disguise myself as a sad clown or sushi chef, but I do wish there were more interesting ways to snuff out each mark. It’s effectively just spot the target, shoot the target, and move on to the next. 

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There are also non-assassination objectives in most levels, typically involving the planting of explosives to sabotage stockpiles of enemy weaponry or the uploading of viruses into mainframe computers. Much of this is pretty stock standard, although I did enjoy the rare occasions I was able to use my sniper skills for non-lethal means, like when I had to take out three sets of revolving gears situated around a massive satellite antenna. The fact that these gears seemed to be exposed for no other reason than to be specifically shot at by a meddling sniper did seem a little contrived, but I was happy to forgive it in a Death Star exhaust port design flaw sort of way.

Scope for Improvement

Speaking of design flaws, Contracts 2 features a skill tree for Raven along with an expandable arsenal of rifles, sidearms, and gadgets, but it all feels decidedly non-essential given that the missions don’t really scale in difficulty nor do they feature any objectives that demand experimentation with alternative weapon loadouts. Aside from adding silencers to my weapons early on, I actually forgot about the progression system entirely until I got to the very last mission, at which point I just spent all the cash and skill points I’d racked up in one go purely for the sake of it. Some of it would have been useful in retrospect, such as the motorised gadget that allows you to use ziplines in reverse, but the bulk of the health and armour upgrades I was very easily able to do without.  

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This largely unnecessary upgrade system also makes the optional level challenges seem redundant for anyone who isn’t an absolute completionist. There are cash and skill point bonuses to be earned for killing five enemy snipers with melee attacks or eliminating a key target without raising an alarm, but I wasn’t compelled to retry any objectives in order to complete these challenges both because I didn’t need the rewards and also because none of them seemed particularly imaginative. There’s clearly been a lot of work put into each of Contracts 2’s settings, particularly in the massive Mount Kuamar map that stretches from mountainous forest areas down to multiple levels of a subterranean, Bond villain-like lair, but I passed through all of it once, never to return again.

This article was originally published by IGN.COM

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