Trips over and drops it’s gun
Pweh. It’s my new word, which sums up the general indifference mixed with mild disappointment that Sniper: Elite Warrior brings out in me. It’s the noise I make as yet again, twenty minutes into playing, I’m thinking about other titles in my collection, or making a cup of tea, or finishing off a report for work. It’s what happens when a half-arsed attempt at making a Xbox 360 game is then ported shabbily to the PS3 and adds little to an already tedious experience.
The shame is, the core ideas for Sniper should work well. Basically, you creep around different paces, flitting between sniping and combat roles, and assaulting various army bases, drugs plantations and harbours. The scenario is basically used for dressing around a load of different setpieces, and generally the basic idea works well. Unfortunately, three things get in the way – the story, the gameplay and the AI.
As a sniper in the Marine Corps , you are working with other members of your squad in carrying out a series of covert missions in a fictional country which seems to be a blend of South America and South East Asia. As the game progresses you also get to play two other characters, one of whom I can’t really remember, but was some kind of Delta Force badass, and a Mexican dude with a silly accent. I’ll be honest, most of the time, I had no idea what was going on, why I was doing what I was, and even the scenes between levels did a terrible job of explaining why events were unfolding the way they were. It was often a case of “defend these dudes”, “shoot this bloke”, “run through this stockade killing everyone”, or “snipe everyone you can (sometimes) see”. It’s OK, but not really very compelling.
So then we get onto the gameplay, which is mind-crunchingly frustrating. For starters, I didn’t expect a game called Sniper to contain so many run-and-gun sections as it did. I expected lots of creeping about, sniping from afar and moving to stay hidden. Not “Pick up a rifle, creep ten yards, set off an invisible alarm and then fight in the style of a low grade FPS”. The sniping sections are OK, requiring you to take into account distance, wind, and enemy movement. Until you realise that the game gives you a little red reticule which shows you EXACTLY WHERE EVERY SHOT WILL LAND. Bang goes the need for skill, you are now just shooting with a slightly different crosshair. Which is slightly drunk, with the way it wobbles about for no reason.
And all this gets finally trumped by the enemy AI. It’s truly shocking – sometimes, you can shoot someone from close range, and the guy stood next to him doesn’t seem to not to notice. Other times, your first shot can bring an entire level of enemies running at you, firing with the kind of accuracy I would guess the main character can only dream of. It also gets very frustrating when you are sniping from a secluded location, fire off your first shot and get noticed by every other enemy in the area. Who all proceed to have the kind of eyesight that would make a hawk proud, hitting you repeatedly from their secret locations (muzzle flash being nearly non-existent in this title) and forcing you to restart the entire section again.
Visually, the game is pretty guff too. Everything has a lower resolution sheen which makes all areas look muddy and blocky, coupled with a very shoddy shadowing effect which just seems to make spotting things with your gun even tougher. It put me in mind of the original Far Cry on PC, but only running at a mid level resolution – lots of brown, green and grey, with everything looking OK from a distance and not really holding up to close scrutiny.
The sound is OK – weapons have a satisfying crack, and dialogue crackles across the radios in an effective way. It’s just a shame no one has anything to say which could be considered meaningful – instead it’s often just someone pointing out that you are being shot at “from a hut” – in an area sprinkled liberally with huts.
The PS3 version of Sniper comes with a few bonus levels, which actually seemed to be a bit better than the standard campaign. Unfortunately, the same issues of AI, graphics and repetitive shooting mar these missions too, and again, it quickly becomes an emotionless pop-up shooting session. Overall level design in both level sets is OK, in a kind of last-gen way, but final gripe here – why show us levels with loads of lovely vegetation and cliffs etc. for creeping about in like a real sniper, and then MAKE THEM COMPLETELY INACCESSIBLE AND FORCE US TO PLAY A SHODDY FPS GAME INSTEAD?
There is also a multiplayer mode available, but my inability to find a game or indeed anyone else to play with means I can’t actually speculate on whether it is any good or not. I’m sure losing the enemy AI would make for some fun, however, so if you do rent this title, give it a try and see how it feels.
My big issue is, I like games to have a little soul to them – whether its a clever gameplay mechanic, great design, or a good story, and for me, Sniper has no soul at all. It’s just all round poor, and despite not actually being broken as such, the lack of care paid to the major elements of any shooter undermines any brief moments of interest that Sniper can offer. It’s a real shame too, as Sniper does offer a lengthy campaign – it’s just highly unlikely most gamers will see it through to the end. So,again, I can sum it up in one word – pweh.
The Bad: …so its a shame there is so much straight up shooting; which doesn’t work as well as in nearly every other shooter on the market; AI is all over the place; multiplayer is empty; visually poor, with blocky textures and clipping; varied levels often rapidly end up becoming samey; gun mechanic quickly reveals itself to be a lot less intelligent than originally thought; feels like a poor port of a budget game