Three years ago, City Interactive (once fittingly known as Lemon Interactive) released Sniper: Ghost Warrior, a self-proclaimed tactical stealth experience that was received with mixed to negative reviews. It was praised for its visuals, sniper cams and concept but criticised for the absurd and uneven difficulty, poor execution and lack of appeal. For reasons unbeknownst, City Interactive thought it a good idea to produce a sequel and three years down the line, we have a near perfect clone of the same experience.
Ghost Warrior 2 has almost no recognisable differences from its predecessor and it's as if the developer had not listened to the criticism of the first instalment. It has all the features of a generic, modern military experience: linear maps filled with enemies with questionable AI, 'strategically' placed explosive barrels, one-dimensional and stereotypical characters and forced concepts. The only difference is that the game revolves around stealth...or at least what the developer believes stealth to be. In essence, it is basically your typical first person shooter's stealth section dragged out into a full-length game.
I originally played the first Ghost Warrior game and after a month of deliberating based on that foul taste left in my mouth, I decided to give the sequel the benefit of the doubt. For the first fifteen minutes of a play session, I'm happy I did; subsequent time spent playing often feels wasted. Ghost Warrior 2 is reasonably good-looking thanks to CryEngine 3 and in lieu of this, I expected some visually appealing set-pieces and an overall pleasant experience; Crysis 2 and Crysis 3 used the same engine, so that mindset is understandable. I was completely wrong.
While the overall experience is truly disappointing, the only redeeming feature is surprisingly decent enough to get you through the game if you want either your money's worth or the achievements or trophies. It is, after all, a game solely revolving around executing targets from distances and at least they were able to get that right. The rifles feel as powerful as they look and even true ballistics aficionados might agree. There's also wind and bullet drop factors to consider if you're playing on the harder difficulty setting; the other two basically show you with an additional reticle where your shot will finalise. Long, well-placed shots are rewarded with a slow-motion bullet camera, but unlike the glory of Sniper Elite, enemies just fall over limp with a spurt of blood. No penetration footage and no exploding heads, even with a Barrett M82.
You'll spend a majority of the game crouched in bushes and creeping past patrolling guards and it would normally be fine except for the sole fact that there's always a hidden path around the guards' lines of sight requiring no thinking or strategy on your part. You'll rarely get the opportunity to distract them and sneak around, but the game is so linear, the developers might as well take the controller out of your hands and do it for you. Furthermore, at some points it feels as though your enemies are secretly psychics: if you're spotted for even a fraction of a second (which is virtually impossible given the alarm of a detection meter,) the entire base will suddenly know exactly where you are at any given moment. You'll also be forced to repeat a ten minute session of sneaking should you die thanks to the frustrating checkpoint system.
You will eventually find some enjoyable moments as I have, primarily the missions in which you're perched above an enemy base and have to strategically take them all out. While they're all marked for you by your spotter, there's still some element of strategy and timing in taking out the guards while their compatriots' backs are turned. Basically though, they're simply shooting galleries and only a treat because you get to take a break from wrestling with the horrendous stealth AI.
As a matter of fact, now that I mention your spotter, Ghost Warrior 2 is easily comparable to a game of Simon Says. Walk here. Shoot him. Follow this way. Stop. Kill those two. Walk over there. Stay low. Even on the rare occasion when you're separated from your spotter, your superiors are giving orders on the radio. Sure, soldiers are supposed to follow orders, but they're also capable of and expected to make decisions and think for themselves. It seems as if City Interactive crafted this game based on stereotypes and an ill-educated vision of how military marksmen function.
Even with bullet physics and marksman simulation, Ghost Warrior 2 is no more sophisticated than Call of Duty. The horribly linear missions drag you through disappointing instances of action as well as a boring and plain story. In a nutshell, like its predecessor, Ghost Warrior 2 is an overall mediocre game with often times maddening artificial intelligence, obnoxious concepts and structure and overly-stereotypical characters and dialogue.