With Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, Polish developer CI Games immediately follows the focused formula from the first Contracts title.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 famously underperformed, and CI Games attributed much of that to its open-world design (and its triple-A price tag). That’s pretty much gone now, although the cards still allow quite a bit of free-roaming, as we were able to verify for ourselves during a recent hands-on with the game.
The big difference from the previous installment, however, is that of the five maps available at launch in Contract 2, three (Zindah Province, Tajmid Heights and Maladh Wadi) feature specifically designed sniper missions. The community itself called for more attention to the titular sniping action, and CI Games mandated this in this sequel.
These murders can only be carried out from extraordinarily long distances, ranging from about a kilometer to even farther. By that we mean that it is not even possible to get closer to the target as you can see from the end of the gameplay footage embedded below; Trying this will result in a game over screen.
That’s not exactly exciting from this writer’s point of view; it would have been better if the developers had found a way to boost the sniping action with bigger rewards, rather than outright forcing it as the only way to eliminate certain targets.
Still, as mentioned above, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 gives you a fair amount of freedom when it comes to tackling most of the other targets. You can move across the maps of the Middle East in pure sandbox style, taking out enemies, taking out enemy outposts and discovering hidden weapon caches.
Even the run-and-gun approach can be tried to some extent, although the AI turned out to be quite ruthless on the penultimate difficulty setting, as they can kill the player character with just a few bullet hits in all the right places. A stealth approach is generally advisable, and you can even choose to interrogate enemy soldiers to obtain useful information, such as the locations of their teammates.
Those who love the stealth action will find that killing from afar requires a lot of finesse. You need to calibrate the distance to your target, adjust the height of the range, and use the DRS (dynamic reticle) trajectory curve to judge exactly where your shots will land. Even the weather can play an important role when snipping from huge distances, although the DARPA bullets on your weapon can be equipped to automatically ignore both elevation and weather factors. Dismemberment, one of the trademarks of the other Sniper series, has been added to this sequel and should more than please fans in terms of gore from what we’ve seen.
As usual in the series, you have a drone that can assist you in remote reconnaissance and even suppress targets after an upgrade. However, there are counters for the drone in Contract 2, such as jammers and anti-drone towers; the former can be disabled with an EMP or simply by firing at the panel, but the latter are armored and cannot be deactivated in any way. When you come across an anti-drone tower, stay out of their range or your drone will shut down completely. There is now also a turret, which can be a great tactical tool for targeting enemies remotely and even diverting attention from your character’s actual location.
The developers said the game (priced at $ 40) could be completed in about eight hours by going through the main objectives, but it would take much longer to fully complete the objectives of each mission. Post-launch DLCs are already planned, although we couldn’t get any concrete details on that yet.
Graphically, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is still based on the CRYENGINE like its predecessors. This evolved version offers slightly improved visuals and frame rate, at least on paper. Our test showed a nice but not excellent visual experience, without ray tracing or other DirectX 12 Ultimate effects. The graphics options include a toggle for FidelityFX, but it doesn’t exactly state which of the many effects in AMD’s open source image quality toolkit was used here. In fact, there’s no official support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays, and Windows 10’s brand new Auto HDR feature didn’t seem to work either, leaving us stuck in the Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).
Performance seems decent in this non-final build already. Since everything was maxed out at 4K resolution, we only encountered short delays on our PC (Intel i9 9900K, GeForce RTX 3090), although those could very well be ironed out by the time the game comes out June 4th (on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X).
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