Whether sneaking through a crowded village hoping to avoid enemy contact, or seeking a vantage point to line up a shot on a high-value target, a sniper's job is always a difficult one. And while many modern military games give you a taste of what it's like to wield a high-powered rifle as a part-time killer, the upcoming Sniper: Ghost Warrior looks to put you in a ghillie suit and give you a taste of the problems (and power) that come with being a military sniper.
Developed by City Interactive, Sniper will feature 16 missions that will add up to nine to 11 hours of gameplay. Though there are some straight run-and-gun assault missions to be found, most of your time is spent sniping. The game's plot takes place in the fictional South American country of Isla Truena, which has been under dictatorship rule. The US military is sent in to assist the rebels looking to overthrow the dictator, which is where you come in.
During our demo of the game, we watched as a sniper, wading through waist-deep vegetation, lined up a shot on two unsuspecting soldiers who were standing on the far side of a pair of cliffs spanned by a rope bridge. To set up a shot, you press the left trigger (on the Xbox 360 controller), which brings up the scope. The scope HUD has a lot of information--including the obligatory crosshairs, as well as a shifting red dot that is used on the easy difficultly level to show you exactly where your bullet will make impact (taking into consideration factors like wind and the natural arced path of a bullet's flight). At higher difficulty levels, that red dot is not available, and you'll be required to make the adjustments yourself. Another meter in the HUD measures your heartbeat; if your heart rate is normal (around 80 beats per minute), you're considered calm and can easily line up a shot. If you're under pressure and your heart rate is elevated, it will be more difficult to set up shots.
Much of the challenge of successful sniping isn't hitting the target, but rather getting into a suitable position that will allow you the best shot possible (while not getting caught in the process). In game terms, stealth is a big part of Sniper's challenge. Because many of the missions take place in the Amazon jungle, there will often be plenty of thick vegetation to hide in. You'll also have a handy meter at the bottom of the screen that will display how aware enemies are of your presence. If the meter fills up completely, you've been spotted and better look for an escape route. In some missions, you'll also have a spotter who will tell you exactly what you need to do in order to get through a mission. Finally, there's also a minimap that shows nearby enemies and their current state--calm, urgent, or alarmed.
In the sniping missions, you'll have a variety of gear to see you through to the end--most importantly your sniper rifle. You'll start a bolt action rifle but will eventually move on to longer range weapons like the Barrett, a significantly more powerful rifle that brings with its stopping power the added danger of being really, really loud. Enemies will respond to shots fired, after all, making every shot you take that much more important. There will be other accessories on hand in the game, including pistols, throwing knives (which you can pick up again to reuse), and claymore mines which you can use to set traps.
Different missions will have different requirements--some are straight-ahead sniping missions where the goal is to clear a village of enemies or take out a high-ranking officer. In others, you'll need to avoid enemy engagement altogether, and even being spotted by the bad guys will result in a failed objective. Some missions hold your hand more than others--such as those that use a spotter to alert you to nearby enemies--while others put the onus squarely on the player in dealing with all of the obstacles in your way; from planning, execution and, as looks to often be the case, dealing with missions that go haywire.
It's not all slow-paced stealth in Sniper, however; the game will have a number of assault missions to play through. In these missions, you're playing as an Army soldier whose missions are often tied to the sniper ops in the game. One mission we watched featured a full-on assault of a pair of oil rigs and, as you might expect, the action was frenetic and fast-paced, especially when compared to the slow-as-you-go sniper missions. In addition the game will include multiplayer, though details on the different modes haven't been released yet.
Developer City Interactive says Sniper will be "the most realistic sniping experience in a video game ever," which, considering the long and illustrious history of sniping in games, is a heady claim indeed. We'll have to wait until we actually play the game before we can judge that assertion, but we do know that Sniper deserves some credit for putting so much of its attention on this most deadly of professions. The game is currently due for release in spring for the Xbox 360 and PC.