The Sniper Ghost Warrior series has long been CI Games’ crowning jewel, with the series selling over 11 million copies as of January 2021. In a move to freshen up the series, the Polish studio decided to shorten the scope and take a more mission-based formula with 2019’s Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, a move that paid dividends and spawned a sequel in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2. While largely the same as its predecessor, SGWC2 expands the scope of the Contracts formula (quite literally) and introduces long-range sniping to the series, with players able to execute targets from over 1000 metres. But does the new long-range sniping enhance the Contracts experience or is it a case of good from far, but far from good?
Set in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kuamar, you play as a specialised soldier known as Raven who has been tasked with liberating Kuamar from the dictatorship of Bibi Rashida and her crew of crooked cronies. Your mission will take you all over Kuamar to eliminate members of Rashida’s regime as well as sabotaging her criminal operations. The story itself has about as much meat on it as a fine dining serving of quail wings, but as no one is playing Contracts 2 for the story, the premise does the job of justifying why you’re in Kuamar to assassinate a bunch of criminals.
You know what they say about people with big hands? Big gun.
The game has 20 different objectives (10 assassinations) for Raven to complete, which are spread across five different contracts and locations. There are two different types of contracts – Classic Contract and Long Shot Contract, with each requiring a different loadout and a different approach, which is made easier thanks to Raven’s high-tech mask.
Classic contracts have the same mission structure as SGWC, which allows Raven to infiltrate an area and take out the target and complete other objectives from close range. Thanks to the sandbox design of the maps, players can do this in a variety of ways. You can choose to lean into a more action-heavy approach by utilising Raven’s bevy of weaponry (such as assault rifles, shotguns and explosive gadgets) to eliminate the enemy. Otherwise, you can embrace your inner Sam Fisher to become a silent assassin and quietly take everyone out or just snipe everyone from afar. Personally, I found a mix of stealth and sniping with a sprinkle of guns blazing when things didn’t go to plan was the best course of action to take.
Once again, the sniping mechanics are the best in the business, with players needing to accommodate for distance, wind and bullet drop with their shot. Nail the headshot and you’ll likely be treated to a visceral bullet cam that gives you a front-row seat to the enemy’s head, leg or arm being blown to pieces; it gets a little repetitive, but it never stops being glorious.
Long shot contracts, as you can guess, are where the long-range sniping comes into play. You’ll still need to clear out small outposts of enemies (or sneak past), but these are simply speed humps en route to your vantage point, which is where the real fun begins. Once you’ve found an ideal spot to set up camp, you’ll need to do some recon, identify your targets and work out the best way to take them all down.
I snipe with my little eye
Picking off enemies from long range is one of the game’s highlights, and when you get on a roll it can create some genuinely tense and exciting moments trying to keep the streak alive
Off with his head
In order to successfully complete your mission you’ll need to be tactical in your approach, with the long shot contracts essentially puzzles that need to be solved. If you miss a target or kill an enemy in close proximity to someone else, you’ll alert the whole base to your existence and your primary target will do a runner. Even though you’re shooting at a distance there are still several ways to get the job done and you’ll need to scan your surroundings for ways that you can draw the attention of your target for easier access or in order to execute them in creative ways, such as shooting down a shipping container.
Picking off enemies from long range is one of the game’s highlights, and when you get on a roll it can create some genuinely tense and exciting moments trying to keep the streak alive. If you think there’s no better feeling than landing a headshot from over 1000 metres wait until you pull off a double or triple headshot from the same distance – you’ll feel like Christian Bale from American Psycho (the mirror scene, hopefully not too many other scenes).
It was always going to be a challenge to make a game based around sniping feeling fresh, and if there’s another area of SGWC2 that CI Games excels in it’s the level/mission design. The split between classic and long shot contracts helps break the core gameplay loop up and encourages players to try different playstyles. Furthermore, the majority of the missions themselves are enjoyable to play, with my personal favourite being the mission to take out Rashida herself, which is set inside an ancient palace.
Running on the Xbox Series X, Kuamar and its environments look absolutely stunning thanks to CryEngine. Whether it’s the sandy desert terrain or the forest and mountain environments, the level of detail is excellent and the design of the maps is impressive given their large scale, and the atmosphere of the maps is enhanced thanks to a well composed soundtrack. When it comes to the game’s performance, SGWC2 has two modes – a performance mode that sees the game run at a 2K resolution and a smooth 60fps, and a visual mode that offers 4K resolution at a lower frame rate. The performance is easily the better of the two, as the visual mode is fairly choppy and quite unsatisfying to play.
Token beautiful vista
That’s not the only area where SGWC2 falls a little short, the other being the enemy AI, which has barely improved from the first Contracts game. For the most part the enemy AI has the smarts of a doorknob, often standing there in dreamland while you sneak around feasting on stealth kills (who knows? Maybe it’s their way of rebelling against the poor working conditions in Kuamar), and when they do notice your presence, they rarely put up much of a fight, outside of their own snipers being deadeye dicks. There’s also the lack of a manual save function, which is more of a nuisance than anything as the auto-save system is fairly generous, but it can be frustrating as it’s disabled whenever your cover is blown.
Each contract has a bunch of challenges to complete, such as killing all targets in an area without raising the alarm, killing a target in a certain way and completing objectives within a time limit, which will give you cash bonuses and tokens to buy better weapons. You won’t be able to complete all challenges in one playthrough, so there is a good amount of replayability on hand and there are several collectibles to be found for the kleptomaniacs playing the game.
With the cash and skill points earned from completing contracts, players can purchase new weapons and equipment, as well as upgrade Raven’s skills, such as the ability to stealth kill heavy-armoured enemies and make ziplines a two-way street. For the most part the upgrade system feels a little underutilised, with most upgrades feeling a little unnecessary. None more so than the drone, which is a neat tool in theory, but given the amount of drone jammer towers around Kuamar, it barely gets used.
Spoken like a true tourist
CI Games must be commended on their dedication and commitment to continue honing their craft. It was never going to be a perfect game but they’ve found a formula that works, and while it may not be the best game you’ll play this year, players looking for a fun and authentic sniping experience should look no further.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X // Review code supplied by publisher
- CI Games
- CI Games
- PS4 / Xbox Series X&S / Xbox One / PC
- June 4, 2021