Sniper games are such a breath of fresh air for me. I usually enjoy the fast and furious pacing of shooters like DOOM and Wolfenstein. Still, I didn’t realise how bizarrely relaxing a game about sniping could be. I’ve had experience with Sniper Elite and even dabbled in the sniper assassinations in Hitman, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a game as authentic as Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2. Following some delays, the game is almost here, but I’ve had a bit of time with the opening moments of the game.
I jumped eagerly into the tutorial. The first thing that is immediately obvious to me is just how nice it all looks. This is a game that takes place in the middle east, and not many games I’ve played have been able to capture the harsh and arid landscape that the team at CI Games have managed to do so well. It’s a beautifully stark world to set the game in and one that I really can’t wait to explore in the final game. Everything reacts to me moving – if I’m crawling through vegetation, it reacts as I’d expect it to. It even reacts to weather when I’m not rustling through it.
Given that so much action in Contracts 2 will take place a fair distance away, it’s encouraging to see that the detail up close hasn’t been forgotten either.
After a brief moment to take in the environment, the tutorial begins. I grab my rifle and start to aim at the training targets. It’s at this point that I’m taken aback – there’s a whole lot of numbers and details on the screen that I’m not used to seeing in a Sniper game. Contracts 2’s dedication to realism is commendable. Not only do you have to line up the shot, like other games, but you have to take into account wind, distance, and bullet drop to line up the perfect shot. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but by the end of the session, I was able to line up not only headshots but double headshots too.
It’s not quite a simulation, the team insists, but there is a degree of realism and consideration that I feel is unmatched in games so far. But if all of this sounds a bit too unruly for you, lower difficulty options give you a choice to tone down the things you have to worry about. The choice is yours.
Speaking of choice, chatting with the team while working on my target, it was clear that there was an emphasis on player choice when designing the maps and targets in Contracts 2. At first, I tried to take things up close and personal with a pistol. Seemingly oblivious to the game that I was playing, I had a nice discussion with the team about how not many people went for that option, but I can appreciate that close quarters even is an option.
But close quarters can be helpful – grabbing guards to interrogate them can give you intel about the area, highlight nearby enemies, and more. It’s all quite brutal too, but I’ll circle back around to that soon.
As satisfying as it was to sneak around, popping enemies with a silenced pistol, and knife them up close, I was getting a bit off track. It was time to snipe. Arriving in Zindah Province, I noticed, once more, how beautiful the game looked when I reached a high mountain outlook. I turn around but then am promptly reminded that an objective is in the area. Perhaps a testament to how what Contracts 2 is doing is so unique; there was a base in the distance. The far distance. So far, that I’d assumed it was just window dressing. But no, it was time for some long-range sniping.
If you’re a seasoned veteran in any sniper games, then this is where things will be most interesting. The majority of Contracts 2 is built around “extreme range sniping”, with many targets being over a kilometre away from you. It’s an intimidating thing to aim at a target so far away and be expected not to miss. But Contracts 2 gives you so much information, so many tools to do so that it becomes less intimidating and more motivating. I was ready.
At this contract in the Zindah Province, I had a few options. There was the tried-and-true shipping container, which I could shoot off its crane to crush my target. There were other electrical devices I could shoot to distract guards. I wanted to go a little bit old school, though, and line up a shot. I scouted out the area, marking targets with my binoculars, and attempted a shot. Of course, I missed, and chaos ensued. But the AI didn’t just all have instant divine knowledge of my location. It was only with subsequent shots, on my part, that I was truly made. At that point, I’m introduced to the fact that the enemy has snipers too, and in my hubris, thinking I was safe so far away, I was killed.
So, I try again. This time, I watch everyone and realise there are scheduled behaviours for each of the guards. I had the option to take out my target and run. But instead, I took my time to see what everyone was doing. I even took the chance to try and line up two separate headshots, but given how realistic Contracts 2 is, the fact I tried to do it through a window meant that my bullet lost velocity, and I only killed one. Chaos again. I restart out of an obsessive need to be perfect.
Third time lucky! This time, I look around, spot a fuse box, and shoot it. Two guards both investigate it, and my target casually strolls into plain sight by himself. The opportunity was there. And I took it. I line up the perfect headshot, using the data presented to me by my scope, and pull the trigger. It’s here that I’m treated to Contracts 2’s epic bullet camera, which follows the bullet along a vast distance before showing it blow open my target’s head.
It’s equal parts disgusting, satisfying, and fulfilling. To be treated to such a, for lack of a better term, money shot after lining up the perfect kill feels like an achievement. Surprisingly, the gore is a bit more than I expected – even when I was using my pistol or assault rifle at close quarters, heads would explode if I lined up the perfect headshot. I love gore in shooters, as it contributes to relentlessly satisfying gunplay in games, so it’s nice to see attention paid to it here in Contracts 2.
After getting my first target, I leave my post and eventually come to an exfiltration point. It’s here where you’ll be able to adjust your equipment, acquire many skills, see your progress on challenges (and realise how differently your kills could’ve gone), and even leave the area if you so wish. At this point, the structure of Contracts 2 clicked for me – it feels like a similar structure to a game like Hitman. Each location has multiple contracts and objectives that you can do in any order you wish. There’s a real sense of freedom, and the maps being so open helps contribute to that feeling.
There’s so much more to do in Contracts 2, but I feel at that point is where it’s best to end this preview. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts surprised me in many ways. Not only was it fantastic looking, but it also has an incredibly satisfying sense of scale and realism that I feel is unmatched today. The star of the show here is easily the extreme range sniping, which, while intimidating at first, quickly becomes a joy to engage in thanks to Contracts 2’s robust systems.
I’m keen to see how Contracts 2 all plays out when I can explore all the maps and break open the challenges, but for now, having experienced the first level, consider me interested.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 launches for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on the 4th June 2021.