Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 Hands-on – All About That Bull’s Eye
With Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, Polish developer CI Games is following up directly on the focused formula seen in the first Contracts title.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 famously underperformed, and CI Games attributed much of that to the open world design (and the triple-A price tag). That's pretty much gone now, though the maps still allow for quite a bit of free-roaming, as we were able to verify for ourselves during a recent hands-on with the game.
However, the big difference compared to the previous installment is that out of five maps available at launch in Contracts 2, three (Zindah Province, Tajmid Heights, and Maladh Wadi) feature specifically designed long-range sniper assignments. The community itself asked for a greater focus on the titular sniping action, and CI Games obliged in this sequel.
These assassinations can only be carried from exceedingly long distances, ranging from around one kilometer to even further. By that, we mean that it's not even possible to get any closer to the target, as you can see at the very end of the gameplay footage embedded below; attempting to do so will result in a game over screen.
That's not exactly thrilling from this writer's point of view; it would have been preferable if the developers found some ways to incentivize the sniping action with greater rewards, perhaps, instead of forcing it outright as the only way to eliminate certain targets.
Still, as mentioned above, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 does allow you a decent amount of freedom when it comes to tackling most of the other targets. You'll get to move across the Middle Eastern maps in pure sandbox style, eliminating foes, taking down enemy outposts, and discovering hidden weapon caches.
Even the run-and-gun approach can be attempted to an extent, though the AI proved to be rather unforgiving at the penultimate difficulty level, as they can kill the player character with just a few bullet hits in the right places. A stealth approach is generally advisable, then, and you may even opt to interrogate enemy soldiers to extract useful information such as the locations of their teammates.
Those players who are into the sniping action will find that assassinating from afar requires a lot of finesse. You'll need to calibrate the distance from your target, adjust the scope elevation, and use the DRS (dynamic reticle system) trajectory curve to assess exactly where your shots are going to land. Even the weather can play a significant role when you're sniping from massive distances, though the D.A.R.P.A. bullets can be equipped on your weapon to automatically ignore both elevation and weather factors. Dismemberment, one of the trademark features of the other Sniper series, has been added to this sequel and should more than satisfy fans in terms of gore from what we've seen.
As customary in the series, you've got a drone that can help you do remote reconnaissance and can even subdue targets once upgraded. However, there are counters to the drone in Contracts 2, such as jammers and anti-drone towers; the former can be disabled either with an EMP or simply by shooting at its panel, but the latter are armored and cannot be deactivated in any way. When you encounter an anti-drone tower, then steer clear of their range, or your drone will be shut down entirely. There's also a turret now, which can be a great tactical tool to remotely target enemies and even to draw away the attention from the actual location of your character.
The developers said the game (priced at $40) could be completed in around eight hours by beelining through the main objectives, but it would take a lot longer than that to fully complete each mission's objectives. Post-launch DLCs are already planned, though we couldn't get any concrete details on those yet.
Graphically, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is still based on the CRYENGINE like its predecessors. This evolved version provides slightly improved visuals and frame rate, at least on paper. Our test showed a pretty but not outstanding visual experience, with no ray tracing or any other DirectX 12 Ultimate effects. The graphics options include a toggle for FidelityFX, but there's no mention of exactly which of the many effects included in AMD's open source image quality toolkit has been used here. There isn't even any official support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays, and Windows 10's brand new Auto HDR feature didn't seem to kick in either, leaving us stuck in the Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).
The performance seems decent already in this non-final build. With everything maxed out at 4K resolution, we only encountered brief slowdowns on our PC (Intel i9 9900K, GeForce RTX 3090), though those could very well be ironed out by the time the game comes out on June 4th (on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X).
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