For those of you who can remember, some time ago, there was a game set during World War 2 called Sniper Elite. In that game, your hero, had to stalk the streets of Stalingrad, picking off the invading Nazi's as stealthily as possible. The game garnered critical acclaim and was a popular title. OK so it didn't make the money that games like the then fledgling Medal of Honour series made, but it didn't do too badly and is still remembered fondly and heck, if I had a copy I'd still play it today.
The game had genuine tension and really had you thinking your way through each area, avoiding enemy patrols because if they found you, you got nailed unless you could find an area providing cover. Oh yes that was a game that was unique and there were no other games that came close to emulating it. Now some years later, there is at last a rival.
You cannot claim this is a sequel, as it's made by a different studio and publisher and it's as far away removed from World War 2 as is possible. Now it's the modern day, and the setting is no longer the city streets of a war torn city, now it's in the middle of a steaming jungle in a fictional country.
The storyline is simple. In a far off corner of the world, a dictator called Rodriguez has made life somewhat unpleasant for the locals. So the good old U.S. of A sends in a team to take care of the problem. But this is no squad based shooter, no sir. It's you and a point man that has the enviable task of tracking the rogue general down and removing him. There's only one way that this is going to end, and that's in tears before bedtime. We are not talking about giving the general a stiff talking to, and locking him up. No, the only way of dealing with the man is by putting a slug through his head at a distance and then making sure you can survive to get to the extraction zone and back home. Needless to say this is far easier said than done.
That's the story in a nutshell. In fact it could be a modern day Hollywood blockbuster and if it hasn't been influenced by the films Sniper and Sniper 2 then I'll eat my bush hat! OK time to move on from the plot to the game itself.
There is the usual tutorial section, where you as an expert sniper, are training a group of soldiers. This is useful so you can get to grips with the games mechanics. You'll soon get the idea that this is, as I said no Medal of Honour clone. The tutorial has you doing what the game title says you do, sniping. Thankfully these early targets don't shoot back but you'll soon realise that this game will require some exercising of not just the trigger finger, but the grey matter as well.
The tutorial will advise you that with distance the bullet will actually take a natural downward turn as it speeds towards its target. You will learn that a cross wind will also affect the bullets flight path. Then there's the small matter of controlling your own breathing. Sounds like its complicated and if you skip the tutorial, then you will truly struggle. (It might help if you have played Sniper Elite because that had the same elements too) Oh you can learn how the game plays without it, but it will take some getting used to. You have been warned!
Right that's the basics but how do you control everything? The usual mix of buttons and analogue sticks will guide your character through the game. Left stick to move, right stick to turn, nothing new here. Weapons can be swapped by a press of the triangle button; square reloads the chosen weapon (Pistol, sniper rifle and a knife). Pressing down on the d pad selects a rope and grapple hook that you will need from time to time.
Aiming is achieved by pressing L1, and if you are using a scope, pressing up on the D pad, activates a gradual zoom mode on the sight. L2 if pressed whilst aiming steadies the aim and indeed makes you still your breathing. Be warned; hold your breath too long and you will black out! If hurt, pressing down on the D pad, makes you use your hypodermic charged with healing medicine. Be warned, you only have three of these per mission stage so use them wisely. If under cover you will slowly regain some health, but this not being a fantasy shooter, it will replenish itself but slowly. R1 is your weapons trigger, and also acts as the button allocated for melee attacks. Oh I almost forgot, you will be also given a small supply of grenades.
Basically this is a stealth based shooter that tips its hat a little to Ghost Recon. The jungle setting also brings a flavour of the original Far Cry to mind. Using the circle button alters your stance from standing to crouched, and if held down, will put your character into the fully prone position. Prone is by far the most useful position to be in, this goes without saying. Make use of that as well as whatever cover you can find from the foliage because if you give your position away then you will be in serious trouble.
As the game progresses, you will unlock better weapons so that should entice you to continue on. But be advised there is a certain amount of frustration attached to this game and it's not restricted just to the difficulty of the missions!
Right, let's get down to the breakdown shall we?
I will cover both of these in one shot (excuse the pun!). Details whilst not to the standards of Call of Duty or Medal of Honour are adequate. Trees and foliage are nicely detailed but lack the razor sharp clarity of other titles. Textures of rocks and buildings look fine, but the lighting in some areas looks a little too harsh. Night time sections are fine though and by moonlight everything looks suitably eerie. However there are very noticeable imperfections that jar.
Whilst moving through undergrowth, it can't help but be noticed that leaves and branches do not part as you move through them which although a minor problem is something that sadly detracts from the overall appearance. Even the original Far Cry managed to have leaves that part company as you move through them. These alas, merge with and go through the barrel of your weapon. This kind of visual effect makes you think that you are at times, playing a PS 2 shooter and not a bang up to date next generation title. Then there comes the problem of when you are moving you tend to get 'snagged' on the scenery and there's nasty judder in the scenery around you, that can only be resolved by fully standing up and if you do that at the wrong moment, then enemy bullets and grenades will come flying your way.
It can make the whole effort of being stealthy a little problematical to say the least. It puts a dampener on the game which is a real pity. All in all graphics are fine but the physics disappoint. But the explosions look fine as does the cinematic cut scene of your bullet travelling towards its target when you pull off a head shot from a distance. Very satisfying indeed!
This is very atmospheric and adds to the tension very nicely indeed. The sound track would be great for someone running a military based or spy story themed table top role playing game. The music is a good selling point.
Four modes are on offer here. Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and V.I.P. Standard fare with the one exception being V.I.P where one team protect the designated V.I.P and the others have to clear the way for the sniper in the squad to take that all important shot, an interesting and challenging mode to say the least. It has to be said as well although the game is all about a sniper; most players treat it like a regular Call of Duty online session and seem to prefer to get up close and personal rather than taking the sniper role as perhaps you should be encouraged to.
But and this is a BIG but, there seems to be a connectivity problem with the online game that seriously needs to be addressed. I had a hard time logging onto servers and sometimes when the game was in full swing, boom, the connection was lost and I was ejected back to the main lobby. I heard plenty of players moaning about this through the headset, and it happened far too frequently! The most annoying incident was in a team death match and the connection dropped, when one of the teams was a mere two points away from victory. Needless to say the air turned a deep shade of blue on both sides as for our squad, just needed two more kills to at least draw level. This could give the game a rather unfortunate bad reputation and may encourage people to trade it in rather than keep hold of it.
This is a good game, and it could have been a great game if it wasn't for the faults I have highlighted. The online function in particular should be sorted as soon as possible please! I can forgive or overlook the graphic glitch with the foliage but the snagging on scenery is a pain in the butt to be honest. As said break cover and you'll soon find that the enemy are a well trained bunch indeed.
Is it enjoyable? Yes. Is it challenging? Yes again. Is it perfect? No. Would I recommend it to players who want something a little different from the norm? Yes.
This is a flawed gem but I have certainly played a whole lot worse than this. It's just a shame that some of the rough edges were not smoothed out before release. Still, it has kept me coming back for more and that's reflected in the score I have given it.