Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 (which I’ll refer to as simply Contracts 2 through the rest of this review) is the sixth entry in the popular Sniper: Ghost Warrior franchise, which began in 2008. Developed and published by City Interactive Games, the series has sold over 11 million copies to date, earning the title of “best selling first person sniping franchise.” This latest title released back on June 4th on Xbox One, Series X/S, PS4, and Windows PC. The PS5 version, dubbed the Elite Edition, premiered on August 24th, and comes with several bonuses and technical upgrades. This is the copy I was provided for review, and I’ll be covering the game in full.
The series casts the player as a sniper in a modern warfare scenario, tasked with infiltrating enemy compounds, assassinating targets, retrieving documents and other valuables, and otherwise just being plain sneaky. In Contracts 2, players assume the role as “Raven,” a mercenary hired by an unknown client who is tasked to disrupt a corrupt government in a fictional Middle Eastern country, and deliver control back into the hands of the people.
Military shooters like this are never really about the plot, though. Even with their infinitely high budgets, I couldn’t tell you the plot of a single Call of Duty game, and that’s no different here. Each mission is precluded with a series of vignettes that relay to you your objective, and while there is a sense of purpose behind them, when it came down to it I really only wanted to know who to shoot and what to steal. It’s all rather forgettable once the game play begins.
Unlike previous games, Contracts 2 has two types of missions for you to undertake: “classic” style operations where you explore an open sandbox area, and “long distance” assignments where you are placed in a more restricted zone, such as atop a mountain range, and can overlook the various zones where your targets are located. Each of these have many different objectives that the player can tackle in any order. Sometimes these assignments are finding and killing a marked target, but many tasks are sabotaging enemy resources, pilfering classified documentation, and rescuing captured individuals.
In addition to primary tasks, each stage has numerous bonus contracts that can be completed as well. Some of these challenge the player to get through a particular area without raising the alarm, while others will charge you in locating an optional bounty target to take down. The most enjoyable of these challenges require the player to take out enemies in specific ways, à la Hitman style, and really raise the replayability bar. It’s fun experimenting and trying to find out just how to complete these assignments. What’s more is that after you’ve finished a stage, you can choose to tackle a single objective from the main menu, allowing you to more easily attempt these tasks without having to redo the entire level.
The classic open world levels were hit-or-miss for me. Each of these have several areas with many different objectives spread throughout, and the player can choose to tackle them in any order. Sometimes these assignments are finding and killing a marked target, but many tasks are sabotaging enemy resources, pilfering classified documentation, and rescuing captured individuals.
While traversing these open environments, players will encounter patrolling soldiers, mounted sentry guns, cameras, and the like. The most fun I had in these stages was finding ways to proceed through the environment stealthfully, which often required me to quickly down several soldiers before they could alert the guards. These sections have an overall Metal Gear Solid feeling for me. This is a stealth game after all, so it should come as no major surprise, but everything from how Raven talks in that Clint Eastwood-esque voice, and the Harry Gregson-Williams inspired soundtrack conjured up visions of Snake waging war behind enemy lines.
What I didn’t like was how easy it was to get lost in these larger environments. Numerous times I would need to explore an area with several floors, such as an underground station or a fortified headquarters, and found it extremely hard to navigate through. There are dozens of pathways that essentially lead nowhere, thus I would discover that I’m just aimlessly running in circles. The thrill of an intense battle would thus be diminished by the frustration of getting out of the area, and that’s no fun.
I greatly preferred the long distance missions, as not only was the pacing superb, but they fulfilled my one desire in playing the game: sniping. Nailing targets from over 1,500 feet is not uncommon in these levels, and it never ceases to be thrilling when picking off an oblivious bad guy with a headshot from a mile away.
These missions really put the long range sniping game play on a pedestal. Unlike most other first person shooters, Contracts 2 opts for more of a simulation with your gunplay. To successfully hit your target, you’ll need to calibrate your sights, account for the wind, adjust for gravity, and more. Simply lining up your target in your crosshairs isn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, the game does a great job of easing you into this realism, letting you turn on an aiming assist which places a red dot for where you should line up your target. This is great for newcomers who want to get a good feel for the shooting before cranking things up to higher levels and tackling things like a true marksman. Think of it as training wheels, and they really help soften the experience for those having difficulty.
Most of your long range shots will be displayed to the player via a cool “bullet time” sequence, in which the camera follows the bullet in slow motion all the way to the unfortunate victim. I admit, its cool watching your bullet slamming into your foe and coming out the other side, followed by a steady stream of red blood, but there’s just not enough variety in these mini-cutscenes for it to sustain this awesome factor for the entirety of the game. I have only played one other game in the series, which was around 2010, and these were shown off the exact same way. I was anticipating a greater improvement over the past decade, but was a bit letdown. Once your seen one of these, you’ve practically seen them all.
I think what I would have preferred are varied reactions from enemies when they are hit. When I pull off a headshot, often I will get a satisfactory exploding skull, but nowhere else. In a sick way, I kind of want to see the same thing should I hit someone in the crotch, or maybe an x-ray view of my bullet shattering their heart, but instead I’m presented with a standard bullet shot.
Your sniper rifle isn’t your only tool for thinning enemy ranks. Players are able to carry one rifle, one secondary weapon such as a shotgun or crossbow, and a pistol sidearm. There are various versions of each as well as upgrades that the player can purchase using funds that they’ve been awarded by completing contracts. While there are some clear benefits from upgrading your weapons, the gear your start out with is perfectly adequate.
Many players will enjoy the numerous gadgets at your disposal. Players can pilot a drone that can scout out the area, hack consoles, and even subdue enemies when it’s been upgraded enough. There’s also a mounted gun that players can set up and command to pick off targets in its line of sight. I used these sparingly though, but that’s largely due to my “hands-on” play style. I can easily see certain gamers becoming much more reliant on the drone aircraft than their other weaponry, which again speaks to the strength of this game’s replay value.
In addition to the weaponry, there is also an upgrade system that the player can invest in. Completing objectives will earn you points that you can spend to further develop Raven and much of his gear. While I like the idea of adding an RPG-esque upgrade tree to a FPS, most of these upgrades felt pretty pointless to me. Sure, being able to sustain more damage or having the ability to carry more grenades can be helpful, they never felt necessary for me, and sadly this made the upgrade system feel a bit contrived in the end.
Enemy AI could also use some improvement. Enemies will often stick to a particular route, and its your job to observe them and memorize where they are and when. Occasionally they will stop to talk to a comrade or tinker with a nearby object, like a radio, but otherwise they stick to their predetermined path.
Far too often, once foes have been alerted to my presence, they immediately start firing in my direction, even at 1,000+ yards out. What’s most ridiculous is that most shot actually land. For a game that leans so heavily towards simulation, it’s quite bizarre that they can nail you with such precision. It’s feels much more realistic when you have to frantically escape because they are raining mortar fire at your location, or when a truckload of soldiers starts making its way to your location.
When you do engage in open combat, I found myself reverting back to the tried-and-true strategy of waiting behind a corner and popping enemies one-by-one as they come after you. It’s very outdated artificial intelligence, and gave me flashbacks of playing Goldeneye on the N64. Once, I saw an enemy use a smoke grenade to help cover his advance, but I honestly couldn’t tell if this was intentional or just a fluke. I’d love to see in future games better use of flash bangs, enemy coordination, tactical maneuvers, and more real-world tactics.
Contracts 2 utilizes autosaving, which in itself isn’t a bad thing (in fact, it’s more often than not a blessing), but I do dislike that there’s not an option to manually save. Stealth games such as this require a lot of trial and error, and the autosave function discourages players to take certain risks or to experiment with their strategies in certain ways. I can understand that manually saving can render the game’s difficulty moot, as over utilization can make some challenges a breeze, but maybe manual saves should be turned off on certain difficulties or limited to one or two per mission. I’m not sure what the right answer is, I just know that by not having manual saving it did impact the experience for me if only slightly.
As stated previously, the Elite Edition comes with a few extras, though nothing that renders the other versions obsolete. In addition to the base game, PS5 players will gain at the outset a silent crossbow, an improved sniper rifle, a revolver, an assault rifle, and a zebra camo for their firearm of choice.
A new map is also listed, but it appears this map was made available as a free DLC for all versions. Titled “Butcher’s Banquet,” this DLC has players exploring an ancient temple and the surrounding area, and tasked with bringing down a brutal terrorist leader, known as the “Butcher.” As with other base game stages, this mission has several contracts and additional tasks to conquer, and provides a couple of hours of added enjoyment for those that only seek to do the bare minimum.
The PS5 version also promises to come with all the advancements that new tech provides, such as 4K resolution, faster load times, and improved textures. I didn’t have any other copies to compare it to, but from looking online I don’t see that much of a difference. What I can say is that I never encountered any major frame rate issues, textures never seemed to be of a low resolution, and draw distance was never an issue (which is most important in a long range sniping game). Loading a mission initially takes some time, maybe 30 seconds give or take, which is a bit long for next gen hardware, but reloading a checkpoint afterwards always felt near instantaneous. The Elite Edition also takes full advantage of the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback of the dualsense controller. These additions have always been a positive thing in every PS5 game I’ve played, and they’re most welcome here, too. The PS5 controller can really make each shot you take feel powerful, and that’s nothing short of exhilarating.
Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars
Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 offers satisfying stealth gameplay spread across six story missions and one free DLC. Players can find tons of replayability using different weapons, gadgets, and strategies to accomplish a myriad of different tasks. Enemy A.I. is quite outdated, and the game does have inconsistent quality in its level design. Still, for anyone wanting to step into the shoes of a sniper of fortune, Contracts 2 is sure to indulge such bloodlust.
Josh Cornett is a lifelong gamer who enjoys games across all platforms and genres. He has gone by the alias of “Block” ever since college, when he was nicknamed “Blockbuster” for his extensive video game and movie collection. Currently, he reviews a wide variety of games on his Youtube channel, and talks about all things gaming related on his Twitter and Facebook pages.