There’s still something about the title Sniper HUURH Ghost Warrior HUURH Contracts that irks me, all dry heaves aside. I always find it laughable when anyone refers to themselves as a “warrior” if they’ve never even had one battle axe lesson – or indeed if they collapse like an ineptly folded cootie catcher the moment they get into a direct fight with someone less than two hundred yards away. Without the Sniper part clarifying things, what would you assume Ghost Warrior was? I’m leaning towards either poorly translated martial arts film or an air freshener marketed towards men aged 18-35. I reviewed Sniper (HUURH) Ghost Warrior 3 and it was godawful. Like watching a Jason Bourne film where the costume department accidentally ordered everything two sizes too small and Jason Bourne spends every action scene in a dustbin growling with generic intensity about how his jockstrap pinches. Sniper (HUURH) Ghost Warrior (HUURH) Contracts One was an improvement in that it was a game like reading a slightly interesting magazine in a doctor’s waiting room as opposed to being like the ensuing botched colonoscopy. I covered it in my compilation review of games I couldn’t think of many interesting things to say about, but now the sequel’s getting its own review.
Not because it’s any less mediocre you understand, but because it’s now so mediocre that the mediocrity’s come back around to being interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game so utterly milquetoast in all its attributes. The plot, right, is that you’re a lone sniper in a nondescript Middle Eastern oil nation with a new government that I guess didn’t import enough Simpsons DVDs and therefore the Western powers want ousted. You proceed to oust it by tracking down a bunch of key power brokers and turning all their heads into very short lived and highly pressurised ornamental fountains, concluding with the big leader herself. You do all of that, then the very no nonsense voice in your head says well done, then you go home. I guess I was expecting a twist. Like the big leader gets in a giant robot suit or some kind of fortified bunker at least and isn’t just standing around in a courtyard looking like she’s waiting to complain to the gardener about some neglected leylandiis. Or maybe the very no nonsense voice in your head could be lying about your targets; you only have his word that they’re evil and the worst YOU ever see them do is neglect to close the Venetian blinds before you make everyone else in the room forever paranoid of distant shrubbery.
There is kind of a twist in that there’s one last surprise target you need to ornamental fountain after the main lady, but Mr. No-Nonsense Handler tacks it onto your to-do list with all the gravitas of a request that you pick up a carton of milk on the way home. So on the whole it feels like the story writer sat down to work and then threw up their hands and went PBBBBT. Even leaving aside how painfully generic a setting this is for a contemporary war shooter – oh I guess we can’t call it that ‘cos there isn’t technically a war going on. Come back in a few years after our actions get declassified, I suppose. But I guess there’s no helping feeling distanced from the story in a sniping game, where the average distance between you and every other named character is roughly the length of the queue outside the STD clinic in the town where your mum lives. And this is a game that focusses on the sniping, thankfully. There’s a bit of utterly bog standard action stealth gameplay on the way to the sniping positions – you know, hide in bushes, wait for guards to turn around and contextual button prompt them right in the jugular vein – but then the sniping challenges feel like a nice reward, like coming home after a long day at work, gathering the family around and shooting them all in the head.
I enjoyed the sniping gameplay more than I expected. At least it focusses on something, unlike the rest of it which is the usual “You can use stealth OR direct combat OR stick landmines down your trousers and bum bounce everyone to death it’s up to you” folderol. No, reign it in, kids, those targets are fucking miles away, you won’t be bum bouncing those without an industrial grade bum trebuchet. So you have to snipe crazy long distances calculating wind drift and bullet dropoff so it’s actually rewarding when you score a headshot and it’s like watching slow motion footage of a dog overturning their food bowl. But this is a modern stealth game and so as always the spectre of cockup cascade hangs overhead like a socially inept zeppelin. If you miss your target and set off an alert then just fucking reload because if you couldn’t cottage cheese their noggin while they were standing around daydreaming about pies then you definitely won’t do it while they’re sprinting to the car. And when alerted all the enemy bodyguards instantly know your position ‘cos I guess they’re all experts in trigonometry or maybe my mum made my carve my name and address into all my bullets, and they start firing back.
And, mystifyingly, can hit you. From a thousand metres. Makes me wonder why I blew all my money on the sniper rifle equivalent of a Porsche 911 if a bunch of rusty AKs that a rogue nation picked up at the CIA’s last rummage sale can achieve the same result. But I’ll give this a pass because while in reality there’s not much you can do about a shooter two postcodes over except shake whatever remains of your fists, but it’s a game, so there needs to be some threat. And Sniper Toast Borrower Pontefract Cakes does seem to understand that. So while it does provide you with the inevitable scouting drone that every Jiminy Cockthroat game now has, by the last couple of missions there are so many anti-drone towers around there’s only about 10% of the map you can even use the fucking thing. You can also lay mines, but the one time I successfully killed an enemy with one, all his alerted friends again instantly figured out my position somehow. Mum’s name labels strike again. So the AI does have a tendency to cheat, but honestly it probably needs all the help it can get. The little alert meter that fills up when you’re visible fills up rather weirdly slowly for what you’d expect from anyone with 20/20 vision and an intact hypothalamus.
So I would describe Windscreen Wiper Wet Warbler Wank Biscuit 2 as a game of contrasts. Interesting enough sniping nuggets concealed within some rather flimsy stealth actioning but I don’t mind that too much because it helps pace out the fun bits. It’s like a thoughtful present with some slightly damp gift wrap around it that only a couple of weevils have gotten into. What I do mind is how fucking flimsy it is from a narrative standpoint. The obvious disinterest of its creators radiates off it like the brown note. Yeah, you’re in the country of Whateverstan. The government’s totally bad, probably. Here’re some targets.” That’s all the context you get and there’s absolutely no sense of escalation or that the situation is evolving at all. It’s just one distant bigwig after another getting the fly to the windscreen treatment. The only real highlight dramatically speaking is right at the end, spoiler alert, when no-nonsense voice is giving his final congratulatory monologue and starts getting emotionally needy. “Good work agent. You have made this area safe for democracy. This ends our contract, but I’d just like to say you’ve been a pleasure to work with. And I’d like to buy you a pint someday. I’m sending you my home phone number in case you want to get in touch. No pressure. Anytime’s fine. It’s just. I’ve been very lonely since the divorce, agent. Are you still there, agent? Oh! My cat’s come into the room, agent. Do you want to say hello to my cat?”