The Sniper Ghost Warrior series has undergone a few transformations over the course of its life. When Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 went down the open world road, it turned out to be too ambitious for its own good. With 2019’s Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, CI Games recalibrated, delivering a mission-based game that put the focus on sniping and surveying and exploring large open sandboxes. It was a successful switch, if not one completely without issues, and building on that success, CI Games have made a sequel that does more of the same. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is still not a perfect game, but it shows, just like its immediate predecessor did, that the series can deliver great content when it sticks to what it’s good at.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is set in a fictional Middle-Eastern city being run by a couple of despotic rulers. When one of them dies, his wife takes over, but now, the region is caught in turmoil, which threatens to have an impact on the rest of the world as well, mostly because the conflict might inflate oil prices around the globe. You play as elite sniper Raven, who is sent in to dismantle the tyrannical regime by taking out its most high profile players one after the other. If that all sounds utterly boring and generic- well, that’s because it is. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2’s story feels like it was written by an AI bot that was designed to craft generic plot setups for modern military shooters and keep pumping them out by the hundreds on a conveyor belt. The plot is boring, the characters are dull, and writing is passable at best, and laughably bad at worst.
"Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is still not a perfect game, but it shows, just like its immediate predecessor did, that the series can deliver great content when it sticks to what it’s good at."
But you’re not here for the story. You’re here for the sniping. Luckily enough, Contracts 2 knows that, and that’s the part the game is best at. Like its direct predecessor, Contracts 2 is mission based. There are areas, each one a large sandbox, and each populated with targets to kill and objectives to complete, while each area also has optional challenges and contracts to take on. But most of that is broth- the meat and potatoes of this dish is the sniping, and the missions where you’ll be taking out targets by firing off shots from distances that are even longer than the game’s name.
Sniping in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 feels empowering and nuanced. Wind, gravity, things in the environment, whether or not a target is moving- all of these and more are things that you have to consider as you’re making shots, and the further away you are from your target, the trickier things get. Often, you’ll be sniping enemies from a distance of over 1 kilometer, and adjusting your scope in a number of ways to ensure that you’ve got the target lined up perfectly. What’s laudable is that not only does Contracts 2 have this level of complexity and nuance, it also manages to do all of that without becoming opaque or inaccessible.
On easier difficulties, the game has handy assists to help you even with the trickiest of shots, but even on harder difficulties, overcoming all of these obstacles doesn’t feel like a chore, but a challenge to be smartly tackled. And once you do fire off a shot, watching it fly for seconds through the air and then causing a morbidly beautiful explosion of blood and chunks is oh-so-satisfying. It makes you feel like an absolute badass to think that you’ve taken out a target from such an impossible distance, and that’s no coincidence- Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 has ways of making you feel really clever.
That’s because of how well designed its main missions and objectives are. Like a cross between Sniper Elite and Hitman, with a little bit of Splinter Cell thrown in for good measure, Contracts 2 places its target in reactive, dynamic sandboxes. Each of these presents you with a variety of things to interact with, a number of ways to take out your targets, and gives you the freedom to proceed however you please. Your target might be constantly moving, might be indoors and blocked from view. You could distract enemies by creating a ruckus, you could shoot a container and make it drop right on a target’s head. You could shoot a fuse box to open a door a target is standing behind, you could find ways to make a target get close to an explosive barrel and then snipe that for a fiery victory. Hell, you can find ways to line up your shot so that you can take out two targets with a single bullet.
Surveying these dense and dynamic killboxes from a distance with your binoculars, spotting important details, and puzzling out how to make them work to your advantage. Executing on your plan and killing off perfectly strategized and perfectly timed kills feels even better. And adapting on the fly when things go wrong and managing to find a way to still succeed? That’s just fun. Completing objectives – optional and otherwise – also lets you upgrade weapons and purchase new skills, and though the progression mechanics aren’t anything to write home about, they’re decent enough investments.
"Sniping in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 feels empowering and nuanced."
As I mentioned earlier though, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is not a perfect game. Visually, this is a pretty solid looking game, and audio design is also quite impressive, especially for percussive sniper shots that echo loudly in large, open space. That said, there are some technical issues and animation bugs- not major ones, thankfully, but enough that they couldn’t be ignored. But Contracts 2’s biggest issues are with the close range combat. Sniping is what this game is best at, but every so often, it forces you into up-close encounters and shootouts. Close-range shooting in Contracts 2 is quite lackluster, and the weapons don’t feel nearly as good to shoot as the sniper rifles do, so these sections are, without fail, slogs to get through. Meanwhile, stealth is also pretty basic in the game, and it doesn’t help that enemy AI can be incompetently dumb. Given how important a role stealth players in Contracts 2, that feels like a particularly glaring flaw.
All in all, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is, by and large, a solid game. Purely as a sniping game, it’s perhaps one of the better ones of its kind, at least in recent memory, and it builds on the strengths of the first Contracts in smart ways. A dull story, bland close-range combat, and disappointing stealth sections bring down the experience in some ways, but for the most part, Contracts 2 knows what it’s good at, and in those areas, it almost always flies high.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Nuanced, complex, yet accessible sniping mechanics; Sniping is incredibly satisfying; Dense and reactive sandboxes.
Clunky close-range combat; Basic stealth; Boring, forgettable story.