Sniper: Ghost Warrior is the first Xbox 360 game to be published by City Interactive. It's a first-person military shooter being released on a platform absolutely inundated with similar games. At first glance, it would be easy to discount the title and assume it's nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on a very popular genre. Thankfully, the game does a few things to set it apart from the Modern Warfares and the Battlefields, namely an emphasis on stealth and sniping finesse.
As the demo started, I was dropped into a South American jungle with an AI partner. The partner serves as your spotter, and directs you through the mission. In this case, I had to sneak through an enemy camp, retrieve some documents and find my way back out. The main aspect that differentiates Sniper from most FPS games is that getting spotted by the enemy makes things very bad for you. It's nearly impossible to survive if an enemy sets off an alarm and alerts the camp to your presence.
If you want to survive, it's all about staying out of sight, keeping your eyes open and taking out the right targets. In the demo mission, this was a fairly simple process, as my partner spotted nearly all the enemies that might have given away my position. That won't always be the case, however: City Interactive's Lucasz Mach noted that you won't have a spotter on every mission. Even with my spotter, there were still soldiers that I had to spot and take out on my own.
You have three implements to get the wetwork done: a sniper rifle, a silenced pistol and a knife. The knife and pistol work as you'd expect. Press the right stick for a quick stab or pull the left trigger for iron sights and pop off a few rounds with the right trigger. The actual sniping, however, is a little more complicated. Simply resting the cross-hairs on your target does not guarantee a hit. You'll have to adjust for distance, elevation and both wind speed and direction (the last two are indicated on the HUD).
In the easy and medium difficulties, a red circle will appear on the HUD to indicate where a sniper shot will actually land. The hard setting, on the other hand, removes the indicator altogether, leaving it up to you to properly judge all the variables. It's a simple change to the typical FPS formula, but the additional layer of complexity does make the sniping more engaging, forcing players to stop and think about their shots, rather than just lining them up and popping them off.
Sniper obviously has a lot of competition in the FPS space, and City Interactive has made the wise choice of releasing it as a budget title. The Xbox 360 version will retail for $39.99, with the PC version arriving at an even cheaper $29.99. The full game will also include three multiplayer modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch and VIP. While Sniper may not have the big-budget flash of other FPS games, it's still a graphically competent shooter with an interesting hook. Based on what I've seen, shooter fans may want to give it a try when it is released on June 29.