A producer on Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 talks to Polygon about why players enjoy sniping over running and gunning.
The jungles are lush with details and texture: the crunch of leaves as you crouch down low to avoid the enemy's line of sight, the rustle of bushes as you wade through the greenery to find your next target, the crisp silhouettes of trees as the sunlight passes through the canopy. The world of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is stunning, and it is in this beautiful world that you will pull the trigger again and again, silently, to end the lives of your enemies.
The studio behind Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is no stranger to sniping games. Even before the first Sniper: Ghost Warrior, Polish developer City Interactive worked on a PC sniping title called Art of Victory. The studio has had time to perfect the silent, stealthy act of sniper warfare, and a big part of getting it right has been understanding why people enjoy it so much.
"We put quite a lot of thought into it," says Michal Sroczynski, a producer on Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 as he shows a demo from the game. The player is constantly in stealth mode; the aim is to never be seen, never be caught. Every snipe is careful and considered.
"Sniper: Ghost Warrior was very successful and people really enjoyed Art of Victory, so for this game we put a lot of thought into it and we asked ourselves: what is it about sniping that people like so much? For me, the answer is it's very empowering to be in control," he says.
"You're something of a predator, you feel like a hunter."
"You own that sniping spot, you have your crosshair on an enemy who doesn't even know he's about to get killed and it's your call to pull the trigger or to let him go, so I think it's very empowering. You're something of a predator, you feel like a hunter."
In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, players are allowed to be hunters from beginning to end. Where the first game tried to give players variety by offering segments of running and gunning, Sroczynski says many players were turned off by this – if they wanted a run and gun game, they would play a run and gun game. So instead of allowing players to pick up assault rifles and run into combat, guns blazing, like they did in the first Sniper, City Interactive has concentrated on building the sniper experience so that the tension and pressure of being a sniper remains throughout the game and players have to handle themselves as their environments change.
The AI has been designed to be the player's equal, not an unresponsive target.
The variety now comes in the different ways enemies respond to your attacks, the environments you encounter (we saw the jungle environment, but there is also the urban environment of Sarajevo and the mountain areas of Tibet), and less linearity in the gameplay. Where the player once had to follow their leader's command or face a quick death, they can now disobey orders and go off on their own and still have a chance of successfully completing missions. Players can ignore linear paths and be creative in their approach to the game.
A new and more intelligent AI has been introduced to respond dynamically to the player's actions – the AI will now duck and find cover instead of waiting to be shot at after an initial miss. The AI has been designed to be the player's equal, not an unresponsive target.
Sroczynski hopes that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 will set the bar for future sniper games when it comes to quality, fidelity, and intensity.
"When people play Sniper 2, I hope that say, 'Man, that was tense'," he says. "I hope they look forward to what comes next."