There is never any shortage for gamers interested in experiencing modern combat through the eyes of a soldier on the front lines. But for those who are more intrigued by those operating behind enemy lines, spending days lining up a single shot that could change the sway of a battle, the pickings are slim.

City Interactive has heard the cry, and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is their answer. We had the chance to play the game at E3 2012, and so far the experience looks far more promising than in the past.

The developers had previously tried to address the Sniper-fans with the release of Sniper: Ghost Warrior. Unfortunately, the game could not escape the modern shooter genre entirely, shoehorning in machine-gun combat from which the fans were likely expecting an escape. For the sequel, the team maintains that they have heard the fan complaints at the inclusion, and have removed all non-sniping sections for the sequel.

Gameplay will now be centered around long-range kills, but our hands-on demo showed that intense firefights and tactical sniping won’t be out of the question if shooters get a bit twitchy.

The gameplay demo was built around a mission sending the player’s sniper and spotter into Sarajevo, tasked with avoiding detection traversing an enemy-controlled train yard. The section brought back several memories of playing through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s ┬ánow famous ‘All Ghillied Up’ sniper level. The sniper stage has been held among some of the most innovative shooter stages this decade has seen, so the similarity is not an issue.

After following the spotter through – and under – the numerous trains dotting the environment, the pair climbed a large watchtower to begin clearing out the hostile targets. Again, the spotter provides directions to the player on which order the targets should be eliminated in, leaving the hardest jobs to the one lining up the shot. Thanks to City’s commitment to realism and physics, that’s not a simple task.

The sniper’s weapon is equipped with both a rangefinder and wind indicator, and those seeking to emulate real-world snipers will need to use both to have success. The longer the distance to the target, the more the player will need to take gravity and wind into account more than a shorter-range shot, and holding one’s breath is even more important for accuracy. The estimated point the bullet will hit is indicated within the scope separately from the crosshairs, but this system is tuned to allow for a wide range of difficulties.

The scope’s red dot – hinting at how the bullet will fly – can be removed entirely on each difficulty, meaning players can not just adjust the skill and experience required for each shot, but actually control their learning curve as they go. Even for those who have yet to try their hand at aligning the perfect long-distance shot, Ghost Warrior 2‘s aiming allows them to actually learn about the science and physics of sniping, not just the thrill.

Providing that accurate and immersive an experience for the fans who may have felt the previous game only half-committed to sniping over shooting sprees is the development team’s main priority. That doesn’t mean that the experience was completely seamless. For starters, game developers have yet to make a mission based on ‘Following’ an NPC as satisfying as leading the charge.

While ‘All Ghillied Up’ was a stand alone mission that provided a computer-controlled partner to ease the threat of being discovered, it was a shot-lived experience. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is a much larger and time-consuming experience, so hopefully the team has thought of ways to keep gameplay fresh, without a ‘Follow’ icon being the most important factor in surviving a stealth challenge. Silent knife kills and the pistols each member of the sniper team is equipped with mean some variety of attacks, while still in keeping with the tactics-over-aggression style of play.

In our demo, a misplaced shot when attempting to clear the train station of targets tipped of the opposing force, sending all enemies into a display of aggression. Having suppressive fire shower the watchtower’s windows certainly added some dimension to the gameplay. As enjoyable as it would have been to pick each enemy off silently, it is nice to know that the player may be in control of the pace and frenzy of each stage. If nothing else, the possibility of different combat encounters is certainly there so far.

For those who felt that the original Ghost Warrior wasn’t the full-on sniping experience they had hoped it would be, Ghost Warrior 2 looks much more promising. Besides the removal of bullet-riddled filler, the game’s use of CryENGINE 3’s impressive graphics means a variety of environments are in store, from jungles to grey-washed urban spaces and overgrown mountain temples.

We’ll keep an eye out for longer gameplay demos and videos to better gauge how indicative of the overall game our demo was, but so far Ghost Warrior 2 looks to offer enough of a change of pace from modern shooters to warrant some more attention.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 will be released on August 21, for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

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