Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sniper 2

The PS2 era saw a lot of weird releases, particularly in Europe. A few tiny publishers sprang up and began localising some very obscure games for Europe and selling them at budget prices. The vast majority of these games were taken from the Simple range of Japanese games.  These were a series of low budget games published by D3 Publisher. The PS2 series was named Simple 2000 because each game sold for 2000 yen, the PS1 series similarly was called Simple 1500 again due to the price point.  While some absolute classics were released on the series (Global Defence Force, which had a European release, is superb; I really should review it soon), the majority was pretty terrible. The Sniper 2 for the PS2 is a very good example. Unleashed on unsuspecting European gamers by Midas Interactive, the supreme masters of publishing crappy Japanese games, The Sniper 2 is now also available on the European PSN store.

The first Sniper game was released on the PS1 and unfortunately/fortunately never got a western release so it’s a good thing that there’s a plot in the intro. The plot overview shows the first games most ‘exciting’ moments in all their low budget PS1 ‘glory’ (I’ve a feeling I may run out of inverted commas before this review is finished). And what a story it had. To summarise Harry, a fire fighter, while saving a girl named Melissa stumbles across a Mafia counterfeit ring and as a result loses his job and his girlfriend is killed by the Mafia. He then trains to be top class sniper and returns to the city to exact his revenge. While on this vigilante crusade Harry is contacted by an informant named CA. CA gives Harry information on the Mafia to help him out. After he kills the Mafia boss he finally meets CA. CA was Melissa, the girl he saved at the start. She also possesses (wait for it) the memories of his murdered girlfriend.

Who wrote this shit?

Nope this isn't in game, it's the CGI intro. It looks even worse in game.
Anyway the game starts after these events. Harry and CA are on the run and pick up a guy named Stanley whose car has broken down. They go to a diner of Stanley’s choosing and then all hell breaks loose. They come under attack by Mafia, there’s another killer (Harry knows he’s a killer because he smells the same as he does, as you do) and the waitress turns out to be a CIA agent. What transpires afterwards is another load of old nonsense involving the Mafia and bio weapons.

The game is separated into about 12 stages full of sniping fun. The sniping gameplay isn’t all that bad. You can move about (extremely slowly) in a very limited sniping area and can zoom in to take your shot. Your rifle has 3 levels of zoom and sways making each shot a little more difficult to take. You also have to take into account the time it will take for the bullet to reach your target making moving targets quite a challenge. While the gameplay is solid if uninspired, the stages are where the game shows its low budget origins. Most stages only require you to shoot one target. This means most can end in roughly 5-10 seconds. Each one is bookended by lengthy nonsensical cutscenes and loading times. Even more ridiculous is that each stage is begins with the opening credit sequence and ends with the closing credits. At first I thought the game was just horribly broken until I realised that they were going for an episodic feel were each stage in the game was supposed to represent an episode in a TV series. Very clever, except for the fact that each stage can last maybe 10 seconds! What were they thinking!

A beautiful vista in low poly land.

Later stages just get frustrating. One involves setting off a fire alarm and killing the target as he runs out of a nightclub. Your only clue to who the target is is a black and white photograph of his back at the start of the level. The fact that all the male game models are near identical other than the colour of their clothing makes this stage a frustrating exercise in trial and error. Another involves shooting out the tires of a speeding limousine and then killing the target as he escapes. Actually landing a hit on the tires is nigh on impossible at the speed it travels. And don’t get me started on the stage that requires you to take out security cameras.

Here's your brief for the nightclub stage described above
Can you see the target in the crowd? It's like 'Where's Wally' at a Where's Wally convention.

Each stage only lasts at most 3 minutes, some as I said can be completed in 5 seconds and there are only about 12 stages in the game. I’m amazed that they actually managed to make a whole game and sell it when there’s so little content. If you skip the cutscenes and don’t get stuck for too long on some of the more frustrating areas then you could have this game finished off in about half an hour. However once you finish the game, something else is revealed, the game has two branching paths where you need an A+ or higher rating to access them.

Accessing these drove me demented. I tried the first stage and killed the first enemy in as quick a time as possible. Then I did the same with a head shot. I couldn’t get higher than a B-. I trawled the internet and found out that your ranking isn’t based on how well you do. If you wait until there are less than 10 seconds left on the clock to kill your target you are guaranteed an A ranking. I’d love to slap the designer that thought this would be intuitive and not bother explaining this at all in the game or in the instructions.

'Dramatic'. The true power of the PS2 'Emotion Engine'.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the ‘wonderful’ visuals in the screenshots throughout the review. It really does look that bad. Even with the low polygon count and low resolution textures the game still has the audacity to experience slow down problems making some missions take even longer than they should. Special mention should also go to the out of place jazz music used throughout the game.

You really know you are getting a complete turd when even the publisher can’t be bothered to try and make the game sound appealing. Here’s the PSN blurb the publisher has up to describe the game:

“Get ready to experience the most bizarre, eccentric and maddening game ever created! Featuring a truly off-the-wall storyline, unbelievable character stereotypes and one-dimensional gameplay, The Sniper 2 has earned its place amongst the stars as a loveable cult classic.”

This stage can also die screaming.
You’re probably thinking that you should avoid this game since even the publisher can’t bring themselves to lie about its quality. However I recommend you definitely try this game out. Sniper 2 is a hilarious experience in the same way that terrible horror movies are enjoyable. It’s a total train wreck of a game but the story, acting and just plain crappiness has somehow managed to make this game transcend terrible to become almost enjoyable again. Play it with a group of friends with a sense of humour and prepare to laugh your ass off. Even if you hate it it’s so cheap you won’t feel out of pocket.

Check out the fan made trailer: