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I know what you’re thinking: yet another shooter on the Xbox 360. But while shooters are certainly a dime a dozen, some manage to separate themselves from the competition and bring about a fresh experience. Sniper: Ghost Warrior sets out to do just that.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 was one of the more recent games to make me fall in love with sniping. It really is amazing what realistic bullet physics can do for a game. Sniper: Ghost Warrior takes sniping to a whole new level while stressing the importance of stealth. A combination that may not be for everyone, but sure as hell shows potential for an engaging experience.

One thing that can be appreciated is that City Interactive knows the market and, more importantly, its audience. Coming in at a budget title for Xbox 360 at $39.99 and PC at $29.99, gamers may have a hard time looking the other way when the summer game drought is just around the corner. Considering my experience with the title behind closed doors at E3 was quite positive, I might have a hard time resisting myself.

As the demo started, I found myself in the middle of a South American jungle. Surrounded by a visually pleasing environment I held nothing more than a sniper rifle, handgun, and knife. As I waded my way through the jungle the various game mechanics were explained to me.

Sniping is as realistic as you can get depending on difficulty. When taking aim, the player has to keep bullet drop, wind speed, and direction in mind in order to execute a killing blow. Should you be playing on easy, all those factors will be calculated for you and a red dot will be displayed showing exactly where the bullet will hit. If you wish for more of a challenge, higher difficulties will not provide this handicap and the factors previously mentioned will have to be taken under consideration when aiming.

Stealth mechanics are what one would expect: stay out of sight and all will be fine. In order to aid in this effort, the player is provided with a stealth meter which will increase based on odds of being detected. However, unlike many other stealth games, Sniper will not reset AI alert status should you be detected. This is one mechanic I applaud as it not only keeps realism intact, but it also provides much more of a challenge.

With both of these game mechanics down, I pushed forward into an enemy camp looking for documents to retrieve. As my AI partner provided simple direction and lookout, I looked at my first enemy through my scope. Keeping steady aim and lining up my shot, I pulled the trigger. I watched as the game went into slow-motion bullet-cam. Perfect shot. The view of the bullet making its way into the enemy’s head and throwing him off a tower was a very nice touch. While the bullet-cam is entertaining, it may get old for some rather fast.

I made my way through the enemy camp, being mindful of my surroundings. As I discovered enemies, the mini-map was updated with their position. Moving in and out of cover I found myself using all three of my weapons – including throwing my knife. This helped display balanced level design as well as how engaging and strategic the experience can get.

With a handful of kills under my belt and having retrieved the documents, the demo came to a close. This 20 minute demo, while entertaining, raised some questions that will certainly be answered in our review of the game next week. For one, is the level design consistent throughout the game? Is enemy AI drastically improved between difficulties and location? How does the multiplayer fair?

Despite these concerns, after seeing the demo as well as a video of the multiplayer modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch and VIP), I left the City Interactive meeting room excited for Sniper: Ghost Warrior‘s June 29th release.

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