Two new video games are in love with sniper rifles. The better game is "Sniper: Ghost Warrior," in which you portray a soldier in tropic jungles, using scope-rifles to snipe at rival soldiers who shoot back at you. The lesser game is "Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt," in which you snipe at deer and moose that don't shoot back at you.
That's my problem with hunting games: I never have to look over my shoulder or worry animals will fight back. Where is the challenge?
I guess the challenge of "The Hunt" is I'm supposed to walk slowly around its forests, looking on the ground for animal poop, and tracking elk and their ilk. But the animals don't run fast or far, so I merely run as fast as the game will let me, and I find these animals quicker, and I snipe them in the face.
Now, let's get something straight. In real life, I never hunt animals, because I feel sorry for them. But my hunting squeamishness isn't the issue here. I'm telling you: Walking through woods, looking at poop, and sniping defenseless boars bores me. If you're a hunter, however, maybe you would enjoy virtual hunting? Dunno.
On the other hand, like so many people, I dig games where I shoot people, because those games come with a simpatico relationship: I try to kill virtual people, and virtual people try to kill me. It's a fair fight to figure out how to perform better and to resist dying.
"Sniper: Ghost Warrior" is pretty good at presenting that challenge, but it has some dumb problems.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, based on Amazon sales charts. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Red Dead Redemption" (Rockstar Games) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)
2. "Red Dead Redemption" for PS 3
3. "Final Fantasy XIV Collector's Edition" (Square Enix) 2011 pre-order for PC; rating pending
4. "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (comic mischief)
5. "Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty" (Blizzard Entertainment) July 27 pre-orders for PC; rated "T" (blood, gore, language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence)
6. "Crackdown 2" (Microsoft) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, gore, strong language, violence)
7. "Super Mario Galaxy 2" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E" (mild cartoon violence)
8. "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" (Warner Bros.) for Wii; also available for Xbox 360, PS 3, DS, PC, PSP; rated "E 10+" (cartoon violence, crude humor)
9. "Just Dance" (Ubisoft) for Wii; rated "E 10+" (lyrics, mild suggestive themes)
10. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, drug reference, intense violence, language)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
First, the good: Game designers did a great job of creating a series of missions, whereby you approach jungle encampments, then meticulously shoot down baddies with awesome sniper rifles, and occasionally a silencer-pistol or machine gun. For some headshots, the camera follows bullets slowly in mid-air, like in the movies.
Problems: Why do rival soldiers always see me and shoot at me, even when the game informs me I'm 100 percent hidden in shadows and bushes? And why do the big online maps keep freezing me in place, leaving me standing slack-jawed as other gamers snipe me in the face?
I think I'd like "Sniper" more if I could just see rivals better. They're wearing camouflage in the jungle. To kill them, I step onto open field and let them shoot me with a bullet or two so I can see where their bullets are coming from, and then I turn toward them and blow their heads off from 200 meters away.
I would like "The Hunt" much more if the animals were fighters, if they would just pick up a gun and fire back. Alas, animals are doomed as long as people roam and ruin this oily Earth. If animals were smarter, they would totally do something about us.
("Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt" by Psyclone retails for $40 for Xbox 360 and Wii - Plays dull. Looks poor. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "T" for blood and violence. One-half star out of four.)
("Sniper: Ghost Warrior" by City Interactive retails for $40 for Xbox 360; $30 for PC - Plays just fun enough. Looks below-average. Moderately challenging. Rated "M" for blood, drug reference, strong language and violence. Three stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.