I’m convinced no one wants to be the sniper in a video game. Yeah, there’s parts of movies where being a sniper is cool, but most of it involves walking around and occasionally killing people at a distance with a bolt-action rifle. Unless it’s something like Call of Duty 4‘s “All Ghillied Up” mission, which is more of a stealth level than a sniping level.

Thus any game I’ve played where sniping is the focus, like Sniper Elite V2 or Sniper: Ghost Warrior, ends up being a fairly simple shooter with strangely elaborate sniping mechanics. I don’t know why people keep making games based on it, but then again they keep making sequels to the Sniper movies, so I guess there’s an audience for this stuff.

Today, we’re looking at another one of those sniping games, and this time, it’s a budget shooter…

If this doesn't look generic to you, I don't know what.

If this doesn’t look generic to you, I don’t know what.

CTU Marine Sharpshooter is a budget FPS where sniping is the base mechanic. Despite the name, you don’t play as Jack Bauer, but rather a generic soldier dropped into certain exotic locales and go pew pew at bad guys with sniper rifles.

The developer of this game was Jarhead Games, a master of making budget military FPSes, such as Navy SEALs: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Army Ranger: Mogadishu. The only other notable thing they made was NRA Gun Club, which is ironic considering the NRA was lambasting video games before. Guess they forgot about that one.I’ve played only one of Jarhead’s games before, and it wasn’t that interesting, so I don’t have high hopes for this one.

Man, what kind of gun skin is that, Spotterguy? Can I get that for CS:GO? :P

Man, what kind of gun skin is that? Can I get that for CS:GO? 😛

You play as some generic sniper and his spotter buddy, with an M4 assault rifle. They don’t give them names, so I’m gonna call them “John McSniperdude” and his partner “David Spotterguy.”

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

After a thrilling introduction where McSniperdude and Spotterguy arrive to Afghanistan by boat, the game begins. Sniping in this game is a bit strange: You use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. It takes a little getting used to, especially since I’m used to many other games allowing you to scope in with the right mouse button. As you play, Spotterguy will tell you that there’s enemies in a certain direction, also highlighted on your radar above.

Each set of levels gives you a unique sniper rifle: The starting Afghanistan missions give you an M40A3 that requires to chamber a round in each time you reload. Later, you get a Barrett M82, a heavy anti-tank rifle that the player uses like it was an assault rifle. The final set of levels give you an “AW”, which I assume is meant to be the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which would’ve been more appropriate in the other levels.

Get used to this weapon. It'll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

Get used to this weapon. It’ll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

When not sniping, you have two other weapons: A useless knife, and your SOCOM-MK23 pistol with an optional silencer. The pistol is really only useful in close quarter areas, of which there are a few. I’d recommend telling your Spotter to fire at will so you don’t have to switch between weapons or no-scope enemies often. You’re given 4-6 health packs you can use (signified by the crosses on the HUD), but they only refill when you change locales, so if you used up all your medkits on the early levels, you won’t last long. Also, your spotter has infinite kits and can heal himself willy-nilly.

So McSniperdude and Spotterguy eventually go through a tunnel and then come out to find a convoy of bad guys with nuclear weapons, and you shoot a few of the enemies on the convoy. Spotterguy tells us to find the evac point, so let’s go back.

I'm surprised alarm sirens didn't go off at this point.

I’m surprised alarm sirens didn’t go off at this point.

…What. A budget game, released in 2005, has those annoying “You’re leaving the mission area” borders? What the hell, man. Funny thing is you don’t even go that way while getting to the convoy, so they put an arbitrary path that leads to nowhere just to confuse you.

The most thrilling backdrop transition, complete with no dialogue.

The most thrilling backdrop transition, complete with no dialogue.

After backtracking a bit, we get to a bridge with some RPG guys, and eventually make it to the extraction point. Level two starts with our two dudes inside a little Afghanistan town where we meet our big bads of the story: Ghazi Kumar, and some generic villain who remains unnamed. I’m just gonna call him Petr Villainovich since the developers didn’t wanna flesh out the story too much.

What is wrong with your faaaaaace

What is wrong with your faaaaaace

Eventually McSniperdude does his duty and eliminates Kumar, and the two make a mad dash to the extraction point, where they must hold out for 3 minutes, shooting dudes left and right. It’s about as thrilling as it sounds.

Love how Spotterguy has a painted M4 for any occasion.

Love how Spotterguy has a painted M4 for any occasion.

Now we get to the next set of levels in Chechnya, where we must protect a convoy to a military base, for some reason. It’s not very well explained why we’re even here, but I guess they needed an excuse to have a locale change.

This is about 95% of what you'll be doing in the Chechnya levels. Hope you love protecting convoys!

This is about 95% of what you’ll be doing in the Chechnya levels. Hope you love protecting convoys!

These missions are the most annoying out of all of them. In addition to having difficulty seeing enemies, you have to get to checkpoints and eliminate the enemies guarding the checkpoint before the convoy gets there, otherwise you fail the mission. Every mission is like this, with the exception of the last Chechnya mission, which swaps out trucks for random Spetznaz soldiers.

Our spotter is a master of blocking.

Our spotter is a master of blocking.

As I played through this, I started realizing the problem of having the spotter: If you have him follow you and you decide to fall back, he can block your path, making it more difficult to progress. He also has to stay alive the entire time, if he dies, then McSniperdude commits suicide to mourn the loss of his buddy. At least that’s what it looks like, any time you fail the mission, you end up dying.

There’s not much else to say about the Chechnya missions, they’re annoying “protect the character” missions and they’re never fun.

These guys also have large mutant German Shepherds, for some reason. They're harmless compared to enemy snipers.

These guys also have large mutant German Shepherds, for some reason. They’re harmless compared to enemy snipers.

Our last set of missions take place in a generic “south pacific” island. I guess they couldn’t come up with a good place for the last one. The first set of missions involve McSniperdude and Spotterguy infiltrating an enemy bunker, which looks more like an industrial plant or a prison than a bunker.

Did I accidentally fall into a World War II FPS level by mistake here?

Did I accidentally fall into a World War II FPS by mistake here?

Eventually our heroes successfully get into the bunker, shoot more dudes, then shoot three large power bricks which were apparently powering this whole place. Doing that immediate sets off the spider sense of the enemies in the area, forcing you to go through a large fight.

This game rivals Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the foggy FPS department.

This game rivals Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the foggy FPS department.

Eventually after killing the bad guys, the game still said I had enemies on my radar. I fumbled around for several minutes, thinking maybe an enemy was hiding behind a rock or something. No, I found out what enemies I needed to kill to continue:

This guy never attacks you, yet you must kill him to progress. That's pretty sadistic.

Maybe he was going out for a casual drive and got hijacked by the terrorists, forcing to drive them beyond their will. Who knows?

It counts the drivers as enemies. These drivers never get out of the jeep to attack, and are never threatening in the slightest. Yet I had to kill them to get my backup to arrive. Regardless, my crew is here, and…

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Hey, let’s tell you what your names are when the game’s almost done! That’s great storytelling!

Wait a second. My character’s name is “Lt. Smith,” and my spotter was “Sgt. Cooper”? Why didn’t the game tell me this sooner?! This isn’t even mentioned in the manual or the readme, so clearly they cared a lot about this game’s story. “John McSniperdude” and “David Spotterguy” are better names anyway.

I'm pretty sure the south Pacific is bit more dense than this.

I’m pretty sure the south Pacific is bit more dense than this.

Eventually “Smith” and “Cooper” have to protect another Convoy, but this time they’re not as brash as the Spetznaz are and they rightfully stay put, forcing you two to go ahead without them. The next mission’s a pain and a half, with lots of fog, enemies that are hard to see and RPG enemies that blend perfectly into the plants and fog. Combined with little cover, and you’re in for a hell of a time.

Good luck figuring out who are the bad guys and who are your allies. I accidentally shot my allies a few times and immediately committed suicide in shame.

Good luck figuring out who are the bad guys and who are your allies. I accidentally shot my allies a few times and immediately committed suicide in shame.

The last level has our two heroes helping the marines get into a missile launch silo where our villain Petr Villianovich is intending to launch a rocket with the nuke and destroy… some place. I wasn’t expecting them to flesh out the story, but there’s barely a story here to keep me going, I’m just in levels shooting dudes without much of a story or bonus incentive.

After shooting a bunch of RPG soldiers, we eventually see Villainovich make his final rush to the control room. I try to take a shot and…

Guess he should've equipped body armor.

Guess he should’ve equipped body armor.

We stopped him from launching the nuke. John “Lt. Smith” McSniperdude and David “Sgt. Cooper” Spotterguy saved the day from a bunch of bad guys, and have saved the day. Now they can rest… until the next game, anyway.

All that and this is our ending. Our heroes get in a helicopter and fly off. Not even a triumphant speech or anything.

All that and this is our ending. Our heroes get in a helicopter and fly off. Not even a triumphant speech or anything.

I wasn’t expecting anything amazing from this, at all. This game was a mess. Lots of enemies that you couldn’t see, many annoying protect the character missions, and poor sniping mechanics on top of it. It didn’t help that this game initially didn’t run well on my machine, then I had bugs where my weapons stopped doing damage, enemies shot faster than normal, times where I died randomly for no reason, and a bunch of many other bugs. I’m surprised I was able to even beat it, the game was that frustrating.

Surprisingly, there were several games in the Marine Sharpshooter franchise, most of which were also done by Jarhead Games. You can even get Marine Sharpshooter 2 on Steam, which I never thought I’d see in this day and age. Thankfully I only own the first game in the series, and I don’t expect to cover the others any time soon.

At least this game proves to me, like many other games before and since this one, that no one really wants to be the sniper in a video game.

(By the way, that is not an open invitation to gift me a Steam copy of Marine Sharpshooter 2.)

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