Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Review
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: CI Games
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4
We have a lot of first-person military shooters. In order to not blend into each other, some of them try to put a special hook in them to make them interesting. One might put itself in World War II, whilst another sets itself in the far future. One might ground itself in reality, while another will add fantastical aliens to the mix. A game might offer linear, stagelike gameplay, whilst another will throw the world open wide and let you roam free. The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series strives to make a name for itself by specializing in a particular field. Focusing on sniping allows the developers to press for a more realistic shooting experience, when your target is so far away you have to factor in gravity and wind resistance to make sure you hit it.
In order to become more unique, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 actually tries one of the more modern attitudes of gaming: the open world environment. Whilst the storyline involves the traditional urgent rescue mission that leads beyond to a one-man-army-saving-the-world trope, our hero is actually dropped into a region with plenty of sidequests to do. From rescuing civilians to solving mysteries to strange drone flight challenges, there are plenty of things for you to do that fall under "not saving the world." While a unique and fun approach, I always find the open world to be a crutch in games with any sense of urgency in the storyline. Saving civilians is definitely in line with what a special agent should be doing, but the drone challenges feel a bit out of character. When you start the game, your map is riddled with points of interest that can get more filled the more skills you purchase on the skill tree or by general searching and investigation. The big map is great, but the mini map sometimes suffers. Since we are talking a sniper game, the radar has a lengthy draw to it, meaning that icons mush together when you are digging through small cabins full of loot. And when you're hunting for a small grey square of a wallet, it'd be nice to see where it is a bit better on the radar with a zoom option. A button brings up your sniper's intuition, flashing everything you can interact with in white, but those small things can still get lost in the mix.
Gameplay is very well put together. Given the open world environment, you can go where you want when you want. Each mission you unlock can be attempted at varying times of day, which can put a spin on the action. At night, there may be a stronger guard, but they have a harder time finding you as well. As you find new weapons, you unlock the ability to utilize them as well, changing the way you approach the level. Your skill tree branches to Sniper, Ghost, and Warrior. You can shoot from a distance, sneak in for stealth kills, or go all out with fully automatic weaponry to advance each individual tree accordingly. You can also use found resources to craft new ammunition for your weapons, changing what you have more of according to your desires. This variety makes multiple playthroughs fun, as you can jump in with a different mindset depending on your loadout.
As I said, story is pretty simple. There are a few plot twists, but it boils down to a chance for your protagonist to find his missing brother after he gets his assignment. As he works to take down the terrorist regime, he comes closer to finding out what really happened with his brother. The story is intriguing, but at times I felt that there was a monkey hitting a button during recording that forced the actors to interject curse words. Sure, I'd be mad if I were in that position, but the cursing came off as excessive and attention-grabbing for me. Not that you'd share a game about sniper kills with young ones, but the colorful language may be off-putting for some.
As the series' first foray into full-on AAA grade gaming, and the first step into an open-world environment, the development team had a daunting task ahead of them. Many games suffer bugs that require some patching, and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 definitely will have some of those. In my playthrough, I had to reset a few minutes in when an interregation of an enemy guard resulted in him floating off the ground and my avatar in a permanent headlock position as I moved around the map with no way to get out. Later, I found a bus in a true Austin Powers moment, with the NPC driver stuck sideways and high-centered in a place they had no way to get into. The loading time is rather atrocious, with a solid minute plus on initial boot up. Also, little annoyances like getting in a car and holding the accelerate button before the animation was over resulted in the car going nowhere. You have to let off of everything before starting. Not a big deal until you rev the engine in neutral for the 30th time. I had one session where I couldn't loot the bodies of my enemies. These issues are all minor, and I had plenty of play sessions that had no bugs at all, but the ones here are jarring when they force you to reset or prevent you from advancing properly. The team states they are working on patching it up, and have even discussed a planned multiplayer mode for this fall, but games lose steam with time, and fall is a long way away. Hopefully the game will keep people's attention long enough for the multiplayer to matter.
For those looking for an engaging single player experience for the time being, though, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 definitely will scratch that itch and gives you a lot of variety, allowing you to choose time of day and method of attack. Missions are varied, though the sidequests can get repetitive. The game autosaves, and it isn't terribly generous, so be prepared to get to that hard part of the mission after patiently taking down ten enemies in sniper mode only to have to go back and start again. As you get better, this becomes less of a problem, and it also gives you a chance to try a different way to the same mission point. Overall, a fun title and an excellent change of pace for the shooter genre, but it might be wise to hold off if you hate bugs or are really looking forward to the as of now nonexistent multiplayer aspect.
-Sniping is authentic, with concern to distance and wind
-Bullet Cam is pretty awesome, showing off your skills
-Changing time and weapon loadout can feel like a whole new mission
-Mostly cosmetic, but game resetting bugs can occur
-Autosaves can be quite a while back in a difficult mission
-What's with all the $%&@ swearing?
Thanks to CI Games for providing a digital code for review on Xbox One!