Whenever I play titles such as Battlefield or Call of Duty, I always tend to gravitate towards sniper rifles. I am not exactly sure where my affinity for long range death comes from; perhaps the patience and discipline required to make the perfect headshot appeals to me most, or perhaps the skill that accompanies sniping in general. Snipers, if doing a good job, can be a whisper in the wind, a whistling bullet carried before striking the brain.
Video games are a good way to pretend to be a skilled marksman, with enough practice of course. Thankfully there are a few game series that purposefully scratch the itch for sniping; the Sniper Elite series by Rebellion and Sniper: Ghost Warrior by CI Games. While I am more familiar with the Sniper Elite series, the Ghost Warrior games are relative newcomers to me, with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 being the first in the series I have ever played. Unfortunately, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 didn’t really impress me as much as I hoped, playing as a bland knock-off of open world titles in the vein of Far Cry.
The plot involves a skilled marine sniper, Jon North, traveling to the rural forests of the country of Georgia to search for his skilled marine sniper brother Robert. While there, you take on missions for the U.S against Georgian “separatists” with the help of your ex-wife, a Georgian national who is also conveniently a skilled sniper in her own right.
It goes without saying that the plot of SGW 3 is completely ridiculous. The motivations are shallow, the character’s paper thin, and the only real character trait North has is his excessive use of the word “fuck” every five minutes. It is a piece of fried cheese through and through but Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 makes the cardinal sin of taking itself too seriously, almost patting itself on the back for the “shocking” twists and continued plot contrivance. The game tries to make you care about its plot and characters, some of which only show up for a few scenes total in the game, and falls flat on its face all the time.
It also is a complete chore to go through. The twenty-six main story missions have you jump back and forth between three forested areas and suffering from excruciatingly long load times. Missions last between ten to thirty minutes and mostly involve you sneaking into enemy strongholds to kill, steal, snipe or a combination of the above objectives. You have the option of going in guns blazing sometimes but the gunplay in SGW3 outside of the actual sniping is terrible. Loose controls for aiming and overly sensitive recoils make firing a shotgun accurately difficult at times, and for some reason, North is slow at switching weapons, as if the input by the controller didn’t take.
Thankfully, the one gameplay element that does matter is solid. CI Games goes for a more realistic approach to sniping here, compensating distance with elevation and wind speed. The perfect shot is rarely in the center of your scope, but sometimes a few degrees left or right. Lining up shots and seeing where to hit is part of the fun for a long-range kill, and after a few times, you become adept at it. You also have a mini dot on your scope that would show where your bullet will to help you compensate for poor coordination. This can make sniping a bit too easy at times, but the dot (which only appears if you hold your breath) is good for lining up shots vs taking them for the most part.
Ironically, the open world found in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is perhaps its best and worst feature in the end. Scattered around the map are tons of smaller, optional points of interests throughout the game world. Some of these places are outposts you can liberate from enemies, similar to the strongholds found in the Far Cry series. Others are tiny encampments where you discover collectibles and items, or rescue prisoners in peril. These more controlled environments are better than the main story missions and provide a sort of mini puzzle where you can snipe, sneak or go Rambo on enemies to get the job done. With no narrative attached to them, the side content here feels a lot stronger, like North is accomplishing something in this war-torn Georgia.
The worst part of the open world is the rest of the game around it. SGW3 is very Far Cry-esque with first person vehicles, large cliffsides and towers to climb, and tons of points of interest compacted into small space. There is so much to discover in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, it becomes daunting even though the game's runtime is relatively short, clocking in at fifteen hours tops for the main story missions. It also becomes repetitive; find a hidden cache here, kill a major target there, all of the objectives are beholden to the player's approach to the situation, with CI Games accommodating the sniping, sneaking and guns blazing approach for everything. There is always a hidden path or a good sniping position to take. You can always try to ram your awkwardly controlled dune buggy into baddies while shooting up explosive barrels with an AK-47.
The bigger missions follow the same pattern, and much like the large puzzle scenarios in games like Hitman and Dishonored, you can choose your own path to finishing objectives. Sometimes they work well, especially when stealth is required, but other instances it makes the missions and scenarios so ridiculously easy it’s insulting. I completed one of the final missions of the game in five minutes by simply sneaking into the basement of a stronghold through the sewers to take out the unguarded, big bad target without anyone noticing. It does remove the challenge when the solution is in front of your face, but the options are nice to have in the end at least.
Other than that, there is not much else to do in SGW 3. You have a rudimentary level progression system, crafting for weapons and gadgets, you can use a drone for recon if you want, and my personal favorite, upgrading sniper rifles and slapping custom skins on them. It’s a small thing, but I go so much enjoyment out of a bright yellow sniper rifle raining death upon my enemies without them even noticing. Some little flairs such as that are nice for sure.
CI Games did say a multiplayer mode will be added in a future update to Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, but event then I don’t know if that will really be enough to help the game. The graphics are ok, but lack the high standards we see in the standard AAA market. Sound design is good but rather boring for 90% of the game as well. Ambient voices and footsteps, combined with nature and makes for a good atmosphere, but a terrible soundtrack.One exception to this is the few times we hear Georgian pop songs and terrible Euro-rap blasting on radios throughout the world, they provide character and context but outside of small music beats here and there, no memorable music is present in the title.
The major shortcoming (something that CI Games did address recently) was the load times, which are frankly unacceptable by any standard. On average, it takes about five minutes to load up the entire game from start, and another five to six minutes to switch between the games three maps, which you will do several times throughout a playthrough. It is unbearable, and hopefully, CI Games can fix that issue.
Even with that fix though, there is not much to go on with the title. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 tries to accommodate its namesake by offering sniping, sneaking and action into one open world package, but only sniping succeeds at being any fun. With terrible combat outside of sniping, a compact open world and a lot of interesting but boring filler, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is perhaps best left alone until it sneaks its way into the bargain bin, but even then it might be hard to justify a purchase.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 tries to accommodate its namesake by offering sniping, sneaking and action into one open world package, but only sniping succeeds at being any fun.
- Decent Side Content...
- Sniping is Actually Good...
- Customizable Sniper Rifle Skins...
- ...that is Very Repetitive in the Long Run.
- ...not so much the Ghosting and Warrior parts of the game.
- ...Terrible Story and Mission Structure.