On paper, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 sounds like the game that fans of the series have been crying out for: a non-linear, large open-world allowing players to choose their own path. The restrictiveness from previous entries has finally been removed, utilising its long-distance sniping that the game focuses on, it is in the name after all. Polish developer CI Games has noticeably taken a huge amount of influence from the Far Cry series, but sadly, with Ghost Warrior 3, there is no innovation or anything new, the game at best matches the newer Far Cry games, but almost everything else hinders under the weight of its competitor and games alike.
You play as Jonathan North, an American sniper who has been placed into enemy territory in northern Georgia to help destabilise the local Georgian Separatist cells, with the hidden agenda of finding his brother, Robert, who was captured a few years before. The story, quite frankly, is as exciting as my description; the characters who you come across and socialise with are fairly forgettable, and never did I have any emotions or feelings towards them. This isn’t helped by the fairly poor voice acting and almost lifeless facial animations. There are a few enjoyable and interesting story moments, but these are few and far between.
Few and far between excellentally describes the world too. The world is open but is mainly a filler for getting from point A to point B. Never have I experienced a world that seems so, unintentionally, desolate and empty. There are some points of interest where you may find parts for crafting, weapons etc., and also a number of side-ops missions that offer an alternative to the main story. However, these are not enough to keep you enthralled in the world, and I found myself using the fast-travel options whenever I had the chance, as the world felt like more of a hindrance than a joy to go through.
The Georgian landscape that CI Games has created can be pretty, yet I only discovered this when I went out of my way, angled the camera correctly, and observed a church with the sun coming down and a mountain protruding in the background. If I had more moments like this and less manual discovering, I’d be fairly happy with the game’s appearance, but this was certainly a rare moment. It doesn’t take much doing to notice the low quality textures, pop-ins, glitches, and frame-rate drops, especially when you go in and out of your sniping view. What’s more, the civilians that you come across in the world act more like mannequins than real people; I came across a couple that were standing there just looking at each other and not saying anything; either this was a purely heartfelt moment that I was rudely intruding on, or they were simply placed there with no further thought afterwards from the developers. Another point that needs to be mentioned are the game’s ridiculously long load times. Upon starting up the game or loading up a new region, you will be waiting for almost 5 minutes, which a wait that gamers should not have to suffer through. I hope with future patches this issue will be resolved, but during this long interval, use your time wisely and make a drink or go to the toilet.
The thing CI Games does best, understandably, is the sniping. They’ve made you feel like you’re a highly trained marksman, picking your opponents off with precision and careful planning. After driving to your destination, you are normally provided with a large and expansive area to give you freedom to complete your objective. Towering cliffs are generously supplied in order for you to climb to a high vantage point and overlook your surroundings; you have a drone available to control, admittedly slightly awkwardly, and send out into the sky to tag and locate your enemies. Long-distance sniping is far from straightforward, there is a skill in aiming your scope accurately when you can be shooting from 300+ metres away, your enemies are moving, and you have a strong wind to contend with. All these difficulties are worth it when you pull the trigger and, if done right, you watch your bullet sail through the air in slow motion, connecting, and blood splattering from your Georgian enemy’s head.
If sniping is not your thing, there is nothing stopping you from going in guns blazing and far more front on; shooting with an assault rifle felt solid enough and is sometimes necessary when you are sniping and get spotted. Bear in mind this approach is not always the most sensible idea, the AI can be very dumb, but regardless, the health bar needs to be constantly watched as it can get very low very quickly, making it necessary to think about your next actions before following through on them. Your final option is removing your enemies the old-fashioned way through stealth. The stealth elements are relatively basic, yet a plan still needs to be made to avoid detection, and being hasty created numerous panicky moments when I was spotted at the last second or I made a wrong move.
Whatever approach you choose to make, there are a nice selection of guns and customisation that can be had with them. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 also has a simple character progression system with upgrading through the different skill trees of Sniper, Ghost, and/or Warrior. If you complete actions for a particular branch, you will gain XP to upgrade it. For example, performing a stealth kill will provide you with XP to improve Ghost. Depending on your playstyle, you can focus on one in particular or have a more rounded out style, the choice is up to you. What I would have liked was to play multiplayer and see how the gameplay changes with additional players; unfortunately, it is not available at launch and is expected in the third quarter of this year. Perhaps this is for the best, as the game’s resources seems to have been stretched real thin anyway.
The shooting elements are certainly the most enjoyable parts of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, getting that perfect shot after meticulous waiting and planning is incredibly satisfying, and the missions were varied enough to keep me interested. Yet, as seen far too many times in open-world games, sadly, the focus appears to be on trying to make the world as big as possible but seemingly forgetting to add in enough content to make exploring worthwhile.
Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 25th April 2017