The Sniper Ghost Warrior series is making a big push this year to break into the big leagues of the FPS genre, with developer CI Games promising AAA production values. The first two games in the series were pretty successful despite a lukewarm critical response, but the goal here is to perfect and expand the formula into a new open-world style of gameplay. It doesn’t lack ambition, but it does lack polish.
The game drops you into the eastern European country of Georgia, which is currently in the middle of a civil war. You take control of an American Marine, Jon North, whose goal is to not only prevent further strife but also rescue his missing brother and fellow soldier Robert. While the game does manage to break away from what sounds like a very standard plot on paper, the ensuing events are pretty predictable and do little to really to suck you in.
A lot of this has to do with a lack of character development. The game attempts to get you invested in the relationship between Jon and Robert with flashbacks from when they were younger, but they’re too few and far between to make much of an impact. The rest of the game’s cast suffer a similar fate, from Jon’s handler Frank Sim to his ex-lover Lydia all having the potential for some interesting plotlines that never materialize.
Nevertheless, the game’s story does what it needs to do to set you up for plenty of combat scenarios, and that is the game’s core. This time you’re given an open-world that is divided into a handful of zones, and each zone has outposts and points of interest for you to search for outside of the main missions. Missions typically have you searching for an enemy base, and then figuring out how you’re going to navigate it to clear your objective of rescuing someone, gathering information, and so on.
There’s 3 different playstyles, but sniping is easily the most enjoyable
The big difference with the combat this time is that the developers have essentially split the combat into three different playstyles: Sniper, Ghost and Warrior. These playstyles are linked to accompanying skill trees, which you earn points to unlock new abilities for by performing actions relative to that playstyle. Taking out enemies with a sniper rifle earns you Sniper points, sneaking up behind enemies and stealth killing them earns you Ghost points, and going in guns-blazing with assault rifles earns you Warrior points.
While all three of the playstyles work well enough that none of them feel ineffective, it’s once again the Sniper playstyle where most of the enjoyment comes from. It’s far more gratifying to find a high vantage point outside of an enemy compound and tag all of the enemies you can find, and then pick them off one by one. The sniping mechanics are also deeper than you’d usually get in an FPS, as you have to account for the wind and elevation to pull off accurate shots. Scoring a clean headshot rewards you with a sweet slow-mo kill cam in the vein of the Sniper Elite series, though obviously without that series’ excellent x-ray view.
Each zone features a hidden safe house that you go to in between missions, which allows you to take on new missions, craft new gadgets from materials you’ve looted out in the wild or from enemies, or buy new weapons. You can get new scopes and silencers for your weapons, as well as pick different ammo types like ones that explode on impact or ones used to cause distractions. You can also upgrade the game’s drone to equip it with night vision and a better battery, but the drone’s terrible controls had me avoid using what should have been a handy gadget entirely. Regardless, the customization element featured here adds some welcomed variety to your arsenal.
Despite the game offering a world that is much bigger and more open than previous games, it’s not filled with anything very interesting. The aforementioned outposts and points of interest lack variety to stop you from wanting to seek out more than a handful of them, and the same goes for the side missions. While the game world’s lush forests and snowy areas are serviceable from a visual standpoint, things like pop-in, clipping and poor textures take it down a notch. Character models and animations are also underwhelming, appearing dated at this point.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned technical issues only scratch the surface of the problems the game currently has. The frame-rate is very inconsistent, and there were a handful of scenarios where the game froze up completely. There were also some instances where character audio was not playing, with only the subtitles being displayed on the screen. None of this even comes close to the game’s ridiculous load times, however. Each time you boot up the game or switch between its different zones, you are greeted with a loading screen that lasts a whopping four minutes long. Obviously, that is completely unacceptable.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has a decent foundation for a good game, but its many technical issues bring the experience down significantly. The sniping gameplay is solid, but there are too many other problems spread across different aspects of the game that get in the way. Maybe somewhere down the line this will be worth checking out after some big patches, but for now it’s better to give it a pass.