After all the news and announcements in the lead-up to its release, it was easy to have high expectations for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. There were some doubts, most centered around a relatively small developer releasing an open-world game, when even larger studios sometimes struggle to do the same on much larger budgets. From the sheer deluge of information put out by CI Games, they clearly believed they were on to a winner and wanted everyone to know about it. It’s just unfortunate that they tried to do so much, emulating AAA games on a lower budget. Don’t get me wrong, though, there’s a good game here, it’s just well hidden.

Less than 30 minutes into Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, it was already hard not to compare it to Far Cry, with some other similarities to the Sniper Elite games. Imagine Far Cry 4, but in a dark and war-torn setting, with a much-less memorable map, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. The weapons and general gameplay feel very similar, although the bow doesn’t feel quite as useful against Sniper: Ghost Warrior’s armoured soldiers as it does against Far Cry 4’s enemies. One thing that I wish they had taken from Far Cry 4 is the wingsuit; the game’s map is not at all interesting, and the driving controls feel very clunky, so the ability to soar over the terrain instead of traipsing through the dull countryside would have been much preferred.

As a lone soldier going up against an army of enemies, you’d expect Jonathan North to be well-equipped and tough to kill. You’d be half right, as Jon is certainly well-equipped with an assortment of snipers, although the rest of his arsenal is next to useless until you can get a decent silenced assault rifle. To be honest, you don’t really need much more than a good sniper rifle, as most main missions and side missions can be completed with a few well-placed headshots. You shouldn’t need to engage in close combat very often, and when you do, it can be swiftly resolved with a few assassination prompts. To its credit, the sniping does work very well, especially when teamed up with some quick reconnaissance using your drone. Tagging enemies with the drone makes things much easier, as the alternative is searching for individual enemies with your sniper scope, which is made difficult because of the dark lighting even during the day.

Although not ground breaking, the main missions were rarely dull to play through. Each one offered something new, and variety is always good, especially in a game like this. One mission might have you infiltrating a wedding between two separatist leaders, whereas another might require you to hunker down on a clifftop while clearing out an enemy encampment. For the most part, playing through the main campaign doesn’t feel like a chore, although it does start to feel a little tedious towards the end. There’s plenty of side missions and encounters to lure you away if things start to grate on you, however, although you never feel forced to complete them to proceed, they’re just pleasant distractions if you fancy taking a break.

Taking on an enemy outpost is always a satisfying affair. Finding a good spot and eliminating enemy snipers, before taking aim at the enemies below, is one of the definitive highlights of the game. Everything about it fits together well, from having to adjust the escalation on your sniper, to judging where the bullet will hit with the help of a handy red dot on the scope when you hold your breath, it just feels satisfying, especially when the camera zooms in on your bullet as it shoots towards an enemy’s head in slow motion. The AI seems to be well crafted, although it can be a bit strange when enemies go back to their normal routines a few minutes after finding a body. Ideally, they’d continue to be on alert, rather than resuming their patrols. It’s not enough to take away from the general experience, but it’s a little disappointing.

Considering Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is an open-world game, it’d be safe to expect its fair share of bugs and issues, but unfortunately it has more than its fair share. The game doesn’t look great at the best of times, but sometimes textures would just refuse to load, leaving trees smooth and metallic-looking. Several times I was forced to reload my save due to getting trapped in inescapable areas, and at one point I actually bugged right through a wall and into a building with no exit whilst assassinating an enemy. On a few occasions, the game crashed completely, once during the final mission, and I was returned to the Xbox Dashboard after enduring a jarring grinding sound and a frozen screen. Admittedly, these kind of issues happen in most games at some point or another, but it seemed to happen with surprising frequency during my playthrough of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. It wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it wasn’t for the sheer amount of time spent on loading screens. I timed one loading screen, and I ended up sitting through it with its incredibly irritating music that plays on a loop, for over 7 minutes. Not even the likes of Fallout 4 and Skyrim had loading screens that long, and those games are arguably much bigger than this

Unfortunately, much of the game’s potential is underutilised. For example, most of the vehicles that can be found are ‘locked’, leaving you stuck with just the car you’re provided with, and even then, it’s preferable to just use the game’s fast-travel points that are dotted around the map. Even the game’s levelling system seems underdeveloped – as you play through the game, you receive different types of experience points depending on how you play. Sniping nets you ‘Sniper’ experience, using stealth unlocks ‘Ghost’ experience, and tackling things head-on provides you with ‘Warrior’ points. Considering those three traits reference the name of the game, you’d expect more work to be done on them, but you’d be wrong. Because the game mostly pushes you towards sniping, rather than the other two options, you’ll find that you’ll max out the ‘Sniper’ tree very early on, and after that all future experience from sniping is wasted. It would make more sense to receive experience generally, and then give players the option of assigning that experience to the different trees themselves, rather than forcing players to forego sniping if they want to complete the other trees. It’s a small niggle, but you’ll understand it if you play the game yourself

The game’s story is nothing to write home about, and is best described as a classic action movie from the 80s or 90s, just without all the things that made them so great. It moves along at a snail’s pace until the closing 5-6 missions, at which point things move forward and the plot finally begins to materialise. Even then, it’s not particularly interesting, with two-dimensional characters and a script that trickles rather than flows.

All in all, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 isn’t a particularly good game. Underneath everything, though, there’s the potential for what could have been something excellent, but it lets itself down too many times and in too many ways to be anything better than it is, which is a down-market Far Cry. Hopefully, CI Games will learn from the mistakes they have made here, and will come back in a few years with something more polished and developed. As it stands, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a fun game, and I enjoyed my time with it, despite its issues. Just don’t expect anything mind-blowing.



Author

Rhys Evans

I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember. My first console was a Sega Megadrive, and my first game was Streets of Rage. I've recently graduated with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff Met University. I'm a fan of role-playing games and first-person shooters, but these days you can usually find me building cities in Minecraft. My favourite games are The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Bioshock.