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Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Review – “Down Range”


Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Reviewed on: PC
Code Received.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is an ambitious, satisfying sniping simulation. Your meticulous planning and observation is rewarded when that magic bullets finds it’s target. The problem is that there aren’t enough of these moments, and the rest of the game is filled with empty, repetitious fluff.

The story is typical boiler-plate, spec-ops action fair. You are Jonathan North, an elite American sniper who is sent into a destabilized foreign nation to secretly cause more destabilization. But the main focus of the story revolves around Jon trying to discover what happened to his older brother Robert many years ago. The game manages to lay some decent groundwork for the brother’s relationship, although it fails to go beyond the “we were born to be soldiers” paradigm. The rest of the story exists solely to serve you up missions and give you nameless soldiers to kill. Luckily, it never gets in the way if you just want to push through to the next bit of action.

Let’s talk about what Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 does best, which is give you weapons and gadgets to make you feel like a true special forces sniper. The arsenal you can acquire is substantial, with a large variety of sniper rifles, assault rifles, pistols, grenades, and even a compound bow. Each weapon has trade offs, like a higher rate of fire in exchange for less bullet damage. And most of them can be modified with larger magazines, higher powered scopes, and, of course, silencers. A lot of time went into fleshing out the equipment you can acquire in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and it should satisfy anyone who enjoys tinkering with their weapons and admiring what their money paid for.

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There are a lot of high-detail weapon models to look at.

You also get access to a variety of gadgets, paramount of which is the drone. This little guy let’s you fly high above the enemy and tag them, Far Cry style. The drone fits prominently into every mission and can be outfitted with modifications like night vision and even the ability to lure enemies. Controlling the drone can be a tad finicky at first, but eventually you can learn to maneuver it through buildings to spot even the most well-hidden enemies.

All these weapons and tools would mean nothing if they weren’t satisfying to use. I found most of the rifles felt good and heavy, and even the pistols dispatched foes quickly at close range. When you are taking long-range sniper shots you must take into account wind and bullet drop as well, so there is more going on here than just lining up cross-hairs and pulling the trigger. These moments are very much where Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 shines, it’s just a shame so much other stuff gets in the way.

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Getting a headshot triggers a slow-mo bullet-time scene.

This is the first Sniper Ghost Warrior game to feature an open world, and it’s easy to tell why CI Games chose this route. It provides a level of freedom to approach any mission the way you want, or at least that’s the idea. In reality, many missions are actually just self-contained instances. You drive up to the “mission zone” marked on your map and get to work. You have the option of surveying the entire area and choosing the best ingress point, however, most of the areas are surrounded by inaccessible cliffs or buildings and the only place to start is via the road you just drove up on. Not to mention the mission zones are very restrictive and going outside of the boundaries results in a failed attempt. I would have much rather seen a handful of painstakingly crafted missions ala Hitman rather than the myriad of forgettable encounters buried within the open world.

“I would have much rather seen a handful of painstakingly crafted missions ala Hitman rather than the myriad of forgettable encounters buried within the open world.”

In addition to limiting you in the ways you can approach even the big, open missions, there are also a hand-full of traditional linear stealth-action missions. These do nothing but showcase how clumsy it can be to try and maneuver around the world. There are dedicated areas where Jon can climb cliffs and buildings, but the climbing is neither fun nor responsive. Much like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, there’s very little risk of falling, however, finding handholds isn’t fluid or visually pleasing in first person.

Furthermore, Jon cannot make it over even the smallest rock or berm on foot. This often leads to taking detours and risk being spotted by an enemy because the geometry is just too much for this elite soldier to mantle. It not only makes these missions frustrating, but it also makes navigating the open world clumsy.

This seems like a good place to also mention how boring the driving is. The vehicles are very stiff and feel like they are just gliding over the ground. Luckily, there are copious amounts of fast travel points to unlock, so you rarely spend time driving. In addition, when you do fast travel your vehicle warps with you, so if you do need it you never have to search far.

An open world wouldn’t be an open world without question marks to investigate, and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is no slouch in this department. A vast majority of these “points of interest” are hostage rescue missions, essentially smaller scale versions of the main missions where you must execute all the enemies in a given area. They get repetitive and there are too many of them.

However, there is some fun to be had in the form of finding small trinkets in the environment. Instead of just giving you an obvious chest full of loot, you actually have to scour the area to find the hidden treasures in realistic locations. Like a necklace on a table or a stolen painting in a closet. You get rewarded with money, but the neat thing is that these trinkets wind up on display at your safehouses. It’s a nice little touch that could have just been a throwaway scavenger hunt.

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All the trinkets you find show up at your base.

I’ll take this time to rattle off a few things I found frustrating or confusing about the game that really didn’t fit into the rest of the review.

  • When you load a checkpoint during a mission the enemies “reset” to their default states, this is easy to exploit if you trigger an alarm or alert a guard.
  • There are a few missions with civilian NPCs and you are rewarded for not killing them. However, you have no non-lethal abilities, and these NPCs can trigger alarms, so you either kill them or risk them alerting the guards.
  • Between missions you can refill your ammo and equipment at your safehouse, however, there is no option to auto-refill your depleted expendables, so you must manually refill every type of ammo for each gun, repair all silencers, and equip new armor. It’s tedious and easy to forget to refill something.
  • You have no weapons during some story sequences and the walking animation is ridiculous. It seems like Jon has a broken leg and is limping, very confusing.

I will say that Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a great looking game. It’s running on CryEngine, and if you have a PC powerful enough to max it out, it can look amazing. Foliage sways in the wind, the sun bleaches the ground and shimmers off water, and the weather effects are convincing. However, it can also be a giant burden your PC. I used the “High” setting for my entire review as the “Very High” setting caused considerable slowdown while driving and in populated areas. Outside of that, the game was very stable with no crashes or glitches. Loading times were also brief as I was able to get from my desktop to the action in about 90 seconds. There are some rough edges here and there with animation and a few awkwardly placed dead bodies, but nothing egregious.

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This is how I want to go out.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a mixed bag. It really is a great sniping game. The stealth mechanics are on point, the action feels good, and the assortment of weapons is satisfying. The open world can also be enjoyable, even if it’s not fully utilized. The problems come in the form of clumsy transversal mechanics, a throw-away story, and some really bizarre design decisions. At best these things are easily ignored, but at worst they grind the game to a halt. It’s unfortunate that these caveats exist because otherwise Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 would be an easy recommendation.


PC Specs:
Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz
16GB RAM
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB VRAM
Samsung EVO 850 SSD

 

OK

There are too many rough edges in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 to give is a solid recommendation. However, when the game gets down and dirty with the sniping, there is fun to be had.

6
Overall:
6

I remember playing Super Mario Bros. and Metroid on the NES with my older brother, and never being able to land on the aircraft carrier in Top Gun. I faked being sick so I could stay home from school and play Quake II once, but now I request days off from work instead of lying. Age of Empires II is still the best RTS, Half-Life is still the best FPS, and I still think the end of Mass Effect 3 was great!