Written by Derrick Smith
Now on their third iteration of Sniper Ghost Warrior, CI Games has abandoned the linear gameplay approach of previous titles in the series for a more ambitious open world affair. With select locales of the country of Georgia developed as a freelance compliment of player exploration, merged with satisfying gunplay along various ‘Acts’ (four acts including a prologue), each filled with various mission objectives and side-quests integrated with a decent narrative, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 delivers a promising sniper experience, easily the best the series has to offer.
However, despite the games enjoyable high points, the overall experience is a slightly missed opportunity as the games technical shortcomings and underwhelming production value are the games biggest drawbacks.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 throws players in the role of Marine Captain Jonathan “Jon” North, who is sent to the country of Georgia in an effort to help destabilize the local Georgian Separatist cells, who are reported to be receiving an abnormally high level of funding and resources. While Jon has accepted the assignment, Jon also has hidden motives to also discover the whereabouts of his brother Robert who was taken hostage some three years earlier within the region.
Supported by various key character allies, some of which Jon has had a romantic relationship with, which adds to the games overarching story, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 drops you off in a sandbox of freedom, similar to an RPG style experience, as players can choose to follow the games main mission objectives or explore interesting hot points throughout the maps sizable locale. As players traverse the Georgian landscape they will discover various points of interest which are identified by question marks scattered across the landscape. These points of interest run in parallel to the main objectives offering varied encounters and discoveries, such as freeing Georgian hostages from members of the Georgian separatist cells, rescuing Georgians from being eaten alive by the wild wolves roaming about, as well as opening up the maps fast travel options, to finding collectibles like historical items and weapons and discovering money pouches for the purchasing of valuable upgrades, making Jon a more formidable sniper, ghost and warrior.
Unlike previous games in the series, the gameplay of SGW3 is based on a three tier skill system, giving players the freedom to approach the game at their discretion without being penalized. Whether players decide to stay in the shadows and express themselves from behind the scope of a powerful rifle as a sniper, get up close and personal with their knife as a ghost, or be aggressive going guns blazing out in the open as a skilled warrior, SGW3 does an impressive job empowering the players imagination as a well rounded operative. Being allowed to use different approaches to complete missions and defeat enemies greatly broadens the scope of the game beyond its predecessors, especially now as maps are larger and more open-ended.
The game’s objectives are not be shown on the mini-map provided to players, so players are required to visit their safe house in order to initiate their next main campaign mission. After choosing a mission, the mission area will be visible on the map, and a GPS path will be displayed. Various points of interest, which have been discovered earlier, will also be checked on the map. At the safe house players can collect supplies and resources like first-aid kits and ammunition for weapons. These safe houses also act as fast travel points for players for easy navigation of the world. In addition, players can craft and modify their weapons and bullets. These upgrades can improve the weapons’ efficiency and accuracy. As part of the games varied side-quest approach players can also interact with a neutral faction, which may or may not help players in completing missions. Also, within the safe house players can sleep to a designated hour, craft, buy items in the shop and as mentioned before start missions. There are several safe houses on each map, and player needs to discover them to be able to use them. There will be loot waiting or new weapons to equip in newly discovered safe houses. Player can fast travel to safe houses from any place in the world , however fast travel is disabled after entering a mission area.
Within the safe house the weapons cache is a place where the player can change their loadouts. Primary weapons, secondary weapons, side-arms, gadgets, camouflages, and armors can be equipped here from the stock. Here players can also modify weapons with currently unlocked attachments, or upgrade camo and backpack. New attachments, weapons and gadgets can be unlocked by completing missions, but also found distributed on outposts or out in the world. Once unlocked, the player can buy them from the shop. In addition, from the shop player can also buy ammo, gadgets, med-kits and armor using in-game currency.
At the workbench players are able to craft regular and special bullets, gadgets and med-kits using resources found in the world. There are 5 kinds of resources, each used in different proportions to craft different equipment.
While Jon does utilize the valuable resources afforded him by way of his key character allies, Jon goes it alone and often upon reaching main mission or side quest objective locations, it is quite useful to equip the use of the versatile reconnaissance drone. Players can use the drone, which is one of the newest additions to the series, allowing you to scan and survey the environment, and to detect enemies. The drone can also be used to hack enemies’ electronic equipment and weapons, and to create distractions. However, there are risks when players are using the drone, as enemies may become alerted when they spot it.
Surprisingly, while SGW3 starts out well, once you begin to sink your teeth into the experience of being a seemingly unstoppable sniper, ghost and warrior, the true substance of the affair begins to surface alongside some painful technical hiccups, which may spoil the fun for many who find the gameplay worthwhile, as this critic certainly did.
The games three tier balancing act approach is very well done, forcing players to be honest in how they engage each mission and the classic bullet cam before the kill continues to excite, yet for all the exciting ingredients, the games production value takes a big hit the further you go down this rabbit hole. From the visuals, which at times can be pleasing, to the NPC models, level designs and clumsy platforming, it is obvious that the attention to the details was unfortunately overlooked. Adding to this, within the first four hours of play the game seemed almost unplayable as it was rampant with technical glitches, which were quite frustrating. About ten minutes into the training section early on the game froze forcing me to restart the app. Unfortunately, this happened seven times at different points within the game. The most painful were during mission sequences where the objectives were almost completed in flawless fashion, only to be interrupted by the glitch freeze attack. It was brutal!
There were also times while completing side-quests where you would literally fall through the world on an endless drop, again forcing you to restart the game. This in addition to the weird looking and unpolished platforming began to make this otherwise enjoyable shooter experience a chore to continue.
As one of the game’s core experiences is sniping, the accuracy of long-range shots kept me coming back for more. Sniping is affected by various factors, such as calibration of the rifle’s scope, weather, wind speed, distance, gravity, and your breathing strength and rate. As a result, players have to plan, adapt, and react to the game’s environments to alter these factors. Scoring those incredibly long shots were extremely satisfying despite the games hiccups.
Players can activate Scout Mode, which is an ability of Jon’s allowing him to highlight places of interest and detect explosives such as mines. Players can also make use of the mode to find a new sniping spot during missions. Scout Mode was quite handy on the more difficult mission.
While SGW3 does suffer from obvious technical mishaps, the longer I stayed with it eventually there were no technical issues and being forced to restart the game no longer happened.
Based on how the gameplay is positioned within this open-world, even without the games technical issues, players may find themselves ultimately wanting more from the experience. Yet, for all of what SGW3 does not do well, the glass seems half full with a measureable amount of exciting potential. For an open-world sniper experience, which allows the player a true freedom of engagement, amidst a hostile environment with solid gunplay, SGW3 is an ambitious undertaking which GI Games has almost pulled off.
As one of the only true sniper experiences made available on consoles, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a decent addition. If you can survive the games technical shortcomings, this has the potential of being a satisfying addition to your shooter library.