Video Game Review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (PS4, 2017) is far from a kill shot, but leaves a leaves a mark

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a mixed bag. There are many things about this title that work, but for every positive there’s a glaring negative that drags the experience down on too many fronts. It uses conventional mechanics and a narrative structure seen in countless other games without really doing anything fresh or new. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is not a bad game, but it seems completely content with being average. In this, it seems like game (if you’ll pardon the pun) shoots itself in the foot — a glaring mistake from a supposed marksman.

Developed by CI Games, the third title in the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series takes place in a separatist-controlled Georgia, an open world which tries to move away from the linear corridors of previous entries.  Players take control of Captain Jonathan North, and are pulled through a series of interesting story hooks in the early part of the game. The initial cutscene and prologue stand out as a welcome departure from other military shooters. It seemed to be focusing on the concept of family and a bond between brothers but, without going into spoilers, this comfy rug is pulled from beneath you too quickly. What follows attempts to maintain that interesting initial thrust but devolves into the kind of military shooter we have seen countless times in the decade since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The narrative itself is not terribly written and does a somewhat decent job at guiding you around Georgia and its various open environments, but isn’t ever able to recapture the momentum of its initial moments.

Going into this title, it’s immediately apparent that this open world is much bigger than anything seen in the previous Sniper: Ghost Warrior titles. The ambition in this regard is commendable, but the world itself feels bland and lifeless, even when travelling through populated areas. The voice acting is average for the most part and character models are detailed enough, but lack the polish of more popular, probably better funded shooters like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare or Battlefield 1.

Graphically, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 shines brighter than its gameplay, though only just, thanks to some impressive lighting effects courtesy of the always impressive CRYENGINE. The sun shines through trees and illuminates the wet patchy ground in such a way that makes you take notice. At times it can look pretty damn good. However these lighting effects sometimes highlight the bland textures in the environment or on characters, and further illuminate obvious texture pop ins, both up close and far off, something you certainly don’t see very often from a game that uses this engine. You go to CRYENGINE because you want your game to look amazing. It feels like they got halfway there and maybe ran out of resources.

The game performs well enough, but I encountered obvious frame rate drops at random times which proved to be quite jarring. These did not ruin the experience, but are inexplicably timed. However the biggest issue with performance came from its load times. Load times throughout the game were atrocious. After a cutscene, the game could take up to 2 minutes to load up and drop you into the game. It’s incredibly frustrating and by today’s standards, there’s just no excuse for it. It not only pulls you out of the game but, should you repeatedly fail a mission, it gets old fast. To top it all off, the game crashed on me at least three times. In a game that’s trying to operate in the space that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is, it’s hard to excuse these errors. One can only hope there will be patches for these issues in future updates, though prevention certainly would have been better than cure.

The game mechanics work well enough, but feel a little stiff, compared to the fluid and precise controls of a Call of Duty title. Shooting feels sufficiently responsive and the weapons do feel weighty. The varied array of weapons, gadgets and equipment assists greatly in breaking up what could be a rather monotonous experience. Certain missions encourage sniping, but don’t always confine you to it. You can really attack a mission any way you see fit and the game adapts accordingly, while giving you enough leeway to handle the situation if things get out of hand.

That sounds great but don’t get too excited — the AI shows some glaring flaws during these moments. They’re clearly built with the expectation that you’ll pick them off from a distance because they take an unusually long time to react to any approach that’s more frontal or aggressive. That being said, the game feels at its best when you take your time to line up long distance shot and pull the trigger, cueing a bullet time cutscene that follows the bullet from barrel to target, ending in a splatter of blood and brains. It never gets old and makes you feel like an accomplished badass, even if the sniper kill cam is not as refined or detailed as something like Sniper Elite’s X-ray vision kills. Top it off with a robot drone that allows you to tag your enemies, all the tools are available for you to assess your situation and dispatch your enemies in the most methodical way possible. Factors such as wind and distance effect the accuracy of your shot, and the game shines brightest in this department.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 handles it’s mission variety quite well. From simple assassination missions to escort missions, you’re never doing the same mission for too long. A small complaint here is that most missions take you out of that open world experience and confine you to a limited area. It’s a little jarring when you spend so much time within an open world only to suddenly have enclosed boundaries. Another issue is that, while the single player experience can last up to 20 hours, there is no multiplayer mode to be found here. That’s totally fine as multiplayer shouldn’t be expected in every shooter title, but it seems like a missed opportunity. Add to that, multiplayer actually IS on the way, but is planned to release in the third quarter of this year. That is simply way too delayed for such a major mode, and it’s absurd to expect an audience to wait that long for a mode usually included in the initially released version of a game. It’s another indicator that the game was pushed out the door long before it was ready.

Overall, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 shows promise in certain areas while stumbling in others, balancing the experience to what felt like a B-grade game. It’s easy to recommend this game at a sale price, but it just doesn’t do anything new, nor have the polish to be considered or priced as a Triple A title. As previously mentioned, there are so many things this game does that entertain and make you feel like a true sniper, but weighed down by its shortcomings, it manages to miss the mark.

Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Lighting effects; fun sniping; mission variety
Lowlights: Bland story; excessive loading times; no multiplayer on release
Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One,  Windows PC

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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