Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 25 April 2017
Price: $49.99 (PC) /$59.99 (Consoles) USD – Available Here / $89.95 (PC)/$99.95 (Consoles) AUD – Available Here
After two budget releases, CI Games has decided to take a bold step by opting to develop Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 as an AAA title. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is an open world stealth FPS featuring realistic ballistics and three styles of gameplay. The game takes players to the Republic of Georgia, near the Russian border where various factions jostle for control of the country. Players take on the role of Jon North, a United States Marine Corps sniper working for JSOC. North is sent into the country to stabilize Georgia by hampering the efforts of the separatist forces. Unofficially, Jon is looking to find his brother Robert who was captured in Georgia after a mission went south almost two years before.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 starts off as a pretty standard covert ops US military intervention plot. The official mission is then mixed into the web of relationships Jon North has cultivated over the years. I found the overall story to be a little on the convoluted side, with new elements like super soldiers suddenly thrown into the mix. The characters are a bit shallow and predictable. The story is at its best when exploring Jon’s relationships, especially with his brother Robert. Jon becomes a much more likeable and human character when seen through the lens of these relationships. The game provides a little more background into the lore with a variety of unlockable journal entries. While the writing quality of the entries are good, it seems that some one forgot to proofread the entries as several blatant and simple grammar errors are found throughout.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is an open world stealth FPS. Like most modern stealth games, Jon is a little fragile, but is still the predator waiting to strike from the shadows. At the basic difficulty level, Jon can absorb a few enemy bullets in a firefight, and his health will regenerate to the closest block. A variety of healing items top up his health, and armour can help absorb a little bit of incoming damage; however, this is not a game players can run around guns blazing like Rambo. Scouting enemy positions and ambushing them is the key to victory. At lower difficulty levels, tagged enemies can be seen through walls, but the new challenge mode completely removes tags and forces players to memorize enemy locations and patrol paths.
The gunplay feels solid. The weapons handle well. The ballistics system strikes a good balance between accessibility and realism. The training wheels come off as the difficulty setting increases, as assissting UI elements are removed. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 may not boast the most accurate representation of long distance rifle shooting on the market, it sits near the top of the list as the game accounts for wind, bullet travel time, gravity, and rifle support.
There are a variety of guns and equipment for use. For the most part, the overall feel of each sniper rifle is not radically different. Bolt action sniper rifles trade rate of fire for stability with a bipod, while semi-automatic rifles excel at taking out multiple targets before they can raise an alarm. For those who prefer to do their work up close and personal, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, pistols, and knives. All guns can be modified with attachments, but the game saves the biggest variety for sniper rifles. The melee takedown system is responsive, but I find the melee interrogations to be a little fussy at times.
The game is built around three gameplay styles: sniper, ghost, and warrior. Each style is has its own skill tree and various actions will award experience points in its respective tree. The system feels quite natural, letting players develop characters based on their preferred playstyle. The skills are not absolute game changers, but provide a nice impact. I found the trees are rather well balanced, with at least a skill in each tier that supports other styles.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s stealth mechanics are excellent, channeling elements of recent Far Cry games and Metal Gear Solid. The UI has clear visual indicators for noise generated and visual detection. The enemy AI is decent for the most part and provide a nice challenge. Levels are very well designed and often have multiple potential paths. The vertical climbing system is used often to access different routes. Using scout mode will light up all climbable ledges, offering players access to a variety of sniping spots or shortcuts through an area.
Like every other open world game out there, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 offers collectibles to discover, enemy encampments to conquer, and side missions to complete. While the three maps have a ton of exploration potential, they feel rather empty. It’s rare to see civilians going about their day and almost everything in the world feels like it exists simply for the player. The illusion that the player is in a living, breathing world just isn’t there.
The controls for Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a mixed bag. The overall design is good. Infantry and vehicle controls are solid; however, the drone handles like a drunk penguin sliding around an ice field. I do wish the game came with a refill all button that would automatically repair items, top off ammo, and restock any used consumables, as it is a hassle to manually purchase everything. I suspect console players will have little to no trouble with the game’s controls for the most part. PC players on the other hand will have to contend with a rather messy port. Vehicle movement keys cannot be rebound within the game, so the small group of players who don’t use WASD will have a tough time. Additionally, it is impossible to rebind the move body key as it is forever stuck to the game’s default melee key.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s graphics are good, though a little buggy. The models and animations are solid. I wish the game opted to render cutscenes in-game instead of pre-rendered cut scenes as there is a noticeable drop in visual quality between cut scenes and in-game renders, especially at high graphic settings. The rag doll effects are the most obviously bugged, as enemies can get stuck in the ground in weird positions. The game also has a bit of a clipping issue at times, most noticeable when watching Jon climb ladders or walk near large boxes of collectibles. I like how the game pays attention to small details, such as Jon’s first person outfits noticeably changing in response to the different weather conditions on the three open world maps.
For PC players, the game is still needing a bit of polish. The initial loading times are atrocious. While wandering around the open map is okay, switching to a new map leads to long loading screens that almost rival the initial load. CI Games has already acknowledged issues related to load times and frame rate drops, promising to work on optimization before releasing any new content. In my personal experience, these issues did not render the game unplayable, but there are some rough patches.
The audio experience is good, though a little lacking in variety. The game’s voice acting is excellent for the most part. The voice lines for enemy characters are repetitive as it feels like there are only one or two lines for each enemy state. The sound effects pack a great punch. The audio rendering system does a good job for pinpointing the location of enemies with a pair of headphones. The music is a solid mix and features a lot of eastern European music in both traditional and modern styles.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is not quite ready to be an AAA blockbuster quite yet, but it is still a solid game. It delivers an entertaining open world stealth experience with enjoyable sniping mechanics in an easy to approach format. While the game could have used some polish and the lack of variety in enemy lines is a bit of a drag, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a solid pick for stealth fans and those looking for a semi-realistic military shooter.
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