Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (for PlayStation 4) is kind of like Frankenstein’s Monster. It liberally borrows its parts from various sources (Ghost Recon, Sniper Elite and even Metal Gear Solid) and fuses them into an unholy amalgam of a game.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (henceforth SGW3) even borrows the plot from the games it copies. You play as Jonathon North, a Marine sniper sent to Georgia to help take out the Georgian rebel cells. Unofficially, Jon is there to follow up on leads about his kidnapped brother, who was taken in the prologue mission. As your game progresses, you will find that both of Jon’s missions are conveniently one and the same, leading to a tangle mess of conspiracies, betrayal, a secret organization manipulating stuff behind the scenes and a rather predictable plot twist. Needless to say, don’t go into the game expecting a plot that will blow your socks off.
The flimsy plot is really just there to tie in the missions together. Being an open world game however, means you will need to traverse the map to get from one mission to another. If you’re not a fan of the side missions and other diversions, you can simply skip them and focus on doing the main story missions. Although that would mean missing out on some of the cool ‘unlockable’ missions.
If you are one who takes your time to explore the world though, you will find that there are plenty of diversions out there to keep you occupied. You won’t necessarily be having fun, but there’s a lot of things to do apart from the main missions. You can hunt down targets, rescue civilians, capture outposts, hunt for secret stashes…you name it. However, the world itself feels rather bland and lifeless. It got so bad that I just fast travelled pretty much everywhere just so I could escape the monotony of the world. Even driving around is a chore since the vehicles all control badly, with collision detection issues.
Befitting its name, SGW3’s stellar moments come during its sniping missions.
Adjusting your scope for elevation, gauging the wind speed and accounting for bullet drop is awesome and addictive, with the payoff being a satisfying clean kill.
Like Sniper Elite, SGW3 also has a slo-mo bullet cam, which you can toggle to play after every shot. It’s satisfying to watch, but is inferior to Sniper Elite’s due to the more visceral X-rays and damage modeling that game does so well. In fact, damage modeling is pretty much non-existent. Despite bullets being drilled through skulls, none of the bodies you come across will have accurate damage done to them. No bullet holes, or exposed cranium or anything like that. It is a shame there is no way to admire your kills.
The stealth aspects of the game aren’t that bad, though they certainly can use some tweaking. Before engaging, you always have the option of scouting out your target beforehand. Whether it is using the remote control flying drone or manually spotting (and marking) targets, gauging the enemy’s strength and location is always an option.
However, finding enemies via either method is an exercise in frustration, at least until you unlock the thermal gear. They blend too well in the background, making spotting them a lucky occurrence rather than skill. Weirdly, even spotting and marking an enemy doesn’t guarantee you a beat on their location as the game can glitch and make your marked targets momentarily vanish (as in no triangle above their heads showing their position) before reappearing again.
The AI is a hit and miss as well. Sometimes they get alerted for no reason while other times they will be oblivious to near misses. The AI issues might be patched later, but as it stands, your experience may vary. One positive thing about the AI however, is that it doesn’t seems to cheat and miraculously know where you’re shooting from, especially if you’re perched far away. However, once they have your location, they tend to become expert snipers (even those carrying assault rifles), as shots will hit you, even at ludicrous distances.
If you opt to go in close for your kill or you need to infiltrate a location, you will find that the game’s stealth is rather bare-bones. You have your enemies’ line of sight and hearing and running, jumping or any sudden movement can alert them. However, if you manage to sneak up onto an enemy, you can then interrogate them for information on the whereabouts of their buddies, location of items or other useful tidbits. Of course, you can just kill them outright if you choose. Choosing to spare them however, is more beneficial though the same animation and voice line repeats every single time you choose to interrogate.
Flub the stealth though and it’s time to go Rambo. Sadly though, gunplay isn’t as smooth or responsive as compared to other shooters. On top of that, the assortment of weapons doesn’t really carry the ‘oomph’ and kick you’d expect from a gun. Apart from the sniper rifles, the game’s weapons (which include the obligatory bow) aren’t that fun to play with.
Once all the targets are down in your area, it’s time to loot. SGW3 has a crafting system at work, which lets you craft gear and more importantly ammo. Each gun usually has at least a couple of different types of ammo it can use, with the more exotic types naturally requiring more resources to craft. You can lessen the amount of stuff you use up via Skills so it’s not too bad.
Speaking of skills, SGW3 has three different tyes; Sniper, Ghost and Warrior. Each one has a couple of different skills you can unlock; however, none are really essential to completing the game. There isn’t a lot of depth to the skills as well, with each section having nine different skills each (three tiers, with three skills per tier).
Despite being on the CryEngine, SGW3 doesn’t look that great. Perhaps it’s the setting, but the drab locales do little to help the murky graphics stand out. The frame rate isn’t that stable either, as there are noticeable dips if the action gets hot on and heavy, even on a PS4 Pro. Then there are the loading times, which are hands down, the longest of any game this generation. The worst offenders are the initial start-up and when loading save games, which can take up to five minutes!
All in all, Sniper Elite…er…Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 isn’t that bad of a game. It is mediocre at best. In copying the various parts of the game from other titles, the developers tend to forget something very important; the fun factor. It is there when you nail a particularly awesome shot or when you sneak around to get into position for a particularly difficulty sniping mission. But it is sorely missing in other aspects of the game. SGW3 is a jack of all trades, but a master of none, which is a shame as with more polish and tweaks, the game could actually turn out to be fun.