Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 may not deliver a clean kill, but it gets the job done.
For nearly a decade, developer CI Games‘ Sniper Ghost Warrior series has slipped players into the ghillie suit of an elite sniper and given armchair-bound marksmen a chance to deliver sweet American justice, one high-velocity round at a time. However, past entries in the long-running line of FPS titles have often missed the mark when compared to Rebellion’s successful Sniper Elite franchise, which has dialed in a trio of polished games that consistently shoot to thrill. CI Games looks to change that this time around with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 by tossing players into a sprawling open-world version of Georgia and setting them loose on some pretty nasty Russian war criminals, but only time will tell if this third volley in the Ghost Warrior series can deliver the kill shot.
From the outset, it’s obvious that CI Games has been taking notes from some of the genre’s heavy hitters. To be more specific, it seems like they’ve taken a page out of Ubisoft’s playbook with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. Georgia’s mountainous landscape looks strikingly reminiscent of Far Cry 4’s Himalayan digs, and the former Soviet state is teeming similarly manic drivers and folksy tunes that pipe through the radio of your frumpy sedan as you drive to your next target. It’s not quite as polished as Ubisoft’s 2014 blockbuster though, and would look quite at home on last-gen consoles if it weren’t for some pretty impressive shaders and weather effects that occasionally make themselves known.
Still, from our brief stint with the game, it’s impossible not to feel Ubisoft’s influence throughout almost every facet of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, which has you exploring the landscape for hidden bits and bobs, zooming down conveniently-placed zip lines, and overall causing a massive headache for the local junta, typically with the help of a 7.62 round from about a mile away.
Much like the aforementioned Far Cry 4, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 features safe houses that allow you to perform a variety of tasks in-between missions. It’s here you’ll find a workbench that can be used to craft a variety of ammo from materials you find scattered around the world such as explosive rounds, silencers, and more. You can also access a shop here to up your arsenal with more power rifles, gadgets, and other tools of the trade. The safe house also has a bed that can be used to rest (magically healing all of those nasty bullet wounds you’ve sustained), as well as speed time up. This comes in handy when you want to undertake missions under the cover of darkness. This base of operations is a nice touch, and crafting gear and using your shelter’s PC to gather intel or choose your current mission is quick and easy.
The early build of the game that we played gave us access to two story missions: Blockout (a mission that tasked us with taking out a high-ranking Russian officer who’s holed up in a block of crumbling tenements) and Cut Off (an infiltration mission that has you manipulating a satellite array in a remote mountain base). Each of these missions serves as a good way to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and can be completed in a number of ways, though often the most expedient way is to eschew sniping altogether, as your trusty silenced sidearm is more than enough to get you through most situations unmolested. During my first successful run through Blockout, I was able to simply sneak past two oblivious sentries and scale a ladder just a few feet from them to gain rooftop access to the target’s hiding place. From here, I was able to proceed unchallenged through the derelict flat. Upon spotting my mark vegging out in front of a TV, I unloaded a 9mm round into his tender cerebellum, watching his head pop like an overripe melon in a flash of red. With my grisly deed done, I casually strolled back to my car, right beside the pair of bumbling guards I passed on my way in, leaving the mission area without needing to fire another shot. Of course, this cavalier way of taking down my target prevented me from completing an optional objective where I had to recover a missing drone (which happens to put your right in the perfect place to snipe the target), but it’s still disappointing that the brain-dead enemy AI makes simply waltzing straight up to your mark the most viable method of completing your objective. This wasn’t always the case, though. There were several occasions where I should have been concealed behind a solid object, causing waves of relentless soldiers to swarm my position. The way guards shifted from comatose to nearly supernatural levels of awareness was entirely unpredictable. And this lack of consistency really worked to pull me out of the experience.
Thankfully, completing Cut Off was a bit more of a challenge, as well as a great opportunity to bust out some of the new gadgets in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3‘s arsenal. The satellite array you need to sabotage in this mission is set within a sprawling, multi-tiered facility nestled against a mountain landscape. Taking to the high ground, I deployed my aerial drone, a new addition to the series’ bag of tricks. The drone allowed me to hover over the installation and mark targets, as well as places of interest peppered throughout its heavily-fortified grounds. Flying the drone was simple, with each trigger used for either ascending or descending, and the left analog stick used for steering your UAV. It’s here that the game’s virtual power trip really came together, as I ID’d targets from the comfort of my cliff-side hiding place, sniping the ones who were barring me from my objective from a safe distance before I even scaled the base’s perimeter fence. Once I finally cleared the path to my destination, it was time to disperse the egghead scientists inside so I could do my job without raising any alarms. To do so I scurried off to a tucked away building in the rear of the base that housed the facility’s computer system. Crashing the computer caused the Melvins in the satellite control center to rush to the computer lab to sort out the situation. My diversion in place, I was now free to scramble their communications without adding any unwelcome bullet holes to my squishy sniper frame.
Neither of these two story missions featured in the preview build of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 managed to set the world on fire, but they do show a shooter that’s fundamentally sound. If later missions in the campaign can manage to flesh out the formula in a meaningful way, CI Games’ latest effort could at least shape up to be the best entry in the Sniper series to date. Though with just two months until the game’s release, it’s hard to imagine the game is going to be able to go toe-to-toe with many of the genre’s big names. Still, the blend of stealth gameplay and long-range assassinations is quite satisfying when it comes together. The feeling that comes with dialing in a shot from 300 meters away and pegging your target in the forehead is a rush. And while it’s not always the most expedient way to get the job done, it sure is satisfying to execute a textbook assassination.
One area of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 that does raise some serious concerns is in regards to performance. The rig I used for my preview is a pretty beefy one powered by an i7-6700 CPU, 16GB of DDR4 SDRAM, and an 8GB GTX1070. And despite being well above the recommended requirements for Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, I found the game to consistently chug. I ended up having to dial back shaders, shadows, and texture quality considerably to get a frame rate that I felt was comfortably playable. Suffice to say, it feels like Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 needs some serious optimization before its April 4, 2017 release, as the game’s modest visuals and sparsely populated world shouldn’t need this much tweaking to run properly on a sufficiently powered system.
In its current state, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 isn’t quite a flawless shooter experience. However, it does show flashes of promise. If developer CI Games can polish the rough edges ahead of the game’s April launch, it could well be a shooter worth digging into over the slow spring months. In order to do so, I feel the developer really needs to make some updates to the enemy AI and glaring performance issues to hit the mark. As it stands, only time will tell if the game can deliver on its promises, but we’re hoping the game can hit its full potential. Stay tuned for our full verdict of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 as its release draws near.
So, did you participate in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3‘s recent open Beta? If so, what did you think of the time you spent with the game? As always, we love to hear what you think. Be sure to sound off in the comments section and let us know.
Those hoping to take a shot at the game for themselves won’t have to wait too long. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 will be releasing on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on April 4, 2017.