Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a product of mid-2000’s Jingoism and misplaced machismo.
Imagine sitting at a restaurant and ordering a five-dollar slice of cake.
Your waitress sets down the dessert and you start to dig in—only to realize that it tastes identical to the Betty Crocker cake mix you baked last Tuesday. Now I like Betty Crocker cake mix as much as the next guy, but if a restaurant tried to pass it off as high-end gourmet I’d be understandably disappointed. In the same way, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 sticks to a tried and true recipe for success utterly devoid of originality.
From humble beginnings…
S:GW3 puts the player in control of Marine Captain Jonathan North, a milquetoast protagonist on a mission to find his captured brother Robert. Jon takes on a dangerous assignment to defeat a group of Georgian separatists. Each mission puts him one step closer to his goal, even as his commanding officers order him to stay focused on the task at hand. The conflict between Jon’s sense of duty to his country and to his brother is a constant source of internal tension.
At the game’s core, there’s a deeply personal story that could have been moving and emotional. Yet its abuse of tired clichés, cookie-cutter characters, and in-your-face foreshadowing is testament to the game’s poor writing. The game’s biggest twist couldn’t have been more obvious if it was written on the back of the box.
Who plays first-person shooters for their story anyways?
Years of tradition follow Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s first-person mechanics. Assault rifles, pistols, and knives reinforce Jon’s collection of vintage sniper rifles. You can progress three different skill trees by performing specific related tasks. To gain access to unique Ghost skills, for instance, you need to surprise the enemy with melee attacks or use diversions to sneak past a target’s guards. Snipers get experience bonuses for particularly impressive shots, while Warriors use secondary weapons like an AK-47 to mow down hordes of enemies.
The skill trees themselves are promising. Unfortunately, there’s little reason to invest in becoming a Ghost or Warrior. Its stealth system is tedious and forced, while Texas-style shootouts are best reserved for emergency situations. Some missions and tasks grant general experience that can be used to nab some of the more versatile skills in these two trees. The rest can be safely ignored.
A desolate open world.
In a year with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s open world just doesn’t make the cut. Its maps are shallow, inhabited almost solely by generic villainous baddies and balding armored mooks. Occasional allies and non-hostile citizens are few and far between. Those who exist are nothing more than background scenery or targets in need of rescuing.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 has everything that open worlds need, but none of what makes them enjoyable. Maybe the developers should have focused their resources on releasing multiplayer at launch instead. Some of S:GW3’s best moments take place in missions with allied snipers and undercover infiltration teams. A co-op system might have even made Ghost and Warrior-styled combat more viable!
Through the lens of a scope.
Environments in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 are the only indication that the game belongs in the current generation of gaming. But dynamic lighting and abundant foliage can’t save grainy, filtered cut scenes or stiff, oddly-proportioned character models (seriously, the female lead’s posterior is gigantic). Clipping is rampant even in scripted events and common character animations. Jon’s hands just can’t seem to figure out where the rungs of a ladder are.
Clipping through environments is usually a mere graphical oversight, but it can have frustrating consequences. On more than one occasions I silently approached an enemy and charged for the killing blow, only to finish the animation by dropping straight into the floor. With no way out, I was forced to close the application and boot Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 back up again.
But wait, there’s more!
If only merging with the floorboards was the only game-breaking glitch I encountered. On several occasions the game would simply freeze. Moving into a building, lining up a shot, or even approaching an objective marker would sometimes crash the game. This might not have been so frustrating if the game included a manual save. Instead, I’d simply lose an entire mission’s worth or progress. I found myself freezing up whenever Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s framerate dipped, dreading the idea of having to close the game out entirely. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for another glaring issue…
Loading times that make me feel like I’m on dial-up again.
It’s hard to exaggerate the length of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s loading times. If you thought The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt took its sweet time booting up, you haven’t seen anything yet. S:GW3 plays through its entire loading song, pauses to give you a brief respite from the repetitive tune, then gets halfway through the track again before it kicks you into the game. This would be more forgivable if respawning was quick and painless, but that suffers from the same issue.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is simply unoptimized for modern consoles. It is put to absolute shame by massive, alluring worlds like Horizon: Zero Dawn that have less than a quarter of its loading time. This may have been advertised as CI Games’ first AAA experience, but make no mistake: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is totally under-cooked.
If you’re a big fan of first-person military shooters, maybe you should give Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 a shot when you see it for sale on Black Friday. Surprisingly diverse levels are its saving grace, the artificially-colored cherry on a bland milkshake. It’s got a surprising amount of content to keep you busy and plenty of enemy camps to go to town on.
Just don’t go in expecting anything more than another forgettable first-person shooter.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: CI Games ; Developer: CI Games; Players: 1 ; Released: April 25, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99 on PS4 and XB1, $49.99 on PC
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.