Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Review

By Mark Delaney,
There's no denying the video games industry is one made of clear influences and trends. Batman Arkham introduces freeflow combat and suddenly several other games adopt a similar system. Gears of War totally nails cover-based shooting, so we see it become quite the popular genre over the next decade. If imitation is a form of flattery, video games are full of such compliments via borrowing. Rarely before Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 has any game ever so blatantly taken the wholesale formula of another series, in this case Far Cry, and tried to repaint it in its own world. Maybe that would make for a fun albeit obviously derivative game of its own, but the bigger problem for SGW3 is it rarely executes anything well even with the Ubisoftian blueprint it so clearly follows.

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Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a tactical first-person shooter set in the country of Georgia. Players take on the role of a brand new protagonist in Marine Captain Jon North, who is sent with his brother Robert to destroy some USSR-era weapons before some terrorists can acquire them. In their attempts to exfiltrate, they're impeded by one of the story's villains who takes Robert prisoner and just barely spares the life of Jon. The story flashes forward a few years to where Jon is involved with more covert operations while he hopes to acquire intel regarding his brother's whereabouts.

Narratively, the game's opening moments are intriguing enough to warrant following along. The story of two brothers together, then separated, in a foreign and hostile country is one that should be gripping, but nearly every aspect of the game gets in the way. After Robert is taken prisoner and the game flashes forward, Jon seems relatively at peace with his brother's endangerment. Maybe it's because he knows his brother is tough, or maybe it's because the game pits Jon as a proudly red, white, and blue hero of the US military who just really loves his country, but his casual searching for Robert just comes off as strange, especially since it's clear this is meant to be the driving force of the story. Every time Jon seeks intel on Robert and comes up empty-handed, he seems to shrug it off too easily.

Review ScreensThe contortion these guys are feeling is nothing compared to the pains of playing SGW3.


It also doesn't help that everyone besides Jon is voiced poorly, with a few people sounding like their accents are not native to the actors. Animations and textures of characters also keep them from ever emoting in a life-like manner, which hurts the connection between narrative and player. The overall story is actually one that isn't poorly penned and might have made a good movie (or even a better game), but its execution fails to impress in its current form.

Those that might be turned away from the story will still be let down by the gameplay. Series veterans will find that this Ghost Warrior is different from the rest in that it follows the trend of many other games in going fully open-world. Even if you haven't played the past games, the formula may feel familiar to you, perhaps even eerily so, as it's a blatant ripoff of the structure successfully laid out by Far Cry 3 and has since been seen in two sequels to the successful series. The map in SGW3 is full of things to do outside of the main story, from high value target assassinations to scavenging for supplies and loot, as well as side missions. Unfortunately, unlike its inspiration, Sniper gets bogged down by a number of issues spanning several key areas of the game.

Sorry, this Game Clip has been removed

SGW3 doesn't look pretty and maybe that's okay for some, but low resolution textures are accompanied by less forgivable aspects including several elements that don't work as well as they should. Drone reconnaissance would be fun, but the robot's ability to properly mark enemies on your HUD is very slow and sometimes demands you get in close with targets, defeating the purpose of the device in the first place. The game also intends to invite a play-your -way approach between sniping, stealthy melee takedowns, and run-and-gun assaults, but only the first of these approaches works well. The gunplay of assault rifles and non-sniper firearms is not at all precise while the stealth takedowns are often undone by inconsistent AI.

With dozens of settlements across the game's three open world environments, players should have a fun time taking down each of them, but the enemies are so stupid in Sniper that its only saving grace is the ability to record some of these terrible moments for laughs. As long as you're outside of the "danger zone" as indicated on your map and HUD, you can do anything you want, including walk right up to the boundary, look directly at an enemy as he looks back, and shoot him in the face. Other times, when enemies enter their alerted state, they seem to know exactly where you are, even firing off precise mortar strikes right on top of you even if you're still hidden and equipped with a silencer. AI is perhaps the game's most egregious problem, but it's a long list that doesn't end there.

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Mission structure is also a huge letdown. The side missions offer your standard fare that is at least par for the course with this sort of title, if not a benefit to the game. The main missions are where the game really falters. There are 26 story missions but most of them can be done without any standout moments or excitement at all. More than once the game even calls it a "mission" to drive from point A to point B with nothing happening in between. The driving gameplay is hurt further by there often being just one way to a location and an inability to easily plow through small trees or wooden fences with Jon's jeep.

Several times throughout the story, after many minutes of clunky first-person platforming and would-be fun reconnaissance, mission failures may be achieved that revert players much too far back, such as before the many minutes where you drove to the mission area and a mountain was tediously scaled, forcing players to do it all over again. There are checkpoints in the missions, but they always come too far into the progression. In a strange twist, fast traveling around the world is almost instantaneous; this is a nice surprise but is then horrendously countered by a particular loading screen that's both frequent and unbelievably long. The same full-length song plays during this loading sequence whenever it's seen and the loading screen takes so long that the song eventually loops back and starts over again.

Review ScreensI timed this loading screen. It takes roughly 3 minutes and 38 seconds each time, and you'll see it often.

These sort of annoyances make much of the game's 20 hour story feel annoying, which even in isolation would be bad news, never mind the myriad of other issues that compound these faults. There are so many issues with this game that its smaller grievances can be easily forgotten, like a busy HUD that forever reminds you when sprinting that you can vault or melee too, or how vaulting with the indicated button press doesn't seem to work anyway.

The achievement list tasks you with doing most everything the game has to offer, from completing its four main acts to taking down the HVTs, as well as finding collectibles. It's not a particularly difficult list outside of the perseverance it will require from players to stick around long enough to drag their feet through the muck and mud of such a troubled game. A few dozen players on site have already found the willpower to do so, and anyone with time to kill could likely do the same. For all of its faults, the achievement list is left surprisingly unscathed.

Summary

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is misguided by the unending trend of games going open-world. The idea may have been born with good intentions, but blatantly copying all of another series' structure is a bad look, undone much further by the fact that it does all of those same things very poorly. It's unclear for whom this game was made as it feels more like a middling title we rarely see anymore, possessing neither the polish of AAA nor the admirable quirks of an indie. It's a narrative bore, a technical dilemma, and a structural collapse. If fun was ever in the crosshairs, the subsequent shot is way off target.
3 / 10
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
Positives
  • Sniping gameplay mostly functions well
Negatives
  • Laughable enemy AI
  • Long load times
  • Poor textures and pop-in
  • Annoying checkpointing
  • Bland mission structure
Ethics
The reviewer spent 25 hours in the nation of Georgia, fighting off soldiers and game issues alike. Along the way he unlocked 18 of 47 achievements for 350 gamerscore. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.