If you ask anyone, gaming enthusiasts or otherwise, to name a first-person military shooter, chances are you’ll get the same two or three answers from everyone such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and if they’re remembering years past, Medal of Honor. Those are really the main three franchises at the top of the military FPS food chain and it’s tough to break into the inner circle for any series. What CI Games and City Interactive have discovered though, is that if you can’t beat them, do something different.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, as the name clearly indicates, isn’t the first of its kind. The first two Sniper: Ghost Warrior games, while fun and marginally successful affairs, were wholly different in design than this 3rd entry. In the past, they were primarily mission-driven games with strict objectives and tasks to complete as a sniper in the field. Now, with Ghost Warrior 3, the developers are throwing off the shackles of linear game design and making one of the first truly open-world military shooters - at least one of the first that isn’t hyper-realistic like ARMA.
The demo starts in the middle of the forest. Immediately I am drawn to how astoundingly beautiful everything is. From the way the light shines between the limbs of trees and the slow swaying of grass in the wind, to the buttery smooth framerate and incredible view distance, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is gorgeous.
At E3, I got to play a few other games that like to market themselves as stealth games, such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. While that game and others like it definitely have elements of stealth incorporated, they’re much more akin to Rambo than true stealth. In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, things are taken to the extreme.
You’ve got to account for wind, humidity, temperature, and distance just when you’re shooting your rifle at a target. You have to track down your targets, mark them to even see them on your minimap, and decide your best plan of attack. Guards have realistic patrol routes and don’t just stand in the corner waiting to be killed. You can easily be noticed by enemies for making too much noise or being out in the open - just hiding behind a tree or putting a few meters of distance won’t magically make you disappear.
One of the best moments from the demo I saw was how the tracking system works. Since you’re an expert sniper with years of tracking experience, you have a wealth of knowledge on how to successfully track targets. When you find footprints, you can determine the type of person that was traveling, what they were doing, and a whole host of other details about them.
This concept is a theme that runs throughout Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 - they give you the tools and the means to do what you want, it’s just up to you to actually execute. Other games boast the ability to complete missions in a variety of different ways, but more often than not a handful of paths are predetermined and you’re simply picking from a small list of fabricated routes to the same goal. With this game, you have to actually define these things for yourself. Study your target for a few days, learn their routines, decide when the best time to strike is and, above all else, plan your exit strategy. Choppers won’t swoop in at the end of a mission to help you escape as everything is in your hands when you operate alone behind enemy lines.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is without a doubt one of the biggest surprises from E3 for me. I went into this meeting expecting one thing and what I got was instead unlike any other game at the entire show. CI Games and City Interactive have something special on their hands that could easily end up being a sleeper hit when it releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2016.