While sneaking through underbrush and scanning the horizon for the best sniper perch, and I’m forced to confront something that had been boiling in my brain for the past hour. While pulling off the perfect mission with a single bullet and no one the wiser is certainly satisfying, I can’t shake that familiar feeling that I’m actually playing a bad game. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 feels like something put out for necessity’s sake.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a first-person shooter attempting to emphasize the specific role of the sniper. This is in the same as other games in the franchise and the Sniper Elite series, which is a fitting way to think of it, as Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 feels mired in the past, trying to capture the glory of older, better titles. While running through forests, marking enemy combatants, and climbing tall structures, it becomes clear that someone, at some point during the development of this title was told to make it more like Far Cry 4.
Personally, I love the Far Cry series, with the recent more primal iteration excluded. Staking out an outpost and clearing it is something that remains enjoyable to this day. I even cherish the planning and the forethought that comes with observing the compound, and looking for the best avenue of approach. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 does these things, and they are passably done, but it feels cheap, like it’s pretending to be some different, better game. Sniper Ghost Warrior will never capture the frantic, fast paced action and madness that is the core of the Far Cry series, nor will handle mission planning on the same level as Hitman or a Tom Clancy game.
The in-game graphics can look nice at times, but they’re extremely inconsistent. The game will go from lush wooded vistas and scenes of urban decay to ugly character models with clown faces. It’s so distracting that taking the game seriously is extremely difficult, and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 definitely wants you to take it seriously. It will utilize poor visuals and shoddy voice acting at every turn to try and drive home the trite, well-worn excuse it has for a story.
It turns out, the protagonist and his brother are both super duper soldiers, and crack snipers to boot. However, while you were busy playing by all the rules, your brother was harbouring distrust for the government, and being generally roguish. This is all told to the player through some extremely specific dialogue before the tutorial mission, after which, you are injured and your brother is captured by a mysterious militarized organization that inexplicably decides to let you live. The game then begins in earnest and you are tasked with destabilizing a terrorist organization in the remote forests of Georgia by taking out key players while searching for your erstwhile sibling against the wishes of your employers, who seem happier to have him gone. To do this, you’ll employ local assets, meet with old contacts coming out of retirement, observe hackneyed sexual tension, and snipe a bunch of dudes.
The game presents the player with an open world, but I honestly wish it didn’t. It never really felt like there was anything I wanted to do other than just move onto the next mission, but actually going to new mission areas was either a chore, or simply a matter of fast travelling. You can pursue side missions or farm for crafting materials, but it all seemed like needless padding. Initially, the idea of crafting ammo seemed like it could be interesting, that it would open up a world of opportunities with which I could snipe aforementioned dudes with, but I was usually fine with a couple regular rounds and headshots. To be fair, the sniping is enjoyable. I always enjoyed setting up in the best position, finding my target, and removing him from the equation, but everywhere else felt like a misstep. I don’t see any reason why this game wouldn’t be improved by making it a linear, level based first person shooter. The bad vehicle controls weren’t fun in Far Cry and they aren’t fun here either.
Also, it’s super glitchy. The slow motion bullet camera on critical hits sometimes rewards players with a shot of the protagonist standing around awkwardly, watching the bullet as it finds its mark, rifle not even drawn, just kind of watching. Perhaps more of a feature than a glitch, but it doesn’t seem intentional. Other glitches I found included inconceivable enemy spawns, disappearing floors, and one particular stealth mission that rendered stealth unnecessary.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a mess of a game. It’s a glitchy, ugly, poorly acted, and terribly written game, while clearly wishing it was something else. There are moments of fun to be had, but they’re too far apart to really be worth it, especially when you can just play a game that it’s emulating.