Have you ever really wanted to love a game but it’s riddled with so many bugs that you just can’t?
This questions pretty much sums up my experience with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, the latest release from CI Games. For everything it does right – and it’s actually quite a bit – it suffers from a severe lack of polish that completely hinders the experience. And it really is a shame.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is an open-world first person shooter that reminded me of Far Cry 3, a game I enjoyed quite a bit. While it doesn’t have the same impressive level of polish and systems that Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 did, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s environments and “take out the outpost” gameplay loop is almost as satisfying. I’m someone who never tires of tagging every enemy in an encampment, and taking them out from afar, one by one, without them ever knowing I was there. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 offers that type of experience for its entire running time.
The story is hogwash about some separatists in the country of Georgia, a secret organisation named “23 Society,” super-soldiers and the protagonist’s missing brother, Robert. The writing isn’t nearly as good as it should be for it to take itself so seriously, and it isn’t helped by the stiff voice acting, especially from the lead, not to mention the completely unnecessary romantic sub-threads. Everyone talks way too tough; to the point where if you don’t skip the cutscenes, you’ll wind up laughing at the game or rolling your eyes. Reactions I doubt developer CI Games intended.
So without a good story, it’s up to the gameplay to make the title worthwhile – and I genuinely enjoyed that aspect of it. Unlike most games that involve sniping, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 requires far more “real-world” tactics when attempting to take enemies out at a distance. Things like wind and distance play an important part in most scenarios and if players aren’t familiar with the mechanics already, it could take a couple of tries to get it right. Once I did, I found immense satisfaction in taking out two enemies with a single bullet to their respective heads as the camera follows the bullet on its path to their skulls.
Enemy AI isn’t very bright, but they are persistent should a bullet wiz by their head or the find a fallen comrade. The more you attempt to shoot at them, the quicker they will get a fix on your position and send enemies to find you, lay down suppressing fire in your direction, or launch mortar strikes at your last known position. In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 you’re not a super soldier so bullets will tear through you quickly; one mistake makes such encounters very tense. Eventually, if the enemies can’t find you they will assume you’ve left and will return to their pre-determined patrols. It’s a gamey conceit, sure, but this is still a video game after all.
There are three zones in the game, each with large open world environments for you to explore and clear. Story missions will take you to and across all three, so discovering points of interest will open up more gameplay scenarios to you. These range from side missions, events like rescuing prisoners from smaller encampments, investigating paths to secret caches and so on. None take particularly long to complete and do offer some benefits such as finding money or crafting parts for gadgets and bullets.
The more actions you perform, the more you gain points to invest in three individual skill trees: Sniper, Ghost and Warrior. The Sniper skill tree is obviously made up of skills involving sniping, Ghost is for your stealth and Warrior is for open combat. Each has some more useful skills than others and the higher tier skills require more skill points. It’s a pretty simple system – but one has to wonder if I didn’t have these skills to begin with, why am I even on this mission? It’s a silly question, but sometimes I do wish developers would consider these things when forming their narratives and gameplay systems. It’s not a detriment to the game in any way, but rather something amusing to think about.
There is also a “Most Wanted” list that tasks you with finding and killing sixteen targets, often surrounded by a lot of enemy soldiers. I had a lot of fun with these until I found out the last one I needed was accidentally removed from the game with the latest patch and in order to get him I would basically have to start the game over with the patch not installed – which was patched because the first version of the game was missing another target – then I would have to install the patch to find the previous missing target. No thanks. Hopefully it’s something that will be permanently fixed in another patch.
But that brings me to the larger issue with the game: Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 severely lacks polish. I can’t speak to the development problems CI Games encountered, but the fact is bugs like the one mentioned above exist, and they are seriously detrimental to the overall experience. If it had simply been that one issue, I wouldn’t be too fussed. However, the game froze at least 10 times, each time requiring me to close the application; in a mission that means you lose all of your progress and have to start it over. With the methodical nature around which the game is designed this is a large, time-sucking issue. That’s not all. In one mission I was tasked with covering a friendly team as they infiltrated an enemy outpost to rescue some hostages and I was supposed to take out an enemy posted on a balcony. The target logo that shows their position was on the screen, but the soldier wasn’t. I had to restart from the last checkpoint to have him load in. I’ve seen enemies get shot and then glide across the screen with their arms out at their side. The last enemy at an outpost disappeared in front of my eyes which meant I had to, again, restart and take out all of the enemies again. These issues in isolation aren’t much of a problem, but all of them together in one game is a pretty big one.
By the end of my time with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, I was left very much disappointed. Not because of the poor story and acting, but because of the technical issues that kept the game from being anything more than mediocre. It’s a shame too; it’s a good – if not amazing – looking game, with some really fun mechanics. With either a little bit more time and/or money, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 could have been a sleeper hit. In its current state, it’s simply a sleeper miss.