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Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Release Date: April 25, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3'

by Brian Dumlao on May 8, 2017 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a modern-day conflict based in Eastern Europe. Players are thrust into the role of a sniper caught between three warring factions, and it all plays out in a realistic and immersive environment.

The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series has been seen as a lesser alternative to the Sniper Elite series.  It's set in the modern world instead of World War II, the levels don't give you as much freedom, and the games lacked some polish though they handled the nuances of sniping well. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is CI Games' attempt to take the series closer to triple-A expectations, and while the end result falls short, you still end up with an enjoyable experience.

In Ghost Warrior 3, you play the role of Jon North, a Marine who happens to be a very good sniper. He was on a Black Ops mission two years ago with his brother Robert, who's also a sniper, when things went sideways. Robert was taken away while Jon was knocked out and left to fend for himself. In the present day, Jon hears some chatter about his brother turning up again in the former Russian state of Georgia. Jon takes an assignment to covertly overthrow the separatist leaders there to prevent a civil war, but he's also trying to find leads on the whereabouts of his sibling.

Most games of this type don't have strong stories, and GW3 is certainly no different. It doesn't help that the characters are uninteresting people. The opening cut scene is supposed to make the brothers endearing, but it doesn't take long before you think of them both as jerks. Despite being given some decent backstory, the supporting characters are caricatures of other military types you've seen countless times before. Again, their presence merely sets things up for each mission, but they don't do much beyond that.

The game has abandoned the linearity of the previous two titles, instead opting for an open-world setting similar to other big games from the past few years. Unlike most modern titles, the world is broken up into three distinct pieces separated by tunnels, and traveling to each of them initiates a loading sequence. The advantage to this approach is that you're given some freedom in how you want to tackle your missions, whether you want to snipe your way through, play it like a stealth game, treat it like any other action game and go in guns blazing, or some combination of the three.

The missions also vary wildly, whether you're reconfiguring the position of satellite arrays, driving wine trucks to a wedding, or assassinating separatist strongmen. The open world also means that there are lots of side missions and activities to undertake when you don't feel like taking on a main story mission. Side missions include rescuing Georgian hostages, going after someone on the international most wanted list, and digging up relics such as vintage sniper rifles. Just about all of those tasks are there to allow players to gain bonuses, not to advance the story.

GW3 has to be one of the lonelier open-world games. Titles like Just Cause and Ghost Recon: Wildlands have demonstrated that an open world in rural areas can keep players engaged by showing that there's life beyond your own involvement. There's none of that here, so your travels are lonely jaunts until you happen upon the aforementioned areas and outposts where enemies tend to stay. The game also makes the mistake of leaving bunches of cars on the road, but unless they're essential to your mission, they're all locked and you don't know how to hotwire them. The only vehicle you can drive all the time is your own SUV, but if you ever die in the middle of the field and respawn, the SUV will be sent back to your safehouse. As a result, you'll spend your time using fast travel points instead of wandering and stumbling upon stuff.

Of the three different approaches to a mission, sniping is still what GW3 excels at. Like its major competitor, sniping requires more than zooming in on a target and lining up the dot to the head before firing. Distance determines bullet drop, while other factors like wind and rain can also make the bullet shift. You get to play around with your scope to compensate for such things, so your crosshairs more accurately hit the target. Holding your breath on the default difficulty level reveals a second dot that shows where the bullet will hit. Getting headshots yields a slow-motion view of the bullet traveling to the target and making contact, but there isn't an X-ray view to show more detail.

New to the arsenal is your drone, which can be used to scope out the area and tag enemies. Scoping out an area works fairly well, but you have to deal with hitting objects that can knock your view around and briefly disorient you. You also have to worry about making noise and getting spotted, since your drone can get shot and alert enemies to your presence. For tagging enemies, the game is rather finicky and fails to target anyone in view until a few seconds have passed. Other times, the targeting system catches someone completely out of view, so you'll hear the tag confirmation but have no idea where the enemy is, and you'll have to pan the camera to see who you missed.

The solid sniping mechanics combined with the open-world setting make sniping a joy. There's something to be said for biding your time, adjusting things, and pulling off the perfect shot. There are several ways to perform your duty, so there isn't a magical perch for each mission that guarantees success. The tension you'd normally find in a standard firefight is still there, but getting caught doesn't usually spell instant mission failure.

The enemy AI tends to ruin the experience. Most of the time, the enemies behave as expected by taking positions and hiding. Some of them even send out small search parties or fire mortars in our general direction. However, there are times when the enemy immediately knows where you are just after one shot, a superhuman feat that isn't repeated if you were to die and perform the same actions. Other times, you can shoot someone near the enemy, and they'll fail to bat an eye. Both actions occur often enough that any sense of immersion is broken, tarnishing the experience.

If you choose not to snipe, then you can use some stealth to complete the mission. In a way, this is a natural extension of sniping since you don't want to be. It works fine, but hiding bodies can be a pain since there aren't too many spots to easily hide a corpse. Only the largest collection of bushes seems to do the trick, and you have to find a corner of a room or train car that no one can see. There's also the issue of a missing melee attack. Despite prompts on-screen telling you that you can melee while running, the attack never works, so the only way to get someone silently without having to sneak up from behind is to shoot the person in the face.

When all else fails, there is the loud run-and-gun approach, which seems fine until you realize that your character is always going to be behind the curve. It doesn't take too many shots to kill you, and you can't cheat the system by hiding and letting your health regenerate since that only works for one-third of your health bar. It also doesn't help that your ammo reserves are miniscule, so unless you always get headshots, you'll quickly run out of ammo if you use your own weapons.

All of the actions you take feed into an XP system that awards points. You'll be able to turn in the points for perks relative to each action, so those who favor sniping will gain sniping-related perks faster than ones for sneaking and engaging in firefights. However, the perks fall into generic territory, as you'll get things like reduced stamina drain from running, taking less damage from hits, or holding your breath longer. There's nothing exciting beyond stat modifications, so there's no real joy to be had in the unlocks.

Another of the new mechanics that doesn't pan out as well is the weapons and ammo system. In theory, the weapons you earn are much better than your default set. In practice, the newer weapons have enough fatal flaws that your default set is better for most of your missions. As for ammo, the idea is that its scarcity, especially for your sniper rifle, will cause you to scrounge around the world for materials to make you craft your own bullets. While the crafting of specialty bullets is still needed, the rewards for completing missions is so great that you can simply buy regular rounds from your safehouse. This also rings true for repairing silencers, so crafting repair kits seems futile if you don't mind hitting the safehouse after every completed mission; you'll have to go to the safehouse anyway since that's where you retrieve new story-based missions.

Aside from some bugs like being stuck in the environment when sliding down inclines, the biggest issue affecting GW3 are the load times. They're decently timed in the prologue, but once you get into the first real act, everything goes bad. The load time to the first big area is between 3-5 minutes, long enough for the title screen's song to finish playing. Transfer into any of the other larger areas or load the game from a powered-off state, and the load times remain. It would be one thing if that initial load time mitigated things later on, but that's not the case. Retrying after death or initiating fast travel to and from places will kick up a loading screen that lasts around 30 seconds, with a few freezes here and there that make you think the game has crashed. That kind of loading time is almost unheard of nowadays, and it can be enough of a factor to drive away people until a patch significantly reduces the loading times.

The game is set to receive multiplayer at a later date, so players will have to replay the campaign to get some longevity from the experience. Aside from gathering leftover Achievements/Trophies, the different difficulty levels make the experience significantly different. Play on Hard, for example, and you no longer have health regeneration or the secondary aiming dot. Play the game at the highest difficulty level, and the list of perks is significantly reduced.

Even though you're greeted with the logo screen for CryEngine, the graphics don't meet up with expectation. There's no texture pop-up for the environments, but the textures aren't too great. Vegetation tends to look fine from a distance, but it gets more pixelated once you get closer to the larger bushes. Character models look decent, but their animations are done poorly, and enemies look weird when they die since they sport blank looks on their faces and their eyes are always open. The frame rate is capped at 30fps, but it fluctuates often, especially when switching from aiming to normal sight. In the end, it's another example of how the engine isn't easy to grasp on the console unless the title was made by the now-defunct Crytek.

Most of the audio is quite good. The effects are fine, and the music wavers between bombastic military fare to stuff that's more in line with modern music. Both are used sparingly, since most of your time is spent sans music, a better choice for creating the appropriate mood. As mentioned earlier, the bland characters are made that way due to the voices, which sound uninterested or have incorrect emotions associated. Like most games nowadays, the title makes good use of the controller's speaker by sending radio comms through there, but the volume is way too loud, even if it plays clearly.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 has the potential to be a solid B-tier title. Most of the good trappings of open-world games are here, and the sniping mechanics are as solid as ever. The missions provide some great variety since you can take different approaches, and the crafting and different weapons are nice to have, even if you never use more than your default set. However, the presentation isn't up to par. Some of the mechanics are finicky, like shooting and tagging, and the AI can waffle between being superhuman and dim. More importantly, the load times immediately sap any fun that could be had from the title. A few of these things can be fixed with a patch, but until they're addressed, it's best to approach GW3 on consoles with caution.

Score: 6.0/10

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