Having only played the first Sniper Ghost Warrior, a fairly linear experience which I thought was odd for a sniping game, I didn’t have very high expectations starting up Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. I didn’t follow the game very closely so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it changed to an open world design that seems more appropriate for a stealthy sniper game. While there is definitely pluses with this change, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 doesn’t offer anything new to an open world design, which causes it to get stale when venturing outside of the main missions. That coupled with numerous bugs and a lack of polish makes this more ambitious sequel miss its target.
In Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (hereby referenced to as SGW3) you play as Marine Captain Jonathan North who, along with his brother Robert, is sent on a mission to destroy a stockpile of Soviet bio-weapons. The brothers get ambushed by a man named Vasilisk who knocks John out and captures your brother Robert. Two years later Jon is sent to Georgia on a mission to help destabilize the local Georgian Separatist cells. Jon accepted the assignment with the hidden agenda of locating his brother Robert, after hearing intelligence chatter placing him in the region. Jon is assisted by his handler Frank Simms, a Georgian Loyalist ex-special forces sniper named Lydia whom he was formerly dating, and Israeli Mossad agent Raquel, who is in the region looking to capture and recruit a Russian scientist named Sergei Flostov whom she believes is being held by the Separatists.
With the mixture of main missions, side ops, assassination bounties and various “interest points” to discover throughout each region, which there are three of, SGW3 offers plenty of things to do. Unfortunately each region only has a few key areas to set up missions and infiltration sections so you will be visiting the same settlements a couple times. What makes this even worse is that the enemy layout is for the most part the same. While this will make repeated visits quick, it does get stale. The “interest points” are indicated on your map as question marks. These range from rescuing hostages to discovering ruins, abandoned buildings and various tracking discoveries. While there is a decent amount of variety, the core of each tracking “interest point” is roughly the same. “Interest points” most often lead you to resources and crafting materials, but will sometimes be weapons, weapon skins, and various weapon attachments.
As previously mentioned, there are three regions to explore which, for the most part all feel the same, besides a few key features and settlements. This causes exploration to get a bit stale so I haven’t really been seeking out the majority of “interest points” unless they happen to be in my path. Besides the Separatist settlements and a few civilian towns the region feels very barren. There aren’t any civilians or enemies roaming the world or driving around and the civilian towns aren’t very populated at all. This makes the world feel very flat and uninteresting to explore and results in me not caring about searching out every “interest point.”
Since this is an open world there is a vehicle you can drive, but the mechanics, sound design, and lack of any other drivers makes it a boring drive and so it’s better to just fast travel around. The open world also needs some overall polish. There have been a couple times where I’ve fallen in a mountain crag and got stuck in a “falling” state which prevents you from fast traveling or jumping out, forcing you to restart the game.
The main missions are where the gameplay and the new open world design really shine. While the missions themselves are generally linear by having the player infiltrate specific locations to complete the objective, the open world design lets you approach from any area and map your approach or sequence of kills. There is also a nice variety of missions that make the main story very fun and kept me wanting to focus only on them. Infiltrating a missile silo, covering a friendly with sniper fire while he infiltrates and recovers Intel, and stealing a wine truck and going undercover at a party; these are just a few examples of how each mission can differ. The base gameplay may seem repetitive since with each mission you will be going through similar processes of picking a spot, using your drone to tag enemies and then proceeding, but the variety of the “proceeding” part keeps the game fun overall.
There are essentially three different ways the game allows you to play a mission and integrated with these three gameplay options is a skill tree. Sniper, Ghost, and Warrior (…. get it?) are the three areas you can level up, each offering their own set of perks. Sniper experience is awarded by using, you guessed it, your sniper skills. Sniping targets over various long distances will grant you additional experience as well as not using the “hold your breathe slow-motion” ability during a shot. Ghost is leveled up by performing close up stealth kills, interrogating enemies, luring enemies and tagging enemies with your handy drone among a few other ways. Warrior is your guns blazing, blowing things up, multi-kills, kill streak skill tree, and experience is gained by doing these various actions.
Since this is a sniping game I have mostly been focused on that skill tree, but even trying to be a sniper leads you to being extra sneaky and getting multi kills which grants you experience in your other skill trees. So while I maxed out my sniper perk tree first, the other two aren’t far behind, giving it all a nice sense of balance that doesn’t have you changing your play style just to grind out that skill tree’s experience actions.
SGW3′s visuals are a bit lacking. Up close textures are muddy and low resolution. When entering and exiting menus the textures will take a while to load and in one instance on a series of computer screens they never loaded. You’d think in an FPS you would have your gloves and sleeves high-res, but those are also poor, which is an eye sore considering they are at the front of the screen all the time. While there are a couple times it can look good, especially at night, there’s nothing particularly good looking about it.
Sound design is decent, the various guns and sound effects are well done, the voice acting is okay minus some bad writing and the lack of any real music tracks is a bummer. There are two very glaringly terrible sound bytes, however. The vehicle you can drive sounds really bad, the engine is weak and when it hits bumps or takes any damage it makes the same low quality crash sound that sounds like someone smacking sheet metal and it’s used every time it even hits a bump.
Whats makes this game, unfortunately, not on par with the games it tries to mimic is the amount of bugs. This may be the first open world game in the series, but having multiple bugs is unacceptable. I already mentioned before the couple times I got stuck in crags while exploring the mountains. On top of that I have had 2 dashboard crashes right in the middle of missions, I had my car clip through a tree and then get stuck with the tree trunk right in the middle, a couple AI bugs and a couple times I would pull the trigger to shoot, but nothing happened. Also, the initial load time and loading in between regions are pretty long.
SGW3 was a tough game for me to score. On one hand I’m really enjoying the game and its missions and the overall sniper rifle gimmick which I’m a sucker for. But on the other it lacks polish in almost every aspect and has a bland open world. I personally feel it would have been better to keep the open areas for each mission, but cut out the open world. If you’re at all into having a more realistic sniping game inside of a poor man’s FarCry, I’d say go for it, but stick to the main missions and forget it has an open world.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.