Sniper Ghost Warrior 3: So close and yet so far away.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is so close to being a good game. It’s right at the edge of being one of those great stealth action, sniper, but also open world games. It has the weapons, the open world, the game mechanics, and the story to be good. But, at every single turn it cloaks these in mediocrity. Its plagued by a bad checkpoint system, rough animations, being locked to first person mode, guns that have no impact, and confusing controls. Its stealth system doesn’t make any sense, and its AI is the dumbest I have seen since the Nintendo 64 era. Most of the time I at least try to keep these reviews positive, but this one is going to have a lot of bad in it, so if you just want to know is Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 worth the pricetag? My answer is no, wait for patches, or a big sale.
My problems with this game started before the game even began. I always play sniping games on the highest difficulty, so I set the difficulty at start to include “no hud, no dmg indicators, and most enemies kill in a single bullet”. But, when I started the tutorial all of that was there. After the tutorial it disappeared, but it just seems really lazy to not carry over the UI elements from the tutorial to the main game. About that tutorial, it was clearly set on the easiest difficulty, but even before I started, literally after the first cinematic, the NPC I was supposed to follow bugged out, and I had to restart. This happened three more times, in different spots in the tutorial. This would end up becoming emblematic of this terrible terrible game. I should have just given up then, but I put on my big girl pants, and dove right in.
After completing the completely unnecessary forced tutorial that made me watch two Call of Duty style cut scenes to set up the back drop, I was dropped in to a nice open world. I started in a car, a car I would get to know very, very, well. This car has you sitting in first person mode, which I hate, but realism is at least kept to. There is a change view button, but only offer a rear view of the car you are in. Car handing is only decent. Cars move as I would expect a car to move, there is no sliding, or physics involved, it feels like driving a brick.
So I took my car to the safe house. Safe houses are like your home base, where you can stop in, pick up a mission, restock on ammo, upgrade your skill tree, or change or upgrade weapons. This is one of the cooler parts of the game. Safehouses are chock full of weapon upgrades, new weapons, and special ammo. I loved being able to choose what I wanted to take with me on each mission. It leant a very real sense of presence to the game, to know that if I didn’t make more bullets, I could run out while on the mission. Most items are made with currency, but there is of course a collectables system. I mean this is an open world game after all.
Choosing a mission was easy enough, I picked a target to kill and the game told me where to go. Since I was playing on highest difficulty, there was no mini-map, though I was able to access my map via the M key in a pause screen. I was also able to mark waypoints, not that this matter much since they don’t show up on screen. I headed off to my first mission on foot, planning to test if the map was too large to traverse comfortably in this way, only to find it was a mere 200 meters from where I was camped in my safe house. The game clearly wanted me to approach via a road, but I’m a seasoned sniper game veteran, so I opted for some hills.
I had no problems traversing the games terrain. There is good system for movement built in to the game, involving climbing and jumping over ledges and other obstacles. Sadly this system is 100% ruined by the fact that it’s all in first person. I know that Mirrors Edge was good, but parkor has never quite been done like that since. First person does not lend itself to complex movement in video games. It just doesn’t work at all here. Twice in ten minutes I slid to my death off of hills or mountains trying to get up and over obstacles with the games built in system. Clearly I should have just taken that car.
When I did manage to get to the top of the hill, and have a good vantage point on my mission, the game finally became enjoyable. Since I was on the hardest difficulty I received no guide, and no assistance with my shots. Windage Is displayed in scope, but that it. The game is meticulously detailed about its weapons and scopes. Each gun is modeled perfectly, and sounds great. The scopes are easy to use, and have minute adjustments for distance. This was the experience I was looking for. There on top of that butte, I looked down on top of a small complex of buildings and waited.
The mission started when I arrived in its area, and though the game suggested a point to snipe from, I was happily ensconced already. I stayed there as expository dialog played, and my targets were highlighted. I waited for wind, and distance, and took my shot. What followed was less than overwhelming. Though I enjoyed the actual set up of the shot, when the bullet let my rifle is where the fun ended. You see, this game has one of those bullet follow mechanics for good shots. But unlike its competitors, it doesn’t have an x-ray, or other gimmick. You just watch the bullet fly, see a comically tiny spray of blood, and then go back to your view. Even worse, the games bullets have no impact to them. Though bodies are hit and blown back, there is no sound or explosion of bone and flesh. Instead we just get a generic hit noise, and that comically small gout of blood. I would have preferred if the bullet follow had been removed completely rather than it be kept in like this. Sadly even the non-follow shots feel hollow. Bullets fly, people die, there is some blood, but it’s all very generic.
This brings me to my next point. Holy shit this games AI is bad. Like GoldenEye 64 had better AI, bad. I know this is something that’s pretty easily patched, and I hope they do but until its done, wow. Enemies are comically bad, unaware of you even when you are right behind, but after you shoot, even if you are 400-600 meters way, suddenly have perfect accuracy with a rifle. I’d like to meet the solider that can hit a target at 600 meters with a Kalashnikov and shake his hand, because dam. Enemies do notice bullets near them (this is a good thing) but they shouldn’t be able to tell where it came from right away and then respond so quickly. The other problem is that sometimes they just stop looking for you. Its like a hot and cold thing. In a game with difficulty cranked like this one, they should never stop looking. This combines with them sometimes walking right up to you with out noticing that your there, to make a less than enjoyable experience. Especially when you aren’t sniping.
The games story is pretty generic, its set in Georgia (the country not the state) where some separatists are stirring up trouble. It’s a fairly generic story, but its at least well backed up with fully voiced cut scenes and a nice cast of characters. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time caring about the characters I was killing, just a lot of time killing them. Each character has backstory, and the game goes to great lengths to remind you of that, so don’t be surprised if you get lost. I know I did plenty.
The games got good enough graphics, but texture pop in, and screen blurring make it seem like it’s a few years behind. The game is built on FrostByte engine, and so it has access at least to some very nice texturing. But, instead of loading those at all times, the game unloads it when you walk away. This means that if you try to hit a particularly far shot, you are more likely to not see what blocked your hit. I also means that scoping down at someone will often show unloaded textures. The games guns, weather, and environment are really well detailed. I wish there had been some more environments, but Georgia is a small country so it makes sense to have only one biome.
As far as I can tell, the wind affects the bullets, but the distance doesn’t. There is drop, but it’s very predictable. I didn’t have any issues hitting shots, and all the mistakes were my own. The game does have some cool mechanics, you get a drone to fly, you can craft custom bullets that have cool effects, and there are tons of guns and gear. There are close to a dozen rifles, and a great selection of secondary weapons, from pistols to automatic rifles.
Overall this is a great concept, but its held back by a terrible execution. I wanted to like this game; it has so many good elements. But, not a single one of those works. The shooting is fun, but its so badly executed that it makes it not worth the pay off. The open world is fun, but everything feels like it wasn’t quite done. This is even more compacted by the fact that the game shipping without a promised multiplayer mode at all. All of it combines to make a game that’s not worth its current price.
January 1, 2017https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJO7jw9PLOg
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