This also-ran shooter has some decent action, but misses the mark with some significant technical problems.
Playing Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, if you’ve played games from similar series like Far Cry and Sniper Elite, gives a constant sense of deja vu. Its mechanics mostly competently echo those more popular franchises, but it doesn’t do any single thing notably better. Most of the time a new game in a thriving genre has a unique idea that distinguishes it and gives it a reason to exist, but not Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. Yet, despite this lack of innovation, it still executes its open-world stealth combat well enough that it ends up being a fun and tightly constructed game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Or it would be, if not for numerous graphical and technical problems.
As a literal army of one, I used various familiar mechanics to take down my targets at will, including tagging enemies, conducting interrogations and hacking and destroying security systems. From time-bending “scout vision” to deploying remote drones straight out of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, nothing about Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 feels novel or unique.
It’s a martini short of being a decent James Bond game.
Then I realized this is a game that’s aiming backward, not forward. In many ways, it feels a little like a throwback to games I enjoyed on the original Xbox – it’s a martini short of being a decent James Bond game, a la 2002’s Nightfire. Strip Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 of it’s open-world environment and what’s left is series of linear missions that are fairly short, objective-based, and generous with checkpoints – things that made action-adventure games satisfying before most of the genre went open-world.
Variety keeps these tight missions from getting repetitive. In one, I was covering an agent on the ground. In another, I had to steal a wine truck to infiltrate a mob wedding. No two missions felt exactly the same. Throughout Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, there’s a good amount of stealth, platforming, and gunplay to keep everything fresh.
Of course, a linear menu of missions would be too old-school, so Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 scatters these adventures over various regions full of things to collect, outposts to clear, hostages to rescue, and side missions to complete. A Most Wanted list also keeps you on the lookout for targets of opportunity. I never felt overly compelled to tackle any of these items, out of interest or necessity, though I appreciated that there is more to do once the 26-mission campaign is over after about 12 hours. To its credit, Sniper: Ghost Warrior doesn’t force you to complete any of this side stuff to unlock the next phase of the main campaign. It also populates the map with fast-travel points, so even the very dull driving isn’t a constant necessity.
What kept me coming back, mission after mission was the basic action. On the default difficulty, taking down a sniper from 200 meters or two unaware soldiers with one shot really gave me the feeling of an action movie hero. There is something very cool about lining up a shot, making small adjustments for wind and elevation, slowing time by “holding your breath,” and pulling the trigger. A slow motion “bullet cam” shot is the finale to most sequences of this type; these were repetitive, but never got overly annoying.
Even when I had to go loud, the assault weapons felt appropriately powerful; most unarmored enemies can be downed with one or two hits. Likewise, the tension was elevated thanks to my own fragile health. While not as slick or exact as established first-person shooters, the assault-style action was always satisfying. Again, thanks to the varied mission structure, you’re coerced to occasionally leave your sniper’s nest to engage troops directly.
Usually, the enemies provided some good, convincing moments.
Usually, the enemies provided some good, convincing moments, except for when the AI has them acting strangely. Once, a missed shot alerted a guard who then proceeded to spin in circles looking for me. Largely, though, the AI is competent and offered a reasonable challenge. Enemies tended to only find me when I made an overly aggressive move or if I accidentally blundered into an impromptu ambush. Those looking for a very difficult challenge might be disappointed, but I found that the AI was generally fair and didn’t cheat by magically finding my hiding spot.
Beyond the combat, the other elements of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 were adequately playable. Even something as tricky as first-person platforming, which can be a nightmare when done poorly, was fine – with one sizable exception. Three times during my campaign I fell into inescapable parts of the landscape, forcing me to reload. And that’s an especially harsh penalty because load times can be excessively long, especially when you open up a new region. I clocked a load from the main menu at over four and half minutes. It also straight-up froze three times, which is unusual for a console game.
I never felt that being stealthy was ever out of my control.
Like the platforming, the stealth elements weren’t normally frustrating. In general, sneaking around in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is easy enough with patience. A small map indicates where enemies are looking and an on-screen alert warns when you are in view. By paying attention to both, I never felt that being stealthy was something that was ever out of my control. Even elements like hiding spots and noise distractions went largely unused because they usually weren’t necessary.
In fact, a lot stuff in of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is underutilized. Most parked vehicles are “locked,” meaning I typically drove the same SUV throughout most of the campaign (though I preferred fast-traveling). A set of skills, appropriately named “Sniper,” “Ghost,” and “Warrior,” unlock based on your gameplay style. For instance, long distance kills give you XP in the Sniper category, while a kill streak nets you points in Warrior. This is a neat idea, but with only nine skills in each area, it feels shallow.
I never needed much more than the starting sniper and assault rifle.
In addition to a broad selection of sniper rifles, assault rifles, and pistols, a nice mix of grenades and gadgets round out what you can play with. I liked going low tech with some throwing knives and gas grenades. Despite this decent array of weapons, I never needed much more than the starting sniper and assault rifle with a few mods tacked on. The modification system is pretty basic, allowing the swapping of scopes, magazines, attachments, and camo. Despite these limitations, I was usually excited to see what upgrades I unlocked at the end of each mission.
Graphically, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 can look underwhelming at times, specifically when looking at cartoonish character models and textures. For a game that takes place entirely in a remote and barren part of Georgia (the country, not state), trees and vegetation look particularly bad. I also experienced some minor frame rate drops, usually when jumping into a scoped view. And, while the draw distance is respectable, the detail of the surrounding areas isn’t remarkable. On the other hand, the few weather effects and dynamic lighting looked good enough to help create a believable environment.
Also unremarkable is the campaign’s story, which is full of standard action tropes and fairly predictable. In fact, the entire premise of the plot reminded me of the Bond film Goldeneye, where two agents get separated during a flawed infiltration mission. Of course, there is also long-lost love interest who gets thrown into the mix, reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. But honestly, I’m doing a disservice to those films by mentioning them here, because all of them execute on those ideas better than Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s limp story does. Thankfully, there aren’t many cutscenes, which again keeps the focus on the most enjoyable part – completing the missions.
As enjoyable as these missions can be, they’ll be enjoyed alone for the time being. As of release, there is no multiplayer of any kind, despite being a previously advertised feature. While there is a lot to collect and do, the lack of multiplayer definitely hurts Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s long-term replayability.