Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 places you in the boots of Marine Captain Jonathan North as he is dropped into Georgia (the country near Russia, not the yeehaw state in the U.S.) to help disrupt Georgian separatists that are wreaking havoc in the region. Jon’s main reason for being there, however, is that he had heard chatter from Intelligence that his brother Robert -who went missing two years earlier after being captured on a mission- was rumored to be somewhere in the region. So now Jon’s mission is twofold: find his brother and take down the separatists. For the next paragraph I’m going to discuss some characters and major story elements, so you might want to skip that to avoid major spoilers.
The story had some genuinely interesting moments in it, but I found that it was very predictable. It’s well established that your brother is an excellent soldier/sniper. It’s also obvious that he is supposed to be in this area due to the fact that his supposed whereabouts are brought up frequently. So when a mysterious sniper starts popping up near the end of Act I, I immediately assumed it was him. Lo and behold, I was right. It turns out that a powerful, secret organization by the name of 23 Society brainwashed him, enhanced him, and outfitted him with highly advanced gear to turn him into a super soldier (The Winter Soldier, anyone?). From that point on, the dynamic of two brothers being on opposite sides of the conflict added an interesting and more personal dynamic to an otherwise run of the mill standard issue military story. But, I felt that the whole thing was dragged down by poorly acted, one-dimensional characters. Seriously, I dislike every character in this game, with the two brothers being the only exception. There are three main people who provide you support throughout the game; Frank, who serves as Jon’s handler from JSOC; Lydia, who is an ex-Georgian military Special Forces sniper as well as an ex-lover of Jon’s; and then there’s Raquel, an Israeli Mossad agent who is in the region looking for a scientist captured by the separatists. They frequently bitch you out. Frank is always hollering at you to stay on mission and forget about finding your brother. Lydia is always taking shots at you because of the way the relationship ended. Raquel and Lydia are constantly bitching at each other over just about everything. It’s pretty damn annoying to have to sit there and listen to that for most of the game. By the time everyone gets their shit together and starts acting professionally it is already near the end of the game. The lack of chemistry led me to not give a shit about the characters in the slightest.
Now getting to the gameplay side of things, SGW3 is an open world type of game this time around. As such, it has all the usual staples; fast travel points, collectibles to find, points of interest scattered around the map with various challenges, and side ops. There are multiple maps that unlock as you progress through each of the four acts that SGW3 is made up of. Once unlocked, you can change between maps at will so you can go back and finish off whatever side ops or collectibles you may have passed on. Now, this brings us to the horrendous load times. Most of the loading times are not too bad, but when you initially start the game and anytime you travel between maps, there is a huge amount of load time. When I timed it, it took around 4-5 minutes. It’s a huge pain in the ass. Thankfully, the main missions rarely ask you to change maps more than once in an act. It’s just one of many things that lessen my overall enjoyment of the game. Another is the driving. A good chunk of the maps that you will venture to towards the end of the game has plenty of vertical drops and narrow roads. The first-person view from the inside of the car makes it hard to see the road directly in front of you, which in turn makes it hard to navigate at a decent speed without potentially driving yourself off a cliff.
The main missions are easily the highlight of the entire game. The variety is fantastic, and it almost always moves beyond the typical “Get to point A and snipe this guy”. And the level design is superb. One of my favorite missions had me going to an area full of Soviet-style buildings to assassinate a person. The area is swarming with enemies. After using my drone, I spotted him near a window on a floor too high up for me to get a shot. Instead of storming the building, I snuck into the building opposite of it, stealthily taking down the lone soldiers patrolling in it. Once I got to a good position, I took him out with a headshot and then exfiltrated with no one the wiser. SGW3 is full of fun missions that usually have alternate routes to accommodate individual player’s different playstyles.
Each map contains a safehouse. This serves as your main hub and there are a bunch of useful features to take advantage of. You can rest in the bed to heal up and change the time of day. There is an armory so you can change your loadout or buy/modify new weapons that you have unlocked. There is a laptop that serves as a mission select menu. Finally, there is a workbench. You can use the workbench to craft various types of ammo for your weapons, including special ammo for the sniper rifle, like explosive rounds, or rounds that can tag enemies. This takes special materials that can be found and looted from crates all over the world. I honestly never used this feature, as it was cheap enough for me to just buy ammo refills throughout my entire playthrough. I don’t see why they felt the need to add this feature. It just seems like someone felt the need to add some sort of crafting system because everyone else is doing it.
There are some mild RPG-like character progression elements. Jon has three different branches to earn skill points for. Sniper, Ghost, and Warrior (Just like the name of the game). Doing specific actions earns XP for that branch. Covert actions like stealth kills and using silenced weapons nets you XP for the Ghost branch while getting kills with explosives and secondary weapons earn you Warrior XP. You must spend enough points in a tier before being able to purchase the next tier’s perks. The perks are just about what you would expect. Some increase your health, some make healing items more effective, and others increase your effectiveness at sneaking. Needless to say, if you want to be a badass killing machine, you’re going to need to earn them perks.
Sniping. I would be ashamed to finish this review off without mentioning the game’s main attraction. You will be using your sniper rifle a lot, as you may have expected. In addition to the usual mechanics like scope zooming, breath holding and use of bipods to help steady your shot, you also have to factor in scope range, wind speed, and wind direction when making those trickier long range shots. Most of the time you score a headshot you get a killcam-like view of the shot. Unfortunately, a couple of times throughout the game I experienced a glitch where the killcam activated, the screen messed up a bit, and then when the game resumes back to normal and the guy is still alive. I had to purposely kill the guy another way because I would get the same glitch over and over when headshotting him.
Doing recon and tagging enemies is also an important part of the job, especially when you need to avoid detection. There are a few ways to accomplish this. You have a handy modifiable drone that can be used to scout the areas for enemies and find points of interest. The drone is a very useful tool but it handles poorly and can be especially vexing to use in a tight area. Tagging enemies through your sniper scope is a possibility, but I find it glitchy and unreliable. Many times I have been unable to tag an enemy, no matter how long I have him in my sight. Scout mode is a special skill you can activate at any time by holding the appropriate button, tagging and highlighting nearby enemies and outlines on the wall where Jon can climb up. As a sniper, there will be many times where you will have to climb up walls and cliffs to get to your objective or sniper perch. In general, the climbing is not too bad. But there are certain missions where you have to navigate tricky climbs and jumps and then you start to see just how bad the mechanics work. Climbing downwards is the worst of all due to the fact that you are pretty much doing it blindly since you can’t look down far enough to see past your characters feet. I could take the climbing as is, but I wish they didn’t make such a big part of certain missions. There may be a few people who enjoy platforming mechanics in their first-person shooters, but I am not one of them.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it contains a somewhat decent story combined with a lengthy campaign and an interesting variety of missions complete with excellent level design. But on the other hand, it’s also full of sloppy gameplay and a slew of glitches, ranging from minor annoyances to the more serious ones that can impede your progress. Overall, though, I would say I had a good time with SGW 3. Getting into the op area, finding a way to complete your objective, then exfiltrating makes for a reasonably good time if you prefer your shooters to be a little less Call of Duty and a little more thoughtful. If you can look past its shortcomings there is plenty of fun to be had.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6.5/10
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