Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 – Average, annoying and at times quite brillant

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 has to be the most bug-ridden game I’ve played since Assassin’s Creed Unity. I didn’t count the number of times the frame froze or the game simply crashed, but there were a lot of those moments at the most inopportune of times. I still finished it and here is why.

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Apart from bugs like frozen frames and frequent crashes the loading times in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 are just ridiculously long.

An open world first person tactical shooter
Now, I have recently come to appreciate sniper games, namely the SNIPER ELITE-franchise, and while waiting for the third Deathstorm-DLC for SNIPER ELITE 4 to come out I decided to try out Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. For the record, I had seen the trailer and thought it unlikely I’d ever play that game, but that was before SNIPER ELITE.

For me there are three main points in the game’s favor: the open world, the compound bow and the most wanted contracts. Also, the soundtrack is pretty good.

If anyone out there is asking “Hey, but what about the story?”, well, what about it? All there is to say is that whatever you think will or might happen during the story missions is going to happen. That’s how predictable it is.

The (semi)open world
Where SNIPER ELITE drops SOE commando Karl Fairburne into different, beautiful and detailed maps with each new mission, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 has marine Jonathan “Jon” North freely hop between three open world maps which offer much room for exploration.

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The three maps offer points of interest, marked with question marks, enemy outposts to be liberated and far travel points to unlock. Alternatively, you can drive by car.

The game itself is set in the small eurasian country Georgia, which has had an eventful past, certainly, and boasts one of the oldest languages worldwide. It is therefore a shame the game has every native speak a thickly accented English. The country also has a lot of forests and mountainous regions, the first meaning Jon North will be crouch-walking through dense undergrowth a lot and the latter that he will frequently be climbing up and down cliffs to get to the perfect sniper position. Climbing in first person perspective is, by the way, awful.

The three maps mentioned before represent three different regions, as you will have guessed: the Village, the Winery and the Mining Town. You’ll find small villages nestled between the hills, abandoned or not so abandoned huts and towers in the woods, military compounds and beautiful old cloisters and churches, which are part of the rich historical heritage of Georgia. Also, while there are a ton of cars around, noone but Jon seems to be using them to actually drive anyplace. Feel free to use any side of the road you choose.

Exploring the three maps is sometimes boring, but mostly fun. You never know what’s lurking around the next hill. For example, I came across a cannibal – who I shot for, I mean, what else was I gonna do? -, an old man who asked me to hunt a deer for him, people who had been mauled by wolves while hiding out in the hills and a lot of other small stuff enriching the story of a country plagued by evil separatists and thugs. Oh. Yeah. That’s pretty much the story, by the way.

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You’ll frequently come across separatists who’ll kill you if you don’t kill them first.

Also, you have a day-and-night cycle. Which is sadly often broken when doing story missions. See, infiltration missions by day are hard, even when playing the lowest difficulty like I did. So, during main story missions you usually get to infiltrate outposts during nighttime. But fear not, you’ll have to come back to each location anyway, to liberate it, and you can do that whenever you like.

Missions and activities
There are different types of missions: the main story missions, of course, which at times seem awfully short, the side missions involving the different factions of the main story and the most wanted list, which has Jon hunt war criminals throughout the maps.

As for activities: there are historic sniper rifles and valuable collectibles to be found, civilians to be rescued, outposts to be liberated and deer and wolves to hunt. You can also shoot cows, but, what’s the point, really? Climbing is also a great past time, there are even some extreme navigation challenges. Unfortunately, Jon is not great at climbing and at times that was a little frustrating.

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I love the sniper overwatch missions. This was my second one and the first couple of times I didn’t get there was a guy with a rocket launcher on the ridge to the right because I didn’t move from my sniping position. There’s a lesson there.

With most missions you can choose whichever style suits you best, sniper, ghost or warrior, but there are two side missions (or maybe more, I have yet to play all of them) where Jon is on overwatch, meaning he is covering operatives from a vantage point afar with his sniper rifle. Those are truly awesome.

Apart from the overwatch missions, my favorites are the most wanted and the rescue missions. I like playing the hero.

The arsenal
The arsenal is pretty standard: You got a sniper rifle that you can equip with a silencer (and the fact that the silencer will deteriorate with use is great, by the way), a pistol, which you can also use with a silencer, different magazine sizes, scopes and what have you, a hunting knife, different types of grenades, med-kit and adrenalin shots, a selection of light, medium or heavy body armor and, most important of all, a drone to help you scout the terrain. And it reminded me of Takkar’s owl in Far Cry Primal, which I loved.

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Scouting ahead via drone gives you useful information of what to expect and which weaknesses to exploit.

There are different rifles you can buy (my all-time favorite is the Knight 110), some with more damage, better rate of fire and so on (the same goes for the other guns, of course). I liked that even on the lowest difficulty you have to keep an eye on the direction and speed of the wind and I loved the different scopes that allow you to zoom in even at very great distances. Speaking of sniper rifles, enemy snipers don’t announce themselves via an acoustic and/or visual signal the way they do in SNIPER ELITE 4, but over time you learn to recognise places where a sniper might be lurking, especially after you’ve run into some of those traps and been killed on the spot.

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My usual arsenal featuring my favorite sniper rifle.

Which is why I came to use the drone excessively to tag enemies (snipers above all) and I needed to, since the woods are usually pretty dense and seeing what’s ahead is not always easy, even when using the rifle scope.

Of course, you also have a machine gun, but my secondary weapon of choice is the compound bow, which is silent and deadly at close range and felt very Far Cry Primal. Try it, if you can. It feels awesome. As for ammunition, you won’t find arrows in the open world, only the components, which meant that there were a number of times when I ran out of ammo and had to retreat or try taking down the remainder of my enemies with my silenced gun, rifle or by stealthily approaching and ending them with my hunting knife. Not an easy feat.

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The compound bow is easily my most favorite weapon in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, despite my sniper-specialization.

The game is called Sniper: Ghost Warrior for a reason. That reason being a specialization tree that, at best, can be called a nice try, but actually it is nowhere near what you’d expect from a specialization tree. You can garner XP as sniper, ghost and warrior to get points to spend on useful skills, but suffice to say that by the end of my first playthrough I had 39 surplus Sniper skill points I couldn’t spend because there are only nine possible skills for each of the three specializations.

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This is what the specialization tree looks like… Sad, right?

Supporting cast
Well, the supporting cast is as cliché as the story (you’ll definitely know who the secret big bad is the moment you meet him, even if you haven’t paid attention to the story before), so let me just mention in their favor that both ladies aiding Jon in his quest are pretty badass and that his brother Robert is a jerk.

The Verdict
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is not the greatest game in the world and the bugs are really, really annoying, but I think I’ll be playing the rest of the side missions anyway.

There was supposed to be a multiplayer-option available sometime, but the game launched in April and I bought it in July still without the multiplayer-option. Keeping in mind the current bugs that is maybe for the best. So I’ll be keeping myself busy with playing the excellent coop-missions in SNIPER ELITE 4.

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