May 17, 2017

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 - Review

It has been several years since Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 made its debut back at E3 2014 and with all that development time, have they really crafted the ultimate open world shooter?

You take on the role of Jon North, a marine who is sent into Georgia to assist with bringing down the separatists that plunging the country into a civil war. The mission is simple, embed within the country, contact the local fighters and take down the separatists, along with anyone supporting them. But Jon is also aiming to locate his brother, Robert, whom was abducted a few years earlier by an unknown man and to achieve both, he gets help from the man on the radio, Frank, a JSOC handler, Raquel a member of Mossad and Lydia a former Georgia special forces with whom Jon was in a relationship with.

As the game moves forward, the players behind the separatists start to come to light, but even as they are unmasked, more players emerge from the shadows to assert their own dominance and agendas. The organisation that seems to be controlling all the events, even those of a few years back, have goals that Jon discovers and needs to end, before they spark political and social issues that could being the world to the brink of war. What makes the story uninteresting is that it starts out as a simple war story, but then descends into conspiracy theories and wacky plots and while those stories do have a place, here it seems very out of place. Jon as a character is a very one dimensional player as well, all his lines are delivered in a flat military tone and even when he gets a lead on Robert, or dealing with his ex, the inflection in his voice rarely changes.

Thankfully, the gameplay is very solid and rather than be sniper like, or even modern shooter like, every choice you make before a mission can have an impact to how your mission plays out. Each time you start a new mission, nothing in your inventory is automatically refilled, which means if you don’t play attention, then you can walk into a mission with hardly any bullets for your main weapon, or even worse a silencer that is going to fall apart part way through. While you can purchase basic weapon ammo at your hideout, specialist ammo is going to be a real challenge, as you need to discover components throughout the world to craft it, weapons can also be collected throughout the world to help grow your possible arsenal.

When you are out in the world, you will have to discover locations on your own, while the game will place markers where things are, you will need to get close to the location to discover what it is. Thankfully, travelling the world is easy to do, thanks to the fast travel that the game offers, something which it does in abundance. When you need to make your way to a location that is not close to any fast travel markers, you can do so on foot, or by vehicle and the best part about that, is unlike other open world games, you can’t just take any car you see, you will need the keys to unlock the car and drive it away. It is small touches that help build the world into a more believable space, but while the world building is something that the game does very well, there are also times where it completely fails to meet this high mark.

The game autosaves for you, which is usually a good thing, when the system works, here however there is a slight issue with the autosaving and it results in nothing but frustration. When you scout out the mission zone, you can tag enemies, locations for sniping and other spots, its very cool, however when you die, all that work is undone. Every enemy that you have taken out is respawned and you basically start over again, except there is one roadblock there, none of your equipment or ammo is replaced, should you break your silencer, when you respawn you don’t have it again. If you run out of ammo, then you either need to quit the mission and go get some more, or work out something else. It feels like a cheap way to add a challenge to the game, resetting everything else in the world, except the gear you need to fight back.

Another space that the game fails to achieve a balance in, is the visuals, there are times when the game can look stunning, with the mountains of Georgia in the background, trees and fog in between, when that happens it looks a real sight. The problem is that far too often there are elements that jump in and pop up, sometimes its textures, occasionally it will be elements and each time that happened it broke the immersion. It is not just the occasional oddity that causes the problems, there are times when animations refuse to complete, or even start, characters clip through items in the world, the worst case I had, was still be spotted, even though I was hidden behind a wall. Please don’t misunderstand, there are times when the game looks great, scoping your target and waiting for the right time to pull the trigger, then watching the bullet as it speeds towards its target, is something that never gets old, it’s just a shame that the games other issues mar that experience.

On the audio side, things are a better mix, assuming you turn off the radios in the cars, the games orchestral soundtrack is amazing, hearing that score while surveying your target can bring forth a sense of true purpose. The weapons sound right, from the pistols to the rifles, both automatic and semi-auto, even the silencer effects sound nice and blend in well with the rest of the game. Vehicle wise, they sound basic and by that, I mean there is no sense of realism to them, turning on a dirt road at high speeds or low speeds evoke almost an identical noise, not game breaking, but it does sound strange. The issue I had the most with the audio is the voice acting, the npcs are ok, but when the main character, Jon, sounds like he could be made from cardboard, thanks to the lack of emotion used in his voice, it becomes hard to care about him. Lydia is also suffering from the lack of connection and when the two of them have conversations it is hard to care about whatever they are discussing.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a solid game, given the amount of choice that you can use to craft your own experience, there is not going to be a singular best way through the game. While some missions are harder if you try for pure stealth, it is possible, however with that frustrating autosave issue, you might find yourself abandoning the stealth in favour of just shooting your way out. The games level of immersion is set high, but with visual quirks, it soon falls down, so best approach this game with caution and you should enjoy it fine.

Thanks to CI Games for supplying the game for review

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