Back in February I had the opportunity to test the Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 beta. That was only three missions and some sampling of the environment, mechanics, AI, and safe house. Since then the full game has been released and once again I had the opportunity to play this game. The verdict, after playing the release of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, besides a few bugs, it is a fantastic military and sniper game.
In fact I can’t stop playing this game, though challenging, it is fun, great for sniping and stealth, and has great game mechanics. Some of the missions may feel tenuous at times or downright frustrating, but the story has a military feel, missions are challenging, and it works as a sniper game. As for the story,there are two missions that the protagonist takes that are connected. One is to find his brother the other do his duty as a soldier and take out the Separatist faction. We have a set mission as a lone Marine sniper besides just finding the kidnapped brother, to take down the bad guys, the Separatists, and be the hero saving civilians. At first I wasn’t too thrilled about the lone Marine sniper and thought he should have had a partner on mission. However, the main protagonist has backup and support guiding him, in the end I forgot that he was one man and used that to complete missions with stealth and sniping all the enemies.
The story begins with the prologue, which is also the tutorial. It starts with the two North brothers, the youngest Robert and his Marine brother Jonathon, playing around in the woods. Jump ahead nineteen years to when they are both on a mission as soldiers on the Ukrainian-Russian border. Jon is sent in as the sniper and his younger brother Robert the spotter and tech guy. The mission was to infiltrate and clear the enemy base. You the player are in control of Jonathon North. Here you learn how to use the sniper rifle and control the drone. Most of the mission is learning how to control the zoom and correct for wind with the sniper rifle, as well as breath control, and using scout mode. Scout mode lets you see tracks, enemies, and hidden objects. This comes in handy in Act II were finding clues are a big part of the missions. The end of the prologue sees Robert kidnapped then the start of Act I.
Jump ahead twenty-three months to Act I, and the beginning of the game. Jon is now in the Republic of Georgia where a man with Robert’s description has been sighted. As a Marine, Jon is now tasked with stopping the Separatists who are terrorizing the people of Georgia. They also need to recover Robert, not only becuase he is Jon’s brother but he is also a Marine sniper. You are not alone, to aid in your mission is Frank Simms of the CIA, Lydia who is an ex-Georgian SFB (Special Forces Brigade), and Raquel Shein, a MOSSAD agent. One character trait of Jon and the team are their professionalism. Though Lydia tends to have an attitude about things because of past involvement, Jon is a dutiful soldier and Marine first. In other words his duty as a soldier is not clouded by the kidnapping and he doesn’t go on a personal vendetta always stopping to save civilians first.
One of the main missions is “Grave Diggers” where the player rescues civilians from the Separatists forced to dig their own graves before being executed. Once this mission is complete new side missions open up to save civilians. Usually you come across them on the way to a main mission and scattered around the map. Also on the map are also clues and points of interests that can be investigated. With the main twenty-three missions, all the side missions, points of interest, searching for loot and collectibles, achievements, and the Escape of Lydia expansion players will have an immersive and lengthy experience. This game is as short or long as you want depending on your game play style and if you stop and do side missions. At least with quick travel traveling to and from the safe house shortens the tedious traveling to focus on gameplay.
One of the biggest aspects of the game and the one that may be the best is the unique gameplay style that players choose. The open world is great by bringing the environment into the game and making you feel as though you are apart of the Georgian conflict. However, it’s the gameplay that stands out and what the game is about. The name says it all; you can play as a sniper, ghost, or warrior.
Even though you get a choice you can add to any of the specialization trees by gaining points from missions. During missions you can gain points in any of the three specializations as you complete achievements. My specialization geared toward the sniper but I found that I was accumulating points in both the warrior and ghost specializations. That came in handy during missions, especially being able to have more stamina for running away from enemies and into cover. For most missions I was ghost and sniper, the warrior only came in when I was using explosives and semi-automatic weapons when confronting enemies head on. In stealth players use the environment to sneak around enemies and takedown from the shadows, relying on silenced pistols and melee.
Being a sniper ghost usually caused missions to last longer but it also took out more or no enemies without having to always load back from the start of the mission or a checkpoint. Checkpoints are few in the game and if the mission has a singular objective dying causes you to go back to mission start. It was also a bit frustrating during the mission to infiltrate the train depot. I was hoping that I could pick up after releasing the fuel from each train but ended up, this is where being a ghost was important, from picking up a document. Then having to sneak around the train depot undetected, low crawling under trains and over the tracks for a hundred meters to avoid detection to dump fuel and then ignite it. The only way I was able to beat this mission was to just sneak around and not alert any enemies.
If you choose sniper then you have plenty of opportunities to take out enemies. This game provides ample high spots, rock faces, cover, and places to support your sniper rifle for that perfect shot. Also when you get the perfect shot the game slows to show all the action as the bullet takes out the poor unsuspecting individual. If you are good you can get achievements for certain actions. I realized how good of a sniper in this game I was when I kept getting the longest shot achievement. If you like achievements this game has them. After missions you get your specialization point totals, achievements earned, and currency. Currency is used to purchase more weapons, armor, and gadgets.
Even if players choose to go ghost or warrior the sniper specialization is always going to be the primary ability. Missions will require sniping and tracking targets, also the sniper rifle is the primary weapon. Still for most of the game it’s up to the player how they want to play. As far as the other specializations the mechanics were well developed to make being a ghost and warrior playable. Vegetation, landscape, built environment, and objects in the map give players the ability to be a ghost and take out enemies from the shadows, or just complete the mission without alerting enemies and not having to kill anyone. This gets into the AI and how well it was programmed. Personally I found myself running into cover all the time because the enemies don’t play around. Be careful, running drains stamina and you will need to rest to replenish that stamina.
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When running you can slide into cover and crouch to prone. Good thing because the enemies spot Jon easily. Get in their line of sight they are alerted. Stay in the crouched or prone and you can sneak around them without detection, most of the time. Snipers need to be spotted earlier, and then there is the mortar attacks. This is not an AI to joke about, and it doesn’t take long for enemies to take you out either. Better armor helps, along with crafting first aid items but taking out Separatists before they see you is best. My verdict is this game has a great AI that will give players a good challenge and make you think and work to complete the mission, rather then something to just play through. Before doing anything enemies and targets need to be tagged, through your scope or drone, before they show up on the map. Or you can just alert everyone and then they show up, but disappear again after they move from a certain distance. At least players can have a silencer on each of their three available weapons, except the bow, but having one on the sniper rifle and handgun is useful to be a sniper ghost.
Taking a look at the other elements of the game we have crafting, inventory, and menu. Crafting works in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. Its done in Jon’s safe house, which is where missions start. Here you can also rest, craft ammunition and gadgets, change out weapons, or buy new weapons and supplies. I found going back to the safe house after each mission not that bad. It was a good respite between missions and a chance to customize weapons and gather gear together for the next mission. Some players might not like the concept and wish to continue the mission. So this is a mixed good and bad of the game.
When in the safe house you have a weapons cache that contains all available unlocked weapons, add-ons, and gadgets. Picking up a weapon becomes unlocked in your inventory and is forever available to be used and customized. I always like the ability to customize weapons even though you could probably use the same weapons from game start. It’s just something to personalize the game and give an edge. Also, throughout the game there are crates that contain crafting items, and dead enemies can be looted for parts and trading supplies. At the safe house there is a workbench were players craft ammunition, explosives, medical supplies, and repair items like armor and silencers. When personalizing load-outs there are slots to add explosives, grenades, and throwing knives. What is great about the weapons store is the amount of weapons and ammunition types that can be unlocked and purchased, even a bow and different arrow tips.
Once in game and on a mission calling up your inventory is easy and players can quickly get to gadgets and grenades. I even had a luring rock in my inventory. Though I did find that throwing grenades, explosives, and the luring rock was a bit difficult and the aiming seemed off. At least the weapon aim was spot on and I had very little difficulty getting clean shots. I felt that there was a lot of effort put into getting the sniper mechanics right but it also translated to the aiming system for all other weapons. Using the handgun was painless and I could take down a number of enemies consecutively with a pistol or bow. Just don’t run out of ammunition, because what you start a mission with is all you have until you get back to the safe house.
Before going on I need to address climbing. Some of the best sniper positions require climbing rock faces, and some missions require players to scale up walls and jump to the next floor in bombed out buildings. Climbing up rocks isn’t bad as long as there are places to grab. I had little trouble climbing up, it was going down that gave me trouble. Now scaling down buildings is not easy. At one point I needed to climb down the outside of a building but couldn’t just fall to the next window and grab the balcony. Falling to the ground didn’t cause injury but it wasn’t desirable. This game needs a better climbing down system though there are plenty of areas to just slide down cliffs and sliding from a run works well.
When it comes to knowing what is going on during the game there is a comprehensive menu with all you need to know. From understanding gameplay mechanics, knowing the characters – unlocked during the game, current mission objectives, map, to collectibles it’s readily accessible. Objectives are also simply stated and goals marked on the map. Getting to and carrying out the objective isn’t always straightforward but players know what is going on. Most missions its up to the player to figure out how to complete the mission, except for the map there is no compass and objectives are not labeled until they come into range or tagged. Getting to the mission start was easy because the path is marked out on the map. If it wasn’t you would be driving all over Georgia finding places. Towns and main areas are marked on the map and all areas are unlocked upon entering. Except that some areas are enemy territory and driving through will cause a firefight, be prepared to drive fast.
Speaking of driving, I absolutely love the driving mechanics in this game. Some games make driving intolerable but this game actually made driving very enjoyable. Driving was natural and even though I crashed a few times and ran off the road, due to driver error more then the actual mechanics, I had fun. The game also has beautifully rendered scenery and it was nice to drive the winding roads of the Georgian countryside. With the scenery the game has day and night and a weather system. Actually you have to adjust for wind with the sniper rifle. This gives a new dynamic to the game experience and can hinder or enhance the mission.
Driving might be fun but flying the drone isn’t. This is one part of the game I am not happy with. Whether it is ineptitude to fly the drone or just poor mechanics I couldn’t keep it flying straight. The drone bounced around too much and had poor control. It wasn’t necessary to use it often, but there were moments where it could help to mark targets.
Besides driving I did like the characters in the game and connected with the main protagonist. This is a first-person shooter and you experience the world through the eyes of Jon North. It was the way he interacted with other characters and confronted situations that drew me to this character. He was a dutiful marine but also human. A seasoned warrior but he was also frustrated at his brother’s kidnapping. Jon also cared about saving people and protecting innocents. I thought the dialogue was good and convincing. There was also interaction between characters, in person and over the radio. Frank Simms was very frank and to the point, he kept Jon from straying from the mission when discussing Robert. He also guided the mission to success. Lydia and Jon have history both professional and personal and we get to see the tension and romance between the two during their missions. However, both can work together on a professional level. As far as female characters go Lydia is strong and tough, very independent, and keeps Jon on point. She also shines in the extension “Escape of Lydia” where we get to play her as a soldier. All the women in this game are strong and independent, it’s not just the guys that make the mission a success, most depend on the knowledge of Lydia and Raquel.
Beyond good characters and enemies we have a story that works for modern times and with current events. It’s playable and relatable. An organization that is bent on destabilizing the government and terrorizing people. Along comes good soldiers and agents from the United States and Georgia to defend the innocent and not only protect Georgia but rid the world of a threat. Jon works as a team of soldiers, intelligence, ex-agent and mercenary, and contacts throughout the game to complete his mission. The lone wolf thing is a stretch for realism but as a game it was pretty cool being the elite Marine and ultimate soldier. Most of the time you are confronting the enemy as the single military person on the ground but you get to partner up. Though it is still you doing the killing. Without the team Jon would never succeed in his missions. I was grateful having Frank talk me through the realigning of the satellites but he did blow me off when I alerted enemies during one mission. Follow your team’s directions or you really are on your own. I have played games where I had a team guiding me; this was one of the better ones with useful team members and rate of mission success. They are also there own characters with unique individual personalities. In other words they are not just a voice.
As far as the story goes, it was ok, though I think looking at how I played it was all about being a sniper. I played this for the missions and the sniper experience. The stealth was good but I preferred the missions that enemies could be taken out from a distance and trying to get the achievements. Playing as Jon North was enjoyable and he was a character to connect with and interesting to play. Game mechanics were a highlight as they worked well in game. Hit or miss is the way the missions start from the safe house but at least you get to customize your game experience and weapon load-outs. In the end I enjoyed this game and would continue to play to save the civilians, the side-ops, and extend the game into the extensions. Except for some bugs that caused me to reload from my last checkpoint, though with updates there are fewer bugs now, and the lack of checkpoints it’s a good game. It’s worth playing if you like a good sniper or stealth game. Whatever specialization suits your style Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a fun and challenging first-person shooter.