One word kept popping into my head while playing Sniper Ghost Warrior 3: generic. You’re a generic soldier type going through a generally generic plot in the middle of a fairly generic feeling conflict. Yet, peel back this layer of no questions asked military bravado and the story of two brothers within Sniper Ghost Warriors 3, there is a rather fascinating sniper game that is not afraid of testing you.
You’re put in the boots of Jon North, the unquestioningly loyal Marine, as he carries out missions behind enemy lines in the nation of Georgia, where separatist forces are gathering strength while a small resistance pushes back against them. It’s a set up that has a lot of potential, but it’s cast aside for a more personal tale of revenge as John searches for his younger brother Robert. Outside of a handful of core characters, few get any notable screen time, leading to the plot being more of a vehicle to deliver missions than being an engaging story.
It all takes place in a semi-open world built around the three hubs of Mining Town, Village, and Dam, each with their own outposts to capture and points of interest to discover. Of course, there’s a whole load of sniping to do as well. It’s here where you can forget about the story and just focus on the surroundings and the targets. The nature of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s open world means you can approach missions and outposts from any number of ways, but the most satisfying way is almost always sitting from afar and being patient.
Jon isn’t just equipped with a sniper rifle, though. He also carries a secondary weapon, be it an assault rifle or shotgun, and a pistol. There are also other tools like knives, grenades, and repair kits as well. However the most important, aside from the rifle, is the drone that you will come to rely on heavily as you play. Before you venture into any mission point, it pays to send the drone up to scout around as much as possible, helping you to avoid nasty surprises like a minefield or a hidden enemy sniper.
Controlling the drone does take a bit of getting used to and it can be a bit of a nightmare when using it in confined spaces, as making contact walls will leave it completely disorientated. There were also a couple of times where it would take a while to tag an enemy even if hovering directly above them, so it is a good idea to do a couple of sweeps of an area, just in case the drone failed to pick something or someone up the first time. That said, it is a very useful tool and the upgrades of thermal and night vision cameras and the luring module were things I used constantly.
It’s always a prelude to engaging the enemy, and as I stated, my personal preference relied on finding a good spot a few hundred metres away and taking out enemies from afar. It is in these moments where Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is at its best. If you’re careful you can take out every enemy without alerting any others, but a mistimed shot can lead to the whole outpost going on alert. Both scenarios rely on patience to succeed.
Once alerted, the enemy AI will immediately head for cover, making sure to not leave themselves exposed based on an approximation of where they believe you are. Of course, you can move and find another spot to counteract the cover and get a few more enemies. Fail to take out enough soldiers and you can expect mortar fire on your position, but if you’ve tapped into the enemy comms, you’ll hear them preparing. If you aren’t, the first sign will be the whistling of the mortar in the air.
A party of soldiers can also leave their camp and come hunting for you. Sometimes they’ll group together and other times you may find yourself flanked, with the tide turning quickly against you. You do have your secondary weapons to use in these situations, but Jon can’t take much punishment in a regular firefight. With upgrades these guns are decent enough, but this is a sniper game at heart and going in guns blazing is almost a sure-fire way to get yourself killed.
When it comes to upgrades, you’ll need to return to the safe house, with Jon having one in each region. It’s here that you can use materials and goods to craft or purchase bullets and other pieces of equipment, or repair what you already have. You can buy new guns too, but to be honest I stuck with the second rifle I purchased as it was more than adequate to complete missions with, simply purchasing new bullet types as they unlocked. You’ll receive a decent amount of regular bullets, but can only carry ten of each special bullet, whether they’re armour piercing, explosive, or lure bullets. If you really want the bullet cam to show a head exploding, you’ll need to use the armour piercing or explosive rounds instead of normal bullets.
The main draw to the game isn’t in the story missions but the outposts, which can vary from having just a small number of enemies by a building to larger complexes, with another draw being the sixteen most wanted targets dotted throughout the world. Taking out outposts is a great distraction from the story, acting as places to experiment with how you can approach places and with the guns you have. Both outposts and most wanted targets can actually be tied into story missions, with outposts repopulating time and again until the related story mission is completed.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s game world looks good and captures the look of a nation deep in conflict, juxtaposing humble towns and villages with the brutalism of Soviet style architecture elsewhere. Most of the world remains in the hold of nature with trees and plants dominating the landscape, with imposing buildings and structures jutting out at different points. The hubs aren’t huge and don’t take long to navigate, especially in the buggy, which zips across most terrain, but can get stuck if you’re not careful
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 isn’t without issue though, and bugs can interrupt your play. One early instance saw a soldier fly from one side of an outpost to another so he could man the mortars and fire at me, while another had a soldier run off the roof of a building, hit the ground and just keep on running. The opening tutorial mission also made a big deal about wolves, but they never appeared in the main game. There’s plenty of deer, though. Jon can also get stuck in the environment, which forced me to reload the latest checkpoint on a few occasions.
The biggest issue were the crashes. The game froze completely three times, and though it didn’t freeze my PS4, I had to close the game and reload it. There were also points where action would stutter and the frame rate would drop noticeably. The game’s initial load time when starting or loading the campaign as well as switching between regions is frustratingly long – I’m talking over three minutes at a time – though this is deliberate on CI Games’ part so that loading a checkpoint or fast travelling across the world takes just a few seconds.
The relatively unique Georgian setting and the brewing civil war are all but set aside for a by the numbers story of revenge and betrayal, while Jon isn’t a very likeable protagonist. The various bugs and crashes also need to be addressed in future patches, as they can ruin the experience. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has the sniping down to a tee, which should be expected with the number of years CI has been working on the series, but the surrounding package could be better.
Version tested: PS4