When Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 released in 2013, we weren’t big fans of the experience. In his review, former editor Tim Turi called it a “a below average, by-the-numbers affair.” With linear missions and finicky controls, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 was a shooter that could be safely skipped. Fast forward four years and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is almost ready to launch. I recently played a near-final build of the game, and while I’m not ready to proclaim it’s worth dropping every other game you’re playing to pick up, it does show signs of improvement.
The most drastic improvement the third entry adds into the mix is that rather than linear missions, this game drops players into one of three large, open maps. After a significant loading time (on the build I played, the initial load lasted around five minutes), you don’t need to worry about loading for the rest of the time you’re in the map. When fast-traveling, the transport is nearly instantaneous. In these big worlds, you can visit your safe house to make changes to your loadout, craft ammo, and choose from the set of available missions in that map. The map I loaded into had several main missions available, as well as a large list of side missions that I could take on.
I chose to tackle one of the main missions, a simple camp infiltration followed by an interrogation. I accept the mission using the laptop in my home base, craft some armor-piercing rounds (as well as a few explosive rounds for good measure) using the workbench, and hop in my jeep. The driving feels fine for first-person driving – I’ve always preferred the third-person perspective when controlling vehicles in everything from shooters or racing games. I arrive at the camp and immediately spot a good sniping area that overlooks the area. Using my scout ability, which is similar to Arkham Knight’s Detective Vision, I find ledges I can use to scale the cliffside to reach the top. Once there, I activate my drone, which I fly over and use to tag enemies within the camp. The drone controls are very sensitive, so it takes me several minutes to get the hang of.
Once I tag most of the enemies, I’m ready to start clearing out the camp. The game is designed so that you can use the three words in the series name as separate approaches: Sniper for picking off enemies from a distance, Ghost for sneaking around and taking enemies down with melee kills, and Warrior for going in loud. For this infiltration, I try the Sniper approach. Using my tags, I locate the best target to start with: a man all alone on the far reaches of the area. When I look through the scope of my rifle, I must take into account elevation, which is affected by how far the target is, wind resistance, and even the stance my character is in. All of these factors play into not only the shot I should take, but how accurate said shot will be.
I fire my first shot, but it whizzes by the target’s head – I didn’t fully take into account the wind. Thankfully, my silencer prevents this shot from exposing my position. Instead, the bullet zooming by the target’s head has made him suspicious. Using a meter that tells me how much to factor in wind resistance, I line up a follow-up shot. This time, the bullet passes right through his head. I repeat the step for the other four enemies I tagged, adjusting my elevation and wind resistance for each one using the easy-to-read on-screen displays. I realize the few enemies left are concealed, so I decide to shift to the Ghost approach.
With fewer enemies around, I feel confident in putting my sniper rifle away in favor of a suppressed pistol. I sneak through an underground pipe, which leads me right to the two remaining enemies in the camp. I get a sense for the patrol pattern of the nearest enemy and stealthily drive my knife through his chest when he walks into a secluded area. Unfortunately I’m spotted by the final guard, but with two quick shots from my pistol, I end the threat of him calling for reinforcements. I then enter the area where the objective is and watch an interrogation scene before finishing the mission.
When going the stealth route, you need to take into account everything between the lighting around you, the noise you’re making, and the complexity of the environment around you; you’re much more likely to be spotted if you’re standing up above the horizon than if you are standing in front of some foliage. For my second mission, I do away with all of this in favor of the warrior route. The next mission I played was a side objective that is similar to the first I played in that my ultimate goal is to reach a target in the middle of a camp.
As I pull up to this camp, I see a separatist soldier standing on the outskirts. Before alerting the camp of my presence, I quietly take out the two snipers stationed around the camp. From there, I use an unsuppressed assault rifle to kill the man in front of me. The camp knows I’m there, so it’s now a matter of surviving the massive wave of attention I’m now getting. The gunplay in these frantic moments isn’t up to the standard set by games like Destiny and Overwatch, but it’s solid enough that I can hold my own. It isn’t until a heavy enemy with a powerful fully automatic weapon comes around the corner that I really struggle. He dwindles my health, but I’m able to finally take him down by shooting his metal face-mask off.
Though it won’t be present at launch, developer CI Games is promising a free competitive multiplayer update later this year. In addition, the development team is planning two single-player expansions for season pass holders (included in the day one edition), the first of which will be made available at launch.
A month out from launch, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 looks as though it could be an improvement over the last entry. Though several areas in the build I saw still lacked much of the polish we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in modern games (characters clipping through the world, strange ragdoll physics, and noticeably low-res textures), I like the direction this game is taking when compared to past entries.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 25.