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Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 25.02.2018 1

Review for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on PlayStation 4

It's fair to say that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 made a fairly lousy first impression when it launched way back in the April of 2017. It was plagued with a seemingly endless stream of game-breaking technical issues that repeatedly thwarted progress and sapped spirit at every turn, and was combined with the type of lengthy loading times that hark back to the good old cassette tape wrangling days of the ZX Spectrum. Yep, CI Games certainly had its work cut out licking this disaster into some kind of playable shape. Fast forward a few months, and a number of sizeable patches later, and there does indeed appear to be some improvement, but is it too little too late? Cubed3 peers down the sights, lines up the target, and squeezes the trigger on the review of a heavily patched celebration of the long distance kill.

Snipers probably don't get invited to many social gatherings as their chosen vocation tends to make them a fairly insular bunch by nature. Take Marine Captain Jon North, for example, a guy that positively craves isolation. As the main protagonist in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (reviewed original on Xbox One right here) he ticks all the requisite boxes for 'quiet loner' with relative ease and spends the majority of the campaign dwelling in a number of damp caves, like some kind of modern day troglodyte. North is permanently tooled up to the max, never leaves his cave without a long scoped high-powered rifle, and thinks nothing of unloading its contents into the collective craniums of whichever poor souls he just so happens to stumble across on his travels. Any man sporting a goatee beard, bald head, or even favouring a warm balaclava in these cold climes, are all fair game. No point asking any questions, just kill 'em... it's easier that way. What, then, is North's motivation for becoming the scourge of rural Georgia? Best to start at the beginning...

Like most "good" stories, it kicks off with a prelude that sees North tasked with decommissioning an abandoned stockpile of Soviet-era bioweapons located on the Russian/Ukrainian border, alongside his brother Robert, who funnily enough is also a Marine. As an exercise in sibling bonding, it turned out to be a resounding success as many bad guys got shot in the face, terrorists were thwarted in their attempts to acquire those rusty old bioweapons, and brotherly bonds were tightened up a few notches. Just as their guards are momentarily down, the pair suddenly get ambushed by an unidentified group of mercenaries who proceed to inflict minor mental torture on the duo, culminating in Jon getting knocked unconscious. Upon waking from his trauma-induced slumber, Jon finds himself alone, Robert is nowhere to be seen, and all evidence seemingly points to an abduction by his erstwhile captors.

Screenshot for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on PlayStation 4

Flash forward two years and North has taken a gig in Georgia (the country, not the US state), briefed with taking down and destabilising the strengthening local Separatist movement that seems to have access to seemingly unlimited resources and funding with no obvious trace of the source in sight. It soon becomes apparent, though, that North has an ulterior motive, as intelligence has placed numerous sightings of his brother in and around the region on several occasions, which is enough to establish a reason to start snooping around. After getting to know the principal players orchestrating the activities (a pair of twins called Davit and Tomas, alongside Tomas's fiancée, Inna), North, ever the opportunist, decides that observing the separatist marriage could provide crucial intel to assist in formulating assassination plans at a later date. Shotgun wedding? Well, as it turns out, yes, given that this joyous union is brought to a very abrupt conclusion when Tomas' own bodyguard coldly guns him down at the altar. Before North even gets the opportunity to react, a shot from a high-powered rifle pings through the air and the treacherous assassin receives a bullet in the head himself from a hitherto unseen sniper lurking in the distance. Back to square one, North gets entrenched in a few missions against some of the local pockets of Separatists and learns that the funding seems to be coming from a shadowy cabal known as the 23 Society, led by a mysterious soldier with genetically enhanced abilities, known only as Armazi. No prizes for guessing who this turns out to be. It's a fairly predictable and, thankfully, unobtrusive plot that doesn't really engage on any level but, in fairness, it doesn't really need to.


 
Georgia itself makes quite an interesting backdrop for a snipe-centric open(ish) world shooter and CI Games has at least done a relatively good job of conveying a poverty-stricken country teetering on the brink of chaos. If pushed to make a comparison to an existing franchise, it definitely has the air of a low budget Far Cry in appearance and execution, as both titles offer a sizeable play area suitably fraught with peril and rife for exploration. There's no shortage of crumbling, abandoned structures scattered about the land that offer up treasure in the most unlikely of places, and the often treacherous terrain can be navigated on foot, via vehicle, and will even, on occasion, require a spot of climbing. Given that the previous two entries to the series were more linear in nature, switching to an open-world setting is a bold move on CI Games part and possibly one that it wasn't quite ready for. It's a formula that Ubisoft itself has nailed down and refined over the years to the point where it feels like it is able to pipe out a fully formed, living, breathing world, rich in content and packed with activities, at the push of a button. Obviously, there's far more to the process than that, but the world of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 does feel pretty empty in comparison to any of Ubi's creations. Available activities can be spotted on the world map via a '?' symbol that indicates a 'Point of Interest' and, while there's no clue as to what each of these might be until that spot is visited, it does force the player to go out looking for action, as nothing will organically happen if they don't. There are no enemy patrols to accidently bump into, and the entire endeavour feels more a case of 'go here if you want an encounter with some wolves,' 'there might be a collectible if you head to this spot,' and so on.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 isn't even a fully open-world game in the truest sense, either, as Georgia is actually split into three different regions that can be flitted between verrrry slowly (more on that later) as the main story progresses. As campaigns go, it's fairly short and can be polished off to its feeble, and rather disappointing, climax relatively quickly, but it's the additional activities dotted about the land that provide a good reason to hang out after the main event. These can range from hunting down and killing all of Georgia's 'Most Wanted' criminals, undertaking multi-part side-ops against local crime lords and separatists on behalf of numerous village leaders, rescuing imprisoned Georgian hostages, clearing out enemy road blocks and camps, hunting for collectibles and raw materials (for crafting purposes), as well as locating and unlocking all the fast travel points. The main gameplay loop of staking out and tagging the enemy from a distance with a wobbly drone, before systematically picking them off one by one, is actually pretty enjoyable and testament to the satisfyingly solid sniping action, complete with the ubiquitous slo-mo bullet tracking for added brutality. North has a number of tools at his disposal, such as Luring bullets, which come in handy for causing a distraction, Tagging bullets that mark nearby enemies on the HUD, and a Scout mode that feels similar in operation to Batman's detective vision in the Arkham series. Activating this allows North to track animal and human trails, detect nearby land mines, highlight climbable ledges on cliff faces, as well as keep tabs on any tagged bad guys in the immediate vicinity. In the interests of progression, there is also a skill tree split into three areas: Sniper (points are earned via long distance kills), Ghost (stealth is the name of the game here) and, yep you guessed it, Warrior (gung-ho close quarter combat).

Screenshot for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on PlayStation 4

While the option to incrementally patch games to improve performance, add additional content, and squash any troublesome bugs that somehow didn't get picked up during the playtesting stage, is definitely one of the better things about modern day gaming, it's hard not to feel that this has given developers the option to just throw games out there half-baked, with a view to fixing them at a later date. To say that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 shipped with a few minor issues would be a massive understatement. Much has been said about its hideously lengthy loading times, which will often chug north of the five minute mark, and this is no doubt the result of deciding to download the current playable region in its entirety. The upside to this is that once a game is underway, moving between any of the unlocked fast travel points is a pretty zippy and painless experience, although, conversely, this can become particularly irritating after sitting patiently through a five-minute loading screen, only to find out that the next mission is in one of the other regions. That's a whole ten minute stretch where no heads have exploded. Respectful of your time this game is not.

With regards to its many bugs and glitches, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 impressively runs the gamut, throwing out a wide selection of the old classics in a bid to impede the aim of any would-be marksmen willing to take it on. Regular blips will manifest in many forms, including the progress-wiping system lock up, or the equally common crash to the dashboard, both of which almost always seem to happen at the most crucial point of an operation. Getting stuck in the scenery occurs way more often than it should but, then again, this kind of thing happens in real life too, right? The seminal 'falling under the map' is impressively accompanied by a realistic whooshing through the air at high speed sound effect, which shows remarkable forward planning but should act as warning to the perils of Georgia and its many un-mappable wormholes. NPCs, barking the same stock phrases almost incessantly, will start to grate after a while, and the enemy AI in general did take stupidity to a whole new level (note the past tense there, more on the post-patch improvement shortly). Witnessing a henchman turn to his freshly deceased buddy to ask if he was okay, despite the poor chap being slumped at an inhumane angle, with his brain matter leaking out, often provides a moment of unintentional comedy, but it's a joke that gets old after a while.

Screenshot for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on PlayStation 4

A few patches on and there are definitely signs of improvement, but it still remains a fairly flawed product, all in all. The aforementioned dumb enemy AI appears to have been tightened up significantly, and it now only takes one misplaced shot for them to instantly triangulate North's current position and aggressively bear down upon it. Given how inept the henchmen were previously, this has upped the challenge considerably, which is no bad thing really. As for the lengthy load times, well they are still there, but it does at least feel like they are better suited as a timer for boiling an egg rather than cooking a pizza. The chug is real in Georgia. The random drop outs/crashes/lock ups are still also present, unfortunately, but, thankfully, a lot less frequent. There did seem to be a worrying issue where any failure on the last couple of campaign missions would just crash the game altogether, rather than restart from a checkpoint, which is as tiresome as it sounds and sadly consistent with the rest of the performance issues. In other news, it appears that at least two of the Separatists have seemingly moved up (or down) on the evolutionary ladder by developing gills, which greatly assists with their patrol across the bed of a lake. Ah, just when you thought you'd seen it all, eh? It does feel like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 was doomed from the start but, to CI Games' credit, it has at least attempted to fix the worst of these problems rather than just abandon it altogether. Putting its myriad of glitches aside for a moment, it's worth remembering that this game has been made by a relatively small team on a fairly tight budget and, truth be told, it's really not as bad as some of the earlier reviews might have you believe.


 
STOP PRESS: Just as this post-patch review of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 was coming to its glitch-heavy conclusion, yet another update rumbled down the pipes, professing to not only repair more of its many infuriating issues but add the long missing multiplayer component. CI Games announced shortly after the troubled launch that the online competitive element would be patched in once some of the more prominent bugs had been squashed and while it's entirely possible that any number of the off-script occurrences previously discussed in this missive may or may not have been fixed, yours truly doesn't have the time or inclination to play through it all again to find out. With that said it would be rude not to at least put the multiplayer component through its paces, and with six new maps (two of which are part of the free season pass) and three different game modes, it provides the perfect opportunity to peer down a long sight and unload a series of high velocity bullets into a far off twitching bush.

Besides the now compulsory Team Deathmatch, there is also Bounty Hunter, which rewards each successful snipe with a sum of cash, although the catch is that for it to count towards the £80,000 target, it needs to be deposited at one of the drones located in fairly open ground, with death resetting the cash down to zero. The third, and final, game type is a round-based ruck called Sharpshooter that sees two teams duke it out over control of a central Data Relay, with the aim of intercepting incoming intel. None of the modes stand out as being particularly original, or even essential for that matter, and it's fair to say that they have been seen and done better elsewhere. In anticipation of the next question, which will no doubt relate to overall performance and bug count... of course it has a few issues, it's Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3! There seems little point in listing them here, to be honest, but to be fair to CI Games, it does at least seem to be a bit quicker on the case issuing updates, and the one good thing about it is that it doesn't take five minutes to load a game.

Screenshot for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Despite still being mired with an unhealthy assortment of technical hiccups and a paper thin narrative that feels like a rejected Call of Duty plot line, there is still fun to be mined out of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 but it's entirely dependent on an individual's tolerance of the occasional glitch. Sure, it could have done with a lot more time in the oven, and even after a number of sizeable patches its litany of issues still make it a fairly tough recommendation, so it would be remiss not to slap a 'Buyer Beware' sticker on it. At its core, the sniping itself can be pretty satisfying, and Georgia makes for an interesting, if sparse, playground but, ultimately, this isn't really enough to carry the game over the constant threat of unexpected setbacks and, as such, it's unlikely to win over non-fans of the series when there are much slicker alternatives available.

Developer

City Interactive

Publisher

City Interactive

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I'm surprised they've supported this so much! Shame it doesn't appear to have made too much difference, nearly a year later.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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