Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 might be the best installment in the niche franchise, but that doesn’t take much.
After Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s credits had begun to roll, I realized every issue with the game could be summed up by playing the ten-minute prologue. The game is littered with cringe-worthy, cliché dialogue, a meandering story and mediocre shooting mechanics made even worse by AI that clips into the environment and outright disappears.
From there, the game only gets worse. While set around the Russo-Georgian conflict, all of the game’s plot is pulled entirely from fiction with no real-world cities or characters. Instead, the game centers on taking out power players in the conflict and finding out what happened to protagonist Jon’s brother, who was captured several years ago. Along the way, you discover a shadow organization that seeks to control power, and it all continues south until the game ends abruptly. As companions, you also have two overly sexualized women that try to help you get to the bottom of the story. I can’t imagine Jon really knows what’s going on, though, because the first-person camera is forced to focus on his friends’ breasts and behinds during cutscenes. Typically, the characters spout inane military chatter, but Lydia, Jon’s former love-interest, occasionally says something about how rude Jon is for abandoning her years ago. While bad character writing is pretty typical in games, the overarching story is pretty predictable by time the first of four acts ends.
The actual sniping in the game is serviceable when the game is performing as expected, but that’s less common than you’d imagine. Things like textures not loading were frequent in my playthrough, and at one point, the crosshairs within the scope of my rifle actually vanished. Those glitches made gameplay tough, but the actual impossible happened when key targets would disappear or get caught in walls or vehicles. When everything is actually functioning as the developers intended, the game is playable but not all that fun. The slow-motion bullet tracking gimmick is similar to the Sniper Elite series, but in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, its less impressive and detailed than its competition.
Except for a few (quite good) overwatch missions where you cover an ally from a distance, objectives play out like taking out a fort or outpost in now-outdated Ubisoft fashion. Use a drone to spot enemies, clear the area silently, loot for supplies and liberate prisoners before exfiltration. It works for the most part, but it’s executed better and with greater variation in older, yet more polished games.
One thing absolutely worth mentioning even though it’s been beaten to death by other critics and consumers alike are the abysmal load times. From the menu, the game takes around six to seven minutes just to actually start playing. Dying or restarting a checkpoint is a little more typical with just under a minute of loading, but it’s nonetheless a major chore just to start playing the game.
Rather than a true open-world, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 relies on medium-sized hubs where there are outposts and run-of-the-mill side activities. Getting around requires driving your truck that handles less like a vehicle and more like amusement park bumper cars. The handling and sense of speed are truly some of the most unpolished driving I’ve seen in a full-priced release. The actual outposts can be fun at first and they offer good in-game cash rewards that you can spend on gear and supplies, but by the halfway point of the game, I was sick of the lazy combat design and all-too-flakey AI.
At its best, the game has serviceable survey-and-execute outpost gameplay with mediocre gunplay and navigation. At its worst, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is literally unplayable with disappearing environments and impossible to kill enemies.
At the end of the day, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 isn’t a game that offers anything new. What it pulls from other shooters and action games is often delivered with less gusto and consistency than its competition. With nothing meaningful to say or do, there’s little reason to touch Sniper Ghost Warrior 3.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of CI Games and Evolve PR.
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