Crouch down, adjust for wind, and pull the trigger.
In an effort to give players a taste of what to expect, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 entered open beta over the weekend. I decided to check in on the game and see what the premiere upcoming tactical shooter has to offer, and while the two available missions weren’t anything to write home about, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s immensely fun sniper gameplay and overall freedom definitely did not disappoint.
Immediately upon loading into the game, I took control of the main character, Jon, driving a car to his safe house as a disembodied voice on a radio recounted his motivations and reasons for being a total and complete bad ass. After reaching the outside of Sniper Lair Delta, the name I quickly gave my safe house, I climbed up a few rocks and began exploring the cave that would be my base of operations.
While Sniper Lair Delta didn’t seem like much at first, it became apparent that there was much more to SGW3 than the standard, gamey cycle of: select a mission, fast travel to the mission, complete the mission, and repeat. This game was one of preparedness, and all of the interactive consoles inside the base were there to help you get ready for the trials you’d undertake. For example, the Weapons Cache allows you to set up your loadout (which is incredibly important for reasons I’ll explain later), while the Workbench gives the ability to create necessary items such as bullets, grenades, or any other equipment you may need. You also have the ability to use currency to purchase these items instead of expending crafting resources to create them. Due to the fact that this was a beta, my money count was exceedingly high. So like any sane individual, I bought a handful of explosive rounds, the body armor upgrade I knew I’d need, and the biggest, baddest sniper rifle I could and headed to the mission terminal.
The beta came with two playable missions, Blockout and Cut Off, as well as a small open-world area to explore. Because I wanted to try out my trusty new sniper, I chose the target elimination mission and headed on my way. The name of the game, Sniper Ghost Warrior, acts as a not-so-subtle hint that there are a few different ways to approach each combat situation. The sniper style allows players to take a very tactical approach to combat in using distance and preparation to their advantage. Ghost refers to a stealthy approach which enables the ability to quickly infiltrate mission areas quietly avoiding combat. And Warrior is the more upfront approach allowing a guns blazing style of play.
Using Scout Mode, an ability that lets you discern environmental objects that can be interacted with and enemies, I was directed to a collection of tall rocks that gave me ample view of the mission area. The sniper rifle itself comes with a slew of responsibilities; it’s important to gauge the strength of the wind in order to aim your shot correctly, while crouching and laying down both serve to increase the stability of the rifle. You can even use some environments as even more of a stabilizer. The emphasis on obtaining the perfect shot felt both exhausting and thrilling at the same time.
The tactical nature of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is not just something to be recognized, but also respected. Even in the beta, the game didn’t pull any punches in the realm of realism or difficulty when it came to stealth work or avoiding detection. While the enemy AI’s intelligence and vision were about what you’d expect from a tactical shooter, their hearing came off as almost god-like. The enjoyment of my first painstaking shot was overtaken by the fact that I had neglected to purchase a silencer for it, for which I was severely punished. This is where taking time and exploring your loadout becomes immensely important. Forgetting a silencer or bringing a shotgun to the wrong fight can easily result in swift failure.
In taking out two guards with a single bullet, I had alerted the entire compound to my presence and through their incredible echo-location powers, they pinpointed my location before I had the chance to get up off the ground. While the direct approach is certainly viable, it’s very likely you’ll die over and over until you find just the right pattern to barrel headfirst into an encounter. It also seems as though the game rewards the Rambo-style of play over the stealth-style as well, as the only way to loot currency and crafting items from your enemies is to take them down. This actually serves the game fairly well — you are more likely to expend bullets, medkits, and other resources using more direct means, so the looted items act as a way to replenish your stock.
After completing missions, the player is rewarded with a score screen granting rewards as well as experience points for the three various skill trees based on how you chose to finish the mission. The skills in each tree felt fairly generic, ranging from the ability to hold your breath longer while aiming a sniper rifle to carrying more ammo for your assault rifle secondaries. Regardless, I made my way back to Sniper Lair Delta, bought a silencer for my sniper, and initiated the next mission, this time with a silencer.
After quietly dispatching many of the guards, I entered the compound and the disembodied radio voice began telling me that it may be best to lure out the scientist so that I can sneak my way in to hack their satellite terminals. However, there really wasn’t any reason to do this. Herein lies one of my largest problems with SGW3 so far. There is no penalty, nor any overarching reward to killing enemies, outside of the replenishing the items you used in confrontations.
The drone especially, which is supposed to scout out the area so you can plan the assault, felt incredibly lackluster and completely overridden by the fact that using Scout Mode outlined every enemy within visible range permanently. Using my silenced pistol, I was able to enter the satellite bunker and quickly eliminate the scientists without a single concern of being detected, let alone taken out. While the game does offer a few different ways to deal with combat encounters, it would be nice to see far more interesting mission objectives outside “eliminate this target” or “interact with this console.” There were just so many different facets of the gameplay that weren’t properly showcased through the beta’s missions.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has some really incredible potential in the works and two missions really isn’t enough to get a solid foundation of what this game could achieve. Even exploring the small portion of the game’s open-world left me feeling unfulfilled. There really wasn’t a whole lot to do outside of raiding an enemy compound and stealing their supplies. The visuals are pretty spectacular although I did experience an unusually large number of drops in the frame rate to the point where I had to tone down the graphical settings a number of times down to the medium to low, keeping in mind I ran the game on a GTX 980. Other bugs, like the game not recognizing my mouse wheel or having to tap a button more than once to actually throw a distracting pebble, were also present. However, poor optimization and bug fixes are things that can, and hopefully will, be fixed. My experience playing Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was fairly positive overall, and I will certainly be keeping an eye on it in the future. Well built tactical shooters are extremely hard to come by these days, but more diverse missions and a more interesting open-world will definitely be points to look out for.