Hands on with Sniper Ghost Warrior III – Deadly hands, deadlier lands

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If there’s one thing that the Sniper Ghost Warrior games pretty much nailed, it was the titular sniping of the series title. Few other games managed to make long-distance killing as authentic as that series of games, with the mechanics behind the rifles reaching a high point in Sniper Ghost Warrior II.

So how does one build on that idea, and make a Sniper Ghost Warrior game that adds more to the experience in its crosshairs? By making the world around your marksman, a deadly and dangerous enemy.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (5)

Over at E3, CI Games demoed their sequel, before I got a chance to go hands on with it. And it’s a massively different game now, when compared to its predecessors. Inspired by the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, Sniper Ghost Warrior III has players stalking the lands as Marine Scout Jonathan North.

Far behind enemy lines, players have to locate and find an enemy sniper who has crucial intel on the American presence in Georgia, which if revealed could escalate a cold war into a full and bloody open conflict between the USA and Russia, a war that could drag the rest of the world in as well.

The catch here? That rogue sniper happens to be your younger brother, who also has the advantage of being a better sniper than you and quite possibly insane. Time to make a tough decision.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (1)

But there’s more to the game than just a massive open-world and a clear objective. Beyond that, CI Games say that you’ll be free to carve your own path as you hunt down your brother. The game won’t tell you what to do or where to go, leaving you to figure that information out for yourself, throwing in some side quests to the main mission at hand.

And that makes for a hell of a different game. Sure, there were some markers present when I went hands on, but Sniper Ghost Warrior III definitely felt open-world. Dangerously so. I died during that session. A lot. Natural pitfalls, snipers who could actually see from hundreds of meters away and land mines resulted in an episode of a 100 Ways To Die as I slowly figured out to not rush the game and to actually take my time exploring the landscape.

And to do so, I’d need some tools – which the game provided. My key tool being a portable drone which I could use to survey the landscape…provided that the enemy didn’t see it and alert an entire base to my location. And that’s going to be another trademark of this game. According to CI, enemy soldiers aren’t going to give up looking for you when you’ve left a bullet in the head of one of their comrades and return to a cigarette break.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (3)

They’re going to scour the landscape trying to find you, and having an exit strategy in place is the key to success here. One detour to kill an enemy commander provided three points from which to end his life. Players could infiltrate and get up close inside of his army base, or snipe him from a vantage point that was guarded by perimeter patrols.

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Distance sniping carried its own challenge, as not only would you have to hit your target, but compensate for all manner of things such as air humidity, rain, wind and other factors which could alter the path of your bullet. Even the sniping mechanics feel more authentic now, with body factors such as breathing affecting my killshot.

For once, it felt like more than a simple game of just aiming and pulling a digital trigger. And once that kill went off, I had to haul ass.

The base went on full alert, a chopper started combing the land and soldiers mobilised. Sniper Ghost Warrior III is clearly not f***ing around. And that’s the game, instantly summed up.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (2)

Sniper Ghost Warrior III is going to appeal to players who want to play chess with their environment, enemies and allies. The game isn’t a run ‘n gun extravaganza. It’s a tactical survivor course, where lighting up your survivor sense in order to survey your killing grounds becomes second nature. Players don’t level up, they increase their skills through practise. The more you do, the better you get. Simple.

It’s bloody tense, and the slower, more natural pace may throw off players who are used to charging in headfirst and adopting spray ‘n pray tactics. That won’t work here. You’ll be dead within minutes and the game will be over. But adopting the mindset of a sniper, observing your environment and planning every kill?

That’s the kind of game that Sniper Ghost Warrior III is. And that’s a  refreshing change of pace in a game where every kill truly does matter.

Last Updated: June 22, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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