Sniper: Ghost Warrior has always seemed like the bastard step-child to the super Sniper Elite franchise. Polish developer CI Games’ last game, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 did little to change that perception. While the tactical shooter offered an open world, it offered little interesting or new and suffered from a raft of technical issues. With that in mind, I didn’t really expect to enjoy Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts at all.
Sometimes, I enjoy being wrong. While Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts (SGWC from here on out) still doesn’t really do much that’s new, it’s a neatly focused games that delivers exactly what it set out to do: make sending single bullets from incredible distances into the skulls of digital soldiers and henchmen satisfying. In it, you play as an assassin called The Seeker, a sniper for hire who’ll kill just about anybody if the pay is good. There’s an overarching story that’s filled with clichés and tropes and is entirely forgettable, and is just an excuse to put you in an alternate future Siberia where you’re tasked with taking out vile targets in a neo Cold War setting; crime lords, human traffickers, crooked politicians, power-hungry oligarchs – that sort of thing.
Instead of one expansive open world, everything is split up into five still quite large, open-ended sandboxes, all taking advantage of Siberia’s unique geographical features. Yes, you’ll play in a level that’s covered in snow as you hunt down a bioterrorist in the Altai mountains, but you’ll also see the verdant Beketov valley, with its beautiful lighting in the early dawn. In each of those areas, there are contracts that need to be fulfilled, with objectives like hacking into laptops to steal data, retrieving cellphones that could implicate foreign powers and of course, shooting people in the head.
Each area has at least five contracts you need to carry out, along with a handful of other challenges for you to complete. Borrowing liberally from Hitman (and I mean that in the best way), you can complete each contract, along with the bounties and challenges in whatever order you like. Given that the game is open-ended, the game encourages you to replay each of the sandboxes, to see if you can better your times or have different outcomes. Sometimes, the order you do contracts in matters, as you might learn a clue about your next target from a bit of intelligence garnered earlier. Killing your target doesn’t mean victory either, as you still must exfiltrate. Completing contracts and bounties earns you in-game cash and tokens, which you can use to purchase and upgrade guns and gadgets with a nice branching tree that’ll force you to choose your upgrade path wisely.
You’ll also be doing more than just sniping. There’s an awful lot of open-ended stealth and exploration involved – with several routes to, up and through the buildings, camps and ports you must infiltrate. In one instance, I had to cross a bridge that had a pair of automatic turrets mounted on it. Instead, I went under, found a crawlspace, and found myself behind the turrets. From there, I could sneak around the side of a building, shimmy up a ladder and jump into an open window, before ascending a tower from which to scan enemies, watch their movements and pick them out when by one when the opportunity arose. And that’s the sort of thing that happened a lot. I’d struggle, end up dead, and then find another route that suited my own way of playing more.
For me, that usually means Id give myself away and end up having to use regular weapons to fend off soldiers like a one-man army because I’m as stealthy as a blind hippo. I appreciate that game still catered for that, or I’d have had a dismal time. If you are a ghost though, there’s a lot here to like. You can quietly take out patrolling guards, interrogating them to reveal enemy positions to make your job a little easier. As a futuristic hitman, you’ve also got a neat AR mask that provides additional information about the environment, highlighting climbing areas, objects you can interact with and other bits of interesting bits of information. It’s also used to make sniping a little easier. There are three difficulty levels affecting things like guard awareness, damage and health–so it’s as accessible or as brutal as you want it to be.
A game about sniping wouldn’t be very much fun if that aspect was undercooked. While Sniper Elite may still wear the crown for the authenticity of sniping mechanics (or at least, I imagine so, having never fired a sniper’s rifle), I like what CI Games has done here. You have to account for distance, velocity and wind, but the rifle’s scope has a Dynamic Reticle System that helps you visualise the bullet drop and effects from wind and distance more clearly. It’s still skill-based, and you still need to do a bit of calculation to make sure your bullet will find its mark. It’s incredibly rewarding when it does. As with Sniper Elite, there’s a delicious kill cam when you nail a shot that slows things down, closes in on the bullet as it hurls through the air before it ruptures a skull. It’s gross, visceral, and it made me giddy every single time. If you’re so inclined you can go for a bit of long-range dismemberment, removing legs at the knee and so on. You maniac.
There are some checkpointing issues. It’s endlessly frustrating to clear out a fortification, be moments away from being able to exfiltrate and then dying, having 30 minutes of progress wiped out and have to di it all again. That’s more a “me” thing and a failure to plan properly, but I’d have liked a little more leeway for experimentation through better checkpointing. The AI isn’t especially good either. When all hell breaks loose, it’s easy enough to hide behind a corner and have a barrage of soldiers run straight into your barrel. As they’re mostly there to be sniper fodder though, it’s not too much of an issue. There’s also none of the promised multiplayer, though CI has said it’ll be coming in a free update. I think the game’s biggest issue still is that it isn’t really anything interesting or new. Oh, and there are drones. Screw drones. Still, I’ll be damned if I didn’t have fun playing it.
Last Updated: November 21, 2019