Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Review
Glitchy Trigger Finger
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is like if someone gave you a slightly cold bowl of soup and expected three-Michelin star level praise. You like soup. You even really enjoy things that are in this particular bowl of soup, but it’s still cold soup growing more unappealing by the second.
There are flashes of inspired brilliance which occasionally float to the surface, but the majority of SGW3 is a hard-learned lesson that mediocrity can be just as harmful as being outright awful.
The first thing players will notice about the game is that the voice acting, while adequate enough, is like listening to forced small talk. Lines are delivered in a stunted, artificially emotional way. The two main characters are brothers, and their first conversation is supposed to be light teasing; as siblings are wont to do. Instead, it’s more like listening to an estranged father ask his son who his favorite baseball team is, just to grasp as something to talk about…only to find out his son hates baseball. Later, the brothers are both adults (and somehow in the same sniping unit), and they’re having an argument about personal matters while travelling to the landing zone for their mission. The anger that is supposed to be there falls woefully flat, like the voice actors either were very tired or just weren’t invested in the script. This goes for every character interaction in the game. Instead of emotionally engaging dialogue, players will feel as though they’ve somehow inconvenienced the voice actors by listening to the lines. Where the game falls short writing wise, it more than makes up for graphically.
SGW3 is a very visually striking game; CI Games has made excellent use of CryEngine, building richly textured environments and highly detailed character models. But for all its beauty, there isn’t much to do in this world. Sure, there are towns, enemy installations and strongholds, but between them lies vast swaths of empty, swampy-colored land where the occasional wild animal will ambush you.
That is, they’ll ambush you when they aren’t ghosting through the ground or flickering in and out of existence. Pop-in is a visual flaw that’s been around since the early 3D days; usually due to hardware limitations on asset rendering. However, in SGW3, pop-in isn’t just for distant objects. Enemies, environmental cover and even mission-critical items will flit between this plane of existence and the ethereal if the player takes one step too far across the road or parking lot. When objects do this, it’s an amusing distraction to two-step back and forth a bit to play “now you see me;” when enemies do this, it usually results in player death and reloading from the last saved checkpoint because you couldn’t see an enemy just outside of this render zone and he popped up right next to you.
What SGW3 lacks in finesse, it tries to make up for by borrowing heavily from its contemporaries. Most notable is the rip-off of Sniper Elite‘s x-ray kill cam. Certain kill shots will trigger a slow motion cutscene where the camera follows the path of your bullet to the target; resulting in a hilarious ragdoll death animation in bullet time which takes entirely too long to cylce through. No matter where your shot hits the target, a mysterious chunk will explode away from the character’s head without leaving behind any damage or other indication as to what that chunk may have been.
There are three different skill trees the player can upgrade through: Sniper, Ghost and Warrior. Sniper, obviously, grants skills and bonuses for earning kills by shooting enemies from cover and accurately over long distances. Ghost rewards players who prefer to isolate and stealth kill individual enemies. Warrior is the most out of place in a game built around sniper tactics. Players are rewarded for using machine guns, pistols and explosives to take out enemy soldiers and capture strongholds. In a game where “sniper” is literally in the title, I was confused as to why this style was even an option for players. Yes, give me side arms in case I completely fuck up my objective, get detected and have to fight my way to a safezone, but come on now. I would almost be completely immersed in my sniper mindset (waiting for the right wind conditions, calculating bullet drop and velocity, etc.), and then I would be presented with a situation where I had no choice but to run in, guns blazing. If I had wanted to play Call of Duty, I would have.
Unlike its peers, SGW3 didn’t have the faces of enemy soldiers covered at all. CoD, Sniper Elite, and Medal of Honor all chose to cover enemy faces with scarves, masks and equipment. Here, though, enemy bodies stare at you, cold and glassy eyed as you loot them for ammo and items. I thought this may have been an attempt to humanize these nameless people, but I don’t think anyone at CI Games was clever enough to try and make this point. In the end, it was more than a little creepy to have a lifeless body stare at me while I rifled through his pockets.
“…[For] all its beauty, there isn’t much to do in this world.”
My biggest complaint about this game is that it only has partial controller support. Meaning players like myself who prefer a gamepad over a mouse and keyboard are straight out of luck. With a gamepad, it is impossible for players to adjust scope height, target distance, and scope zoom. You know, everything that is critical to being a sniper. And no, you can’t hit the keyboard commands for these while a gamepad is connected; that was the first thing I tried. To me, a game which only partially supports gamepad input is not only a fundamentally broken game, it is exceptionally lazy. A programmer’s job is to make gameplay as easy to control as possible, and to work with software engineers to make commands work. This may just be a gripe of simple preference, but I have moderate carpal tunnel in both hands and wrists, so playing with a keyboard and mouse (where the key commands are spread over the entire layout) for any length of time is painful and often steers me away from games which don’t support input from a gamepad.
From wooden dialogue to graphic glitches, to deep fundamental flaws and just not being quite as polished as its contemporaries, SGW3 isn’t a terrible game, but it could stand to be improved. As it stands currently, I would not pay full price for this game; wait for a deep discount like the Steam Summer Sale and buy it for a time killer and a good laugh.