Games offer escapism like no other medium can. You can be thrust into the middle of a battlefield or spend a day in the exhilarating life of an accountant. Games offer up power fantasies, and what better power fantasy exists than to be the lone wolf that never misses a shot, the greatest sniper to have ever lived, THE GHOST WARRIOR! If Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (SGW3) is any indication, being an accountant is probably just a notch down. There’s a lot to like in the game, but it’s far from a perfect example of how to make a game about being a sniper. Oh, and it’s just a cheap man’s Far Cry.
SGW3 has you take on the role of a guy named John. John’s a sniper, an American sniper, and that’s all you’ll ever know about John. Anyway, John’s over in Russia because his brother was kidnapped by a Russian crime lord even though there’s a good chance his bro is deader than my sex life. Without spoiling anything, the plot is nothing short of traumatic concerning how terrible it is. There were multiple instances where I screamed at my monitor wondering why the Russian guy hadn’t just killed me or how anyone could think so many clichés equated to a compelling narrative. It’s like if a teenager that barely scraped through high school English tried to write Far Cry. I might be being a bit harsh on the writing, but it certainly isn’t helped by the atrocious voice acting.
There’s nothing like a bad actor to make bad dialogue worse, and this game proves the rule. Whenever anyone speaks, it’s like the aural equivalent of stepping on a lego brick. No one speaks naturally, so you’re left cringing to dreadfully tired lines that are barely cohesive. This is a real issue because of how close (camera-wise) you get to the characters in the game. Intensely emotional conversations about philosophy or unsuccessful love completely lose their effect because of how weak their delivery is. It’s like Far Cry’s impeccable character direction, but Ed Woods is directing without any regard for what a ‘second take’ is. If you get past these two barriers to entry, then the gameplay is surprisingly okay!
I wasn’t expecting much going into SGW3, but the game isn’t too bad to play. The game offers up fairly stock standard FPS mechanics with a few sniping mechanics added in, but it feels pretty good in motion. The aiming and movement are very responsive, and so you’re never fighting the controls to get that damn headshot. You’re also given a lot of leeway in tagging enemies, so you’re rarely (if ever) in a situation where you can see someone, but they exist in the dimension of nothingness and taggable existence. Although, this same liberal approach to giving the player a lot of power is as fun as it is frustrating.
While the game is enjoyable to engage in, it is in no way a game about sniping. SGW3 is more akin to (spoiler alert) Far Cry than it is Sniper Elite. You can waltz right into a group of baddies and silently take them out with ease, and in most cases, it’s easier than sniping them from a distance. Moreover, the missions that you take part in don’t tend to utilise the sniping part of the game as much as you’d think. There was one mission where I had to infiltrate a military base, but that led me to confined quarters where a sniper rifle was as appropriate as singing Agadoo at a funeral. I think this may have something to do with the adoption of an open-world game design.
For some unfathomable reason, the game is set in an open-world. It’s not even a grand scale open world where you can snipe people from kilometres away; it’s just a bunch of compartmentalised sections on the same map. There are other ‘regions’ that are also open-world, but they suffer the same problems. Mission areas are usually way too small for the sniping mechanics to kick in, and you still need to commute from your safehouse to the mission area. It’s nice being able to approach from multiple angles, but I would have preferred a linear mission structure so I didn’t have to bother with the open-world fluff. But, you know, Far Cry did it, so, this game had to as well. To be fair, Far Cry had an upgrades system, and this game- oh wait, no, it has one too.
Yes, the game has a progression system, and man, it is underwhelming. There are three categories to spec into (Sniper, Ghost and Warrior), but nothing felt game changing as far as upgrades were concerned. Everything was either a percentage increase or mild buff to a pre-existing ability, so nothing leapt out at me as something I wanted to get. I suppose it got the job done, but it was far from a necessity to engage with it when you could use stealth to boss through any situation from the start of the game. Have to keep up with Far Cry, I suppose.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is the power trip for someone who doesn’t need the best game on the market. There’s fun to be had in sneaking around and murdering dudes without a hitch, but the game has plenty of flaws too. The biggest issue is that it’s not so much a sniping game as much as it is Far Cry, and that should sway your opinion violently enough to decide whether you’re keen on the game or not. For me, I’m ready to move on, and I doubt many people will accept a game that’s ‘good enough’ for $50 these days. Still… It’s not the worst game you could buy this year.