Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a game I was quite anxious to play. Creeping around flinging bullets from incredible distances all the while remaining unseen is a favorite pastime of mine. As the third installment in the series, there has obviously been a lot of time to perfect the sniper experience. CI Games seemed more than up to the challenge.

So how did it weigh in?

Story

Your two love interests. Sort of. Definitely.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a fair study in how to craft a motivating story that keeps the gameplay moving forward. You play as Jonathan “Jon” North, an elite sniper in the American Marines. The story initially send you back in time to a moment where you came back home from deployment in Afghanistan to spend some time with your family, and especially your little brother Robert. This begins with a sequence where the two of you are out in the wilderness, culminating in a sniper style game of hide and seek.

Flash forward to about two years before the events of the main game. Now, both you and Robert serve together as snipers. You are dropped behind enemy lines in the nation of Georgia, where the two of you are overcome by enemies and Robert is taken hostage.

Now flash forward those almost two years, to present day. Jon and Jon’s CO (Frank Simms) have been trying to find Robert’s location, and found a lead back in Georgia where everything went down to begin with. You are dropped back in the ex Soviet Block nation, and this is really where the story begins. As you are trying to find your brother, you are also tasked with disrupting and destabilizing separatist and terrorist activities in the region.

You end up teaming with your ex-almost fiancee, who also happens to be a Georgian special forces soldier/mercenary named Lydia Jorjadze and later another agent, this one a Mossad agent named Raquel Shein. The two will provide support during many of your missions although rarely actually take part in combat sequences. Still, they serve as your connection to the world and the motivation for moving forward when all seems hopeless or lost.

With a solid cast of characters (including some interesting villains) and a reasonably well written, overarching story mixed with a nice mix of subplots, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 easily kept me entertained and wanting to move forward throughout my 34 hour experience.

7.5 out of 10

Gameplay

The gameplay in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is really where it’s at. Initially, during the beta, and even into the earliest stages of its release, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was plagued with many issues, from extreme framerate drops to stuttering, crashes, and other sometimes hilarious bugs. However, CI Games promised to work those issues out before moving on to the season pass stuff and whatever else they had planned, and they were true to their word. As of a couple weeks ago, almost all those issues were sorted out via at least one substantial patch and a couple minor tweaks, and although I still experienced minor glitches from time to time, not one was even remotely game breaking or even immersion killing.

With the latest patch in place, I was able to really dive into this game and the gameplay was tight and spot on. First of all, this is a sniper game, so you really have to nail the stealth aspects and especially the actual gunplay, especially when looking through a scope at your target. These aspects were as good as it gets, and when I say as good as it gets, I mean better than Sniper Elite, better than any Ghost Recon, better than really any other game that relies at least partially on sniper mechanics. You could creep around and snipe the hell out of anybody you pleased in this game with enough planning. I quite liked the stability mechanics, which took into account not only your physical position and positioning, but also wind and elevation as it pertained to bullet velocity. A huge amount of work went into making this a peerless experience.

However, you don’t HAVE to strictly snipe your way through the game, and there will be plenty of moments where you didn’t tag an enemy or simply had no space available to plot out a long range execution. As such, in addition to your sniper rifle of choice, you also carry a secondary rifle (or shotgun), a pistol, and a knife. All found copious usage during my playthrough. Creeping up and using a knife on somebody to gain proper position to switch to sniping was pretty awesome. Blasting a fool with a shotgun was incredible. However, for my secondary weapon, I generally settled on a scoped LMG. It had a nice medium range and was also powerful enough to knock out even armored opponents. I did find silenced pistols to be especially effective when indoors or in very tight places, and a headshot with one guarantees results.

You are also kitted out with a variety of tools and explosives which will come in handy often. Eventually, you will find body armor and upgraded versions of said armor to help absorb some bullets. Most important however is your scout drone. This thing will allow you to get the lay of the land, plot out your trajectories and paths of ingress and egress, and tag both enemies as well as important geographical or building features. The drone can also be fit with luring devices to distract opponents. The most useful upgrade to the drone was the hacking mechanism that allows the drone in close proximity to camera panels and other electronic devices to hack into them and allow you to control them (such as shutting down electric grids or hacking cameras to further scout areas and tag opponents).

I alluded to this above, but in addition to sniping, you can in fact choose to run and gun, and sometimes, this will become necessary once enemies are on alert and have a reasonable idea as to where you have been hiding. Related to this, a lot of enemy encampments have mortars, and they will lock onto your last known position. So, as in real life, you want to change position here and there to avoid enemies getting a solid bead on where you are sniping them from.

There are a lot of different way to approach almost every mission. Secret access points and hidden sniping spots will change the dynamic of quite a few missions. Some missions are straight forward though. For example, there are a couple missions where you provide cover for other operatives. There are search and rescue missions. Missions where you have to destroy oil tanks or weapons caches, and so on. You will also have a vehicle, and driving is quite easy in this game. Vehicles are responsive. However, with unlocked checkpoints, your driving time will be more limited as you progress, most likely, unless you are simply taking in the local scenery.

It is also worth mentioning that Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is in fact an open world experience, and one that you can enjoy at your leisure. There are a lot of secret areas and unlockables, which might be artwork or might be actual usable weapons and equipment. There are also bounty missions on each map area (of which there are three map area). You have a safe house on each map, where you can reset, recharge, craft disposable equipment, and accept quests.

Oh…and I almost forgot: CI Games does pay homage to some of their own favorite games within Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. Most notable for me was the Witcher series style tracking available while using your heightened senses. You will see footprints or tracks glowing on the ground and can follow them to solve a few mysteries or help with certain campaign quests.

I could easily keep going with gameplay, but I will stop here.

9.5 out of 10

Graphics

CryEngine was used for this iteration of the Ghost Warrior series. As such, you get a completely beautiful and amazingly well rendered world. When you really look closely, you can see the rough edges, but taken as a whole, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a stunning looking game. The world is quite vibrant and alive, with different geographical areas featuring distinct scenery, towns and villages looking lived in, and so on.

However, the actual character animations, while definitely solid, do in fact look dated. I would expect these character models mid Gen 7, not fully invested in Gen 8 where we sit today. That doesn’t mean they look bad. However, I think quite a bit more could have been pulled from CryEngine to make the characters look at least close to as great as the rest of the game. The same can be said of the death animations, which, although really cool looking, lack quite a bit of variety and also carry that dated look.

All told though, this is still a stunning looking game that simply features some rough edges and at times palette bleeding. 8 out of 10.

Audio

The audio tracks in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 are all pretty top notch. The music was all pretty interesting, whether Russian rap, or seeming Georgian folk songs. They served as a nice backdrop to the game.

The ambient sounds were solid as well. Background noises and random NPC conversations really helped bring this world to life.

The voice acting was also quite solid. At times they were a little bit over the top, especially the interactions between Jon and Lydia, who often were sorting out their past relationship issues lol.

The battle tracks were top tier. Gunplay sounded spot on, explosions were as they should be, and even running around, climbing, and so on sounded realistic.

8 out of 10

Verdict

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a gem in the stealthy sniper-y sub genre where the Sniper Elites, Ghost Recons, and Ghost Warriors of the world reside. There is no better actual sniping mechanics in all of gaming (and I include MGS 5, the pinnacle of control mastery, in this assessment of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3’s mastery of this genre’s marquis gameplay aspect). The actual campaign was fairly engaging, characters reasonably approachable, and the world vibrant and lived in. It is very easy for me to recommend this game to pretty much anybody, despite its rough release, which is now a thing of the past. Even after you finish the campaign (which took me about 34 hours), there is easily another 10-15 hours of random stuff such as side quests, places of interests, bounties, and collectibles you can wrap up. The release day version featured the inclusion of the season pass which was a nice bonus, and the first DLC was available upon release. I will be playing and reviewing that separately.

8.3 bullets streaming through the air as you watch with heightened awareness and the slowing of time the perfect calibration of wind velocity and distance come to fruition in 8.3 stunning killing shots, out of 10 possible. The other 1.7…well, we have a short memory and forget where those went.