Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Beta Impressions – A Far Cry From Sniper Ghost Warrior 2, But Still A Ways To Go
I’m just going to be blunt and say it: Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 was a terrible game. I remember being incredibly disappointed by the game’s weak single player campaign. It was uninspired and featured dreadful enemy A.I. It was so bad; I remember dropping an enemy with a well-placed, long-distance headshot, only to notice that he had a comrade — that I had not seen — standing ten feet away who didn’t react in the slightest to his companion being gunned down. Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 wasn’t challenging, it was boring, and it had one of the worst online components I encountered last gen. As a big fan of sniping games — especially ones that treat the genre’s signature long-range combat as a difficult skill to master, forcing would-be marksmen to take bullet drop and wind trajectory into consideration before pulling the trigger — I was severely disappointed in CI Games failure to bring an exciting shooter experience to the market. With Rebellion’s Sniper Elite 2 offering a superior experience, and Sniper Elite 3 improving on it in every way earlier this generation, I didn’t think we’d ever see another Sniper Ghost Warrior game. But, lo and behold, CI Games is back with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and it promises to deliver an open-world experience full of intense missions, outposts for ransacking, and authentic sniper action. Fortunately, we were provided access to the beta currently running on Windows, meaning I could find out for myself if CI Games had learned from their past mistakes. Is the third time the charm?
First and foremost, we must keep in mind that Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (SGW3) is still two months away from release, and this beta is not indicative of the final product. I can confirm that after spending a few hours with SGW3, there are most certainly some optimization issues that need to be resolved before its release on April 4th. Our gaming PC here at Short Pause can run most titles at their highest settings and still maintain a steady 60 frames per second, if not more. Just recently, we ran the For Honor beta on Extreme settings and still hit well above 100 frames per second. With SGW3, we tried running the game on Very High settings at first, but the performance was severely lacking. We dropped it down to High, but even then, the frame rate very rarely hit anything close to 60 frames per second, ranging mostly from the mid-20s to the mid-40s. The area you can explore in the beta is full of dense forests, mountains, and large structures, which are more than likely taxing the engine used here by CI Games. In its current state, SGW3 is very much a beta, so we shouldn’t be surprised that there are some optimization issues that need to be ironed out before its release. All told, performance is certainly the most glaring issue with this beta.
Let’s touch on the visuals and audio for a moment. SGW3 takes place in the country Georgia and, as you can see from the screenshots included here, there’s plenty of dense forestry to maneuver through stealthily and hilltops you can use to overlook your objectives. It’s not a stunner in terms of looks, but there is enough detail (when it’s not popping in, there’s a lot of that) to keep it from looking generic. There is also a 24-hour day/night cycle that features nice lighting, especially during the night as the moon lights up the map through the trees creating an eerie ambiance. The foliage is lush and dense, which is great for hiding when you’ve got a group of enemies hot on your heels, and provides excellent cover when overlooking an enemy outpost.
When it comes to the actual game, SGW3 is a major departure from SGW2. This is now an open-world game akin to Far Cry, in so much that this could have easily been called Far Cry: Ghost Warrior. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Far Cry is a pretty successful series and there are far worse games to be inspired by. You play as an American Marine, Jonathan North, and if the writing early on is any indication, he will likely be an afterthought twenty minutes into the game. Which is ok, because I wasn’t expecting any form of deep narrative here; this has the look and feel of an 80’s action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The beta consists of two story missions that, when completed, reward you with in-game currency, as well as skill points to apply to three unique skill trees. There are outposts all over the map, filled with various types of hostiles to deal with, and “points of interest” that are worth investigating because many of them contain loot crates housing the resources needed to craft the various ammunition types (explosive rounds, tagging rounds), heath supplies, and other gadgets at your disposal. You can also purchase many of these necessities from a laptop inside of your safe house using the in-game currency you earn by completing missions and looting downed enemies. If you don’t want to wander the map by foot, that’s ok; there are fast travel points you can utilize and vehicles at your disposal to get where you need to be. I’m sure that, by now, you’re starting to see that the comparisons to Far Cry are apt.
In terms of gunplay, you can use weapons such as assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns for close encounters, but none of these feel any different or do anything better than any other shooter before it. The real fun, as it should in a game of this ilk, takes place when you’re aiming down your sniper scope at an unsuspecting sap who’s about to have a bad day. SGW3, much like the Sniper Elite franchise, takes pride in making you earn those long-range kills. Unlike Call of Duty, you must take several factors into consideration before pulling the trigger. When looking down your scope, there are several indicators to make note of: the distance to your target, the wind trajectory, and your breathing. You can adjust your scope to the target’s distance to help with bullet drop, and the wind indicator at the top of the screen will show you just how much the bullet’s trajectory will be affected between the time it leaves your barrel to when it reaches its destination. It’s not as simple as placing the crosshairs on the target and pulling the trigger, and that’s what I love about authentic sniping games. It takes practice, but it’s incredibly rewarding watching a bullet drop and bend in the wind, only to hit your target square between the eyes.
It’s abundantly clear after spending time with this beta that Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a markedly different type of game than Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 was, which is a step (or in this case, a huge leap!) in the right direction. However, CI Games still has a lot of work to do to get the game running optimally prior to launch. I’d say my other concern with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is whether it’s going to offer anything new to the genre to separate itself from other, more established open-world shooters. Far Cry is a great source of inspiration, but if someone wants to play a game like that, why not just play the more polished and more renowned Far Cry? The setting of SGW3 has the potential to offer up exciting combat scenarios thanks to the improved enemy A.I. that won’t stand by idly as their comrades’ heads are hollowed out one-by-one. While you have the option to use other forms of weaponry in the beta, this is still a sniping-focused game, and that’s where it offers up the most fun. I’ve become a pretty big fan of the Sniper Elite series over the years, but I’ll be keeping my sights on Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 when it launches in April.
Note: CI Games released a patch on Saturday afternoon that improved the frame rate considerably on Very High (max) settings, hovering between 70-90 frames-per-second. However, on Sunday when we tried to play more of the beta, performance had regressed back to the results noted above. Again, this is a beta so these types of issues should be expected.