Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 - Locked and Loading...and Loading...and Loading | A Short Pause Review
I don’t know how CI Games managed to miss the mark yet again. I don’t know if there was a cross-wind that caused the bullet to sail wide right of its target. Maybe they miscalculated the distance to their intended destination which is why they fell short of a bullseye. What I do know is this: The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series has always been the weaker counterpart to the Sniper Elite franchise and, sadly, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 doesn’t do much to close the gap. While there are some promising changes to the series’ formula implemented in this installment, they are ultimately overshadowed by a plethora of technical issues that become more prominent the longer you play, and a story that starts off reasonably well before giving way to ludicrous plot developments and a very underwhelming, anticlimactic, and abrupt ending.
Tale of the Tape
Title: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Developer: Ci Games
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 “Campaign Beta” back in January before the game was delayed another month to shore up a host of technical issues that plagued the PC version. Despite those issues, the core gameplay mechanics were sound and sniping felt very good. When it comes to PC gaming, there are so many variables that can cause substandard performance, so I was relieved when we were informed we’d be reviewing Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 on console – in this case, PlayStation 4 – because we’d hopefully get a more optimized experience. Boy oh boy, were we in for a big surprise.
I want to point out that I remained cautiously optimistic about this game following the beta because, despite the technical issues, there were some interesting changes to the franchise’s formula. CI Games was clearly inspired by the Far Cry series for this latest installment, because many of the tropes from that franchise have found their way into Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. Open world? Check! Resource management and crafting? Yup! An upgrade tree that requires skill points which are earned by killing enemies, clearing outposts, and completing side operations? It’s in there! There are dozens of points of interests and hidden areas littered throughout each region, so there’s no shortage of things to do in the dangerous country of Georgia. The problem with all of the features listed above is that they’re all relatively shallow. There was never a time where I felt it was necessary to make a conscious effort to gather the necessary resources for crafting because I always had enough currency on hand to buy the gadgets, weapons, or ammo that I needed. The skill trees — while appreciated — never left me feeling like a bad-ass as I continued to unlock them. There were even times I completely forgot about the skill tree, only to check and see I had a ton of points stockpiled, and this is while playing on the “Hard” difficulty. Clearing out outposts also didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect on the region. It was simply go in, kill everyone, and go about your business. I appreciate CI Games trying something new with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, but there just wasn’t enough depth to these additions.
The story — much like everything else above — has potential, but only during the first hour or two. You play as Jon North, a bad-ass marine captain and the protagonist of the title. As the story begins, you’re treated to an opening cut-scene that shows Jon and his brother, Robert, as kids bonding out in the woods before Jon prepares to ship off to Afghanistan for active duty. The two share a special moment as Jon entrusts young Robert with the responsibility of being the man of the house in his absence. Skip ahead a few years, Robert has now joined the armed forces as well and both of them are on a mission to infiltrate a suspicious research facility deep in the jungles of Georgia. Before they can escape with intel, they walk into an ambush that ends with Robert being taken away as a prisoner and Jon knocked out unconscious. From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the hell is going on. The plot is full of absurd twists and forgettable characters that culminates in one of the strangest, lamest endings I’ve seen in quite some time. It feels like the writers got bored at the end of Act 2 and just started making stuff up on the fly, without much thought, so they could wrap up production. Thankfully, the main story missions do a good job keeping things fresh and preventing the feeling of repetition. Obviously, there are the tried-and-true missions where you must kill a primary target, but there are other objectives types that switch up the proceedings, such as the ones that require you to download data from within a heavily fortified compound or rescue VIPs without raising an alarm. On the strategy side of things, using your drone to mark hostiles allows you to plan the best course of action. You can also use the drone to locate secret entrances into the facilities, such as sewage pipes, for those of you that prefer stealthy infiltration over the guns blazing approach.
Now that we’ve gotten the “good” stuff out of the way, we need to have a serious talk about the loading times in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. To be blunt, they are fucking ridiculous. Every time you start up the game, or any time you travel between any of the three regions that make up the game’s setting, you’re looking at about a five-minute wait. Every. Single. Time. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. I can understand if it’s the first time you’re loading into the title or one of the game’s regions, but this was a consistent issue throughout my 12-hour play through. This is simply unacceptable, and how this made it past QA is baffling. It is worth noting that, since launch, CI Games has acknowledged the issue and said they are working on an update that will hopefully alleviate the long load times. As of this writing, however, they are still a thing and they are incredibly annoying.
If the load times don’t drive you nuts, don’t worry, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 also features freezes, crashes, and my personal favorite, failure to render any enemies! While carrying out one of the 16 side-ops, I was tasked with providing cover for a small fire team infiltrating an enemy stronghold. I was perched up on a cliff, high above, while they were across the way from my location. As they moved through the complex, they reached a point where they asked me to eliminate an enemy overlooking their path from a balcony. There was an indicator on the screen showing where the enemy was supposed to be, but when I’d scope in on the marker, there was nobody there. I even tried firing a round at the marker, but nothing happened. I decided to move around to a different location, but the mission failed because I had left the designated sniping position. I loaded the last checkpoint, but once again, the target wasn’t there. I kept running around my small area of operation to get closer to no avail. Then, after leaving the area again and loading back in, he magically appeared…15 minutes later. This also happened during a few of the game’s “Points of Interest,” a mission type that tasks you with killing a small group of enemies holding civilian prisoners. I’d kill the small team of rebels, and the game would tell me that I could free the prisoners, but when I tried to it wouldn’t let me. The game continued to note that not all the threats had been eliminated. Huh? I ran around looking for them, checked surrounding hills for snipers, but alas, no enemies. Sorry prisoners, I guess you’re screwed.
The biggest issue I encountered in the PC beta was major frame-rate issues, but thankfully (shockingly?), there isn’t any of that while playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro, which runs at a pretty consistent 30FPS. Visually speaking, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 won’t wow anybody — even in the most vibrantly colored areas — but the HDR lighting does add some pop to the image, especially during the day time. Sound is spacious, and the ambience throughout the different regions adds to the presentation nicely. Voice acting, on the other hand, ranges from mediocre to downright awful, which makes the convoluted story that much worse. And lastly, we can’t forget to address multiplayer; well, it’s not ready yet. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 will have a multiplayer component patched in at some point, but we’re not entirely sure when. Let’s just hope they address these current issues before adding anything multiplayer.
I really wanted to like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 considering how CI Games made the bold choice to change the series formula up completely in an attempt move the franchise forward and away from its awful predecessor. Early on, the story hinted at a tale much deeper than any Sniper Ghost Warrior game deserves, but it ultimately loses focus about halfway through and ends up nosediving in the final act. While the sniping mechanics are solid and the mission variety is admirable, the technical issues are a distraction, to the point where you may not even be able to finish a mission. With games like Sniper Elite 4 out there, as well as the much better Far Cry games that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 models itself after, it’s hard to recommend a game where the only memorable thing about it are its horrific load times.
Special thanks to the fine folks at Terminals by Evolve PR for providing a PlayStation 4 digital copy of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 for this review
- Sniping mechanics are well done
- Nice variety of story missions
- Lots of side quests and most wanted targets
- Technical issues
- Final act is incredibly lame
- Epic load times
- Multiplayer MIA at launch