As I crept up the mountain ridge on the outskirts of the enemy compound, I found an adequate position and crouched before a thick branch somewhat separated from its tree. Without a bipod on my Arctic Warfare 50 sniper rifle, I needed some kind of stability, and was able to use the ‘Supported Stance’ feature to rest the sniper rifle on that same almost-log and take aim. The target was 300 meters away, but by the time I adjusted the sights on the scope to account for the distance and wind speed, he made his way back inside the building and I lost visual. Five minutes had passed and he didn’t step back outside; I needed to infiltrate the compound.
Finding myself at the western side of the building, on the top floor, after navigating the compound, I reacquired a visual on the target who remained away from any windows. It would have been an easy mission accomplished if it wasn’t for a single rookie mistake; I was nailed by the security camera as I turned the corner–guards were on high alert and making their way to my position. I quickly used my Walther P99 to execute the target and heard the guards getting closer up the stairwell. Further into the room was a window that led to a balcony that could easily be descended to escape my pursuers. Several shots into the window…nothing happened; the standard, non-ballistic glass window of that rundown hotel simply did not break and I had no way out.
Defeated, I switched to my secondary rifle, a Remington R5 RGP, and prepared to follow the ‘Warrior’ play style. I stepped toward the threshold and opened fire at the guards making their way into the corridor. What I didn’t realize is that some guards arrived at the opposite end in some kind of unintentional flank, as flanking simply is not in the AI programming, and I fell to the ground dead. Literally seven minutes of a loading screen later, I was back in action and feeling remarkably frustrated.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is an experience that really feels like a rocky, unstable boat that leaves you wondering exactly when you’re going to topple over, and you’re just going to have to settle in and get used to it. It’s an experience that offers an appreciated amount of fun paired with an undesirable amount of frustration due to nothing more than poor optimization, thoughtless aspects, and strong ambition with poor execution. With that being said, it was incredibly hard for me to find any kind of replay value initially and most likely will not revisit the game until its largest issue is corrected.
You’ll notice immediately that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 suffers from remarkably tedious loading times and after awhile, you’ll begin to question why. Upon starting the game you’re treated to a rather beautiful song called Unappreciated Beauty sung by Aurelia Schrenker and composed by Mikolai Stroinski, though after hearing it about two and a half times on loop due to approximately seven minute loading screens, it grows into the bane of existence and every time you hear it, it’ll remind you of how many times you died of boredom waiting for the game to initialize. With games like Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which contain massive, living and detailed worlds, and load in under three minutes, it’s disturbing that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, which is indeed open-world, albeit a shockingly empty one, takes longer to load than it takes to make a sandwich, eat it, and wash the plate. Make no mistake, while the in-game imagining of Georgia (the country, not the state) is quite picturesque in context, there isn’t all that much going on in the background. There are no vehicles on the road, on-foot civilians are drastically minimal, and settlements are sparsely populated, all due to the threat of the Georgian Separatists that you’re tasked with destabilizing.
In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, you’re placed in the shoes of Marine Captain Jonathan North, who is sent to the Russian-Ukrainian border with his brother, tasked with destroying a stockpile of Soviet-era bio-weapons before they fall into the hands of terrorists. After completing their mission, Jon is knocked unconscious by a man named Vasilisk and his squad of special forces soldiers, and his brother, Robert, is captured. Two years later, Jon is sent to Georgia to destabilize a separatist cell, accepting the mission with the ulterior motive of locating his brother, as intelligence places him in the region. With the help of his Joint Special Operations Command handler, Frank Simms, his ex-girlfriend and Georgian Loyalist ex-special forces operative, Lydia, and Israeli Mossad agent, Raquel, Jon has the resources and the talent to see his missions, both official and personal, through to the end. Jon soon learns that the events in Georgia are being manipulated by an international conspiracy organization known as 23 Society and Jon must square off against their super soldiers armed with high-tech experimental firepower, led by a secretive and powerful soldier named Armazi.
The overall structure of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a fairly straightforward one. Your missions are available from Jon’s hideout and can be taken as desired, leaving the overall approach up to the player. As you progress through the campaign, side missions become available that allow you to unlock additional weapons and gadgets, as well as obtaining access to two other regions to explore. Exploration doesn’t lead to much, however, save for some points of interest, hostages to be rescued, as well as some hidden collectibles and bonus weapons to uncover. Jon’s hideout is an interactive location that allows him to access the marketplace to purchase weapons and attachments, gadgets, ammunition, and resources. You’re also able to craft your own ammunition and doing so will grant access to unique types unavailable for purchase such as luring bullets, harmless tagging rounds (allowing you to track enemies), and armor piercing rounds. You may also engage in light target practice and sleep, which will allow you to fast forward to day or night hours as desired.
In the field, there are a handful of methods of dispatching hostiles and completing objectives and each method can be intertwined with each other to create a unique play style according to the player’s desires. In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, there are three different styles to incorporate: Sniper, Ghost, and Warrior—fitting, right? Each of them have their own skill trees and by earning experience points in respective categories by executing any or all of those play styles, you can allocate skill points to unlocking abilities for Jon. There isn’t anything remarkably exciting, but most of them are indeed useful, like being able to carry more gadgets, extended battery life on the recon drone, making less noise while sprinting, tracking enemies through walls, and so on. You’re not expected to stick to any one particular play style, but you will find that some work better than others. With the Warrior play style, the combat isn’t inherently optimized in the way you’d think. You can’t stand around guns blazing, as Jon isn’t the most absorbant of bullet sponges, especially on the harder difficulty settings, which null and void the point of executing the Warrior play style and push you more toward the Sniper and Ghost styles. Enemies are not necessarily bullet sponges either and I’ve noticed that it only takes a few rounds to the chest to drop them dead, but headshots are naturally one-hit-kills.
One useful, but tedious feature is the recon drone. Jon can deploy a small, tactical drone to survey his surroundings while ducked in cover, allowing the player to mark enemies and recon the area for opportunities or points of interest. For example, using the recon drone will allow you to make note of structural weak points in compounds, identify CCTV cameras in key locations (as well as any control boxes to use the cameras and essentially make them yours, able to avoid detection going forward) and permanently mark enemies to keep track of them as they patrol their routes. However, marking enemies is not as simple as it sounds. In my experience, the drone will only automatically mark enemies if you’re within a certain range (sometimes close enough for them to actually see the drone, shoot it down, and go on alert) regardless of how far you’ve zoomed in. Just as well, the drone’s controls are rather wonky and handle as if the gadget is on some kind of synchronization delay. Jon is also able to mark enemies by simply aiming at them with any weapon, but it takes just as long as the drone, sometimes longer. A few times I’ve timed it and it took a full eight seconds for the enemy to be marked, even though I was aiming directly at him. Naturally, it’s a tedious activity that was not optimized properly during development and could really use a patch to correct.
Navigating the barren, open world of Georgia can be done on foot or in a vehicle. Jon has access to a truck that conveniently spawns outside of his hideouts and at fast travel points when using the system to quickly scale the map. It also inconveniently despawns when you’ve moved too far away from it on foot. I cannot tell you how many times I’d infiltrate an area, complete an objective, and then need to exfiltrate, only to discover that my truck had despawned and respawned back at Jon’s hideout in that region. It’s also of no help that the truck Jon uses is miraculously the only usable vehicle in the game, save for one side mission requiring the theft and delivery of a supply truck. You’ll find a small handful of vehicles littered about the map, both civilian and belonging to the enemy, but they’re all locked and unable to be used, and shooting the window does nothing, which should come as no surprise when you remember that I couldn’t even shoot out a balcony window to escape a on-route firing squad. As ambitious as Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is, the final product is remarkably sparse in several aspects leaving me to scratch my head in confusion.
While there is a lot that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 does wrong, there’s a small handful of things that it does well that almost makes up for its shortcomings; one of those things is the level of variety in Jon’s arsenal. With access to over ten different sniper rifles, several secondary weapons (assault rifles and shotguns), and a small handful of sidearms, there’s enough to switch between and get a different taste from once and awhile. You’ll also find a remarkable number of gadgets at your disposal ranging from decoys and throwing knives to C4 and Schrapnellmines (Bouncy Betty) allowing for varied tactics and styles of play. Every weapon is meticulously detailed and even my least favorites look very well designed, inticing me to use them just to have something pretty to look at. Even though I learned to prefer a VSSK Vychlop and a Walther P99, I found myself switching to other weapons once and awhile just to switch things up a bit.
Overall, while Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is plagued by a wealth of issues such as its record-breaking loading times in a modern experience, its frequently cringeworthy dialogue—which, in retrospect, could be attributed to the game being developed in Polish and translated into English—a lackluster and rather dull story, and its rough-around-the-edges optimization, it is still a remarkably fun game to play and held my attention for hours on end, even while testing my patience. Redemption could be easily attainable should CI Games release a patch to address some of the more major issues, but so far, only two patches have been released since launch—one for PC and one for Xbox One—and only the PC patch notes address a reduction in loading times, perhaps the largest of all issues. The two patch updates went live two weeks ago and there has been no word on a PS4 patch as of yet. While these issues are not inherently game-breaking, they do drastically take away from the enjoyment of the overall experience.
In a blog post late last month, CI Games CEO Marek Tymiński, released a statement: “Before we release any more content for the game, we have dedicated staff working diligently to further optimize Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 to ensure fewer issues with framerate and loading times. Only once we feel that proper headway has been made on the system performance, will we begin adding extras such as the much-requested multiplayer component.” We will update our review to include coverage on the multiplayer component if, and when, it goes live.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 in its launch state. The images contained in this review were provided by CI Games and are not representative of the final product, graphically.