To be a sniper is to be an individual with immeasurable patience, to be a ghost implies a sense of restlessness, and to be a warrior one must exude great bravery. Often times we expect all of these to be the qualities of the protagonists we inhabit within video-game worlds, but in the case of developer CI Games’s latest, it’s the player’s courage and tolerance that are put to the test. Much like the jumbled mess of nouns that is the game’s title, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 often feels like a haphazardly thrown together batch of ideas—some pretty good, most not so much—which will test the player’s resolve as the game desperately tries to grasp the “AAA” moniker, only to be left clutching onto a disjointed and disappointing adventure.
The game’s narrative begins with a basic premise and through its entirety makes absolutely no effort to surprise, delight, or even engage us. The majority of the campaign takes place within the country of Georgia, and players—who are put into the boots of American Marine Jon North—are tasked with the duty of putting down an insurgent group of separatist cells that are causing all sorts of trouble for civilians and the local government. During the game’s prologue, we learn that Jon’s brother, a fellow marine, has been taken hostage by an unknown enemy, which means that our protagonist is more than happy to accept the assignment in Georgia when he hears that his brother has been sighted in the area. Unfortunately, every aspect of this plot is so by-the-book that most players will see each twist coming from a mile away. But on top of that, the only revelatory moments come in the form of situations that play out even more disappointingly than expected.
Ghost Warrior 3 is at its finest when it has players perched at a great distance from targets, making you compensate for wind velocity, bullet drop, and elevation as you release projectiles which seemingly bend through the air before penetrating the cranium of an unsuspecting enemy. Jon has access to several neat tools throughout the game’s campaign, none more useful than his trusty drone. Using it to scout ahead makes locating valued assets and pinpointing enemy positions easy, and allows players to plan their approach, adding a tactical sense to the proceedings. Stealth isn’t only an option, but a priority in most scenarios, and as such understanding your surroundings is key. Those looking to truly embrace the “ghost” part of the game’s title will have to think ahead, considering the basics like enemy patrol routes and the more complex like factoring in where your bullet is going to go—and how much noise it’s going to make—after it passes through a skull.
It’s surprising, though, that only a couple of the missions throughout the eight-to-10-hour campaign truly utilize the size of the game’s maps, and even fewer make use of environmental effects like rain, which means scenarios where you truly feel like an elite sniper are few and far between. The game features an abundance of gadgets and weaponry, but most are superfluous and only serve to create an overly complex and needlessly cluttered UI and menu system. Features like the truly uninspired and virtually useless skill tree could have been omitted entirely, which would have allowed more attention to be paid to the presently lackluster graphics, unresponsive controls, or the egregiously long load times and crashes that plague the experience. Rather than buckling down and refining their stronger ideas, CI Games cluttered the experience with a bunch of surplus, resulting in a game that has no standout features, and thus no truly memorable or genuinely impressive traits.
Ghost Warrior 3 has been touted as an open-world game, but aside from some snowy areas, pretty much all the environments are identical in appearance—and filled to the brim with near-pointless and repetitive side objectives. One quick glance at the mini-map and you’d think you were playing a Ubisoft title, and worse yet is the reward for clearing most of the optional quests: pointless currency which the main quest line already gives more than enough of. While having a large open area inherently gives one more options when tackling an objective, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. CI Games should have taken notes from Sniper Elite 4: Creating large zones is great, as long as they’re diverse and fun to navigate. Getting in your car and driving 1,000 meters past the same monotonous scenery time and time again equates to a waste of space rather than a thoughtfully designed world.