The Sniper franchise from City Interactive (CI) is now in its second decade and fifth instalment with the launch of Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts. 2017’s Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 made inroads in the genre of open-world shooters and for its efforts received some of the most positive feedback the franchise has seen, so CI naturally chose to make Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts a linear mission-based game … with some open-world elements. It’s time to bring your best sniper rifle to Siberia and form some acute strategies to execute contracts and take out key targets in the new war between an oppressive Russia and a revolting Siberia.
The game starts in an all too familiar way, with Hitman and Splinter Cell vibes. Your codename is ‘Seeker’, and the person providing contracts is simply called ‘Handler’. Using an advanced helmet, you are provided real-time updates on your contracts and instant feedback from Handler as you progress through each mission. It’s all a bit basic with a story that’s been done many times before, but where Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts differs from other franchises is its in-depth focus on sniper rifles (surprise!) and other weaponry & gadgets. From the get-go, you’re shown what kinds of weapons and upgrade you’ll be able to unlock as you progress through the game, and there’s also a handy tutorial that teaches you what all the different types of ammunition are best used for.
Sniping is clearly the game’s main feature, and it’s obvious that CI have spent plenty of time getting bullet trajectories right, as well as each of the rifles and scopes having a unique feel. An untrained sniper can quickly get the skills required to adjust their scope for the range and then calm their breath and take wind into account using the helpful guides displayed on your HUD. At first it can be quite difficult to get kills more than 150 meters away, particularly because the enemies even in the first mission are wearing armour that require two shots to kill unless you hit them in the head. The bullet camera is of course included in this Sniper Ghost Warrior game, and certainly adds a fun element to otherwise serious gameplay. You can also fully adjust in the settings how often you want it to proc.
Your mask, suit, support and gadgets are where you will find the game’s talent trees which are each split up into three different categories, e.g. your suit has Marksman, Infiltrator and Soldier trees. If you want to do well in the game, particularly on the harder difficulties, unlocking some of the amazing futuristic perks in the talent trees is essential. Most of the perks only require money to unlock, however some of the best ones require you to have completed certain parts of the game or killed a certain number of targets. It’s definitely worthwhile taking a good look at all of the gadgets and support available to unlock, as there may be some that will drastically affect your gameplay allowing you to complete more of the challenges and contracts.
One of the first major drawbacks of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is its checkpoint system. There’s no manual saving which given the semi-open-world of each mission location, it’s never clear when you’ll reach a checkpoint aside from completing objectives. This makes it hard to know when your progress will be saved, and when you can maybe take some extra risks as the consequences of dying won’t be quite as harsh. The second drawback is that for a sniping game we found ourselves in close-quarters combat all too often, with AI that also seemed unsure as to why they were there. It only takes a couple of missed sniper shots for a rain of bullets to start heading your way. If you don’t immediately run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, the AI actively hunts you down and all too often easily finds you lying prone in shrubs. If you approach a base only to find there are still some occupants inside, they often run around awkwardly, shooting at you almost from the hip as they use next to no close-quarter cover tactics and instead simply charge at you.
Each mission has several contracts, challenges, bounties, and collectibles to complete, and getting 100% on a mission will test your skill and patience. The replayability aspect of each mission is another reason that we liken this game to Hitman. Each time you play a mission again, you’ll have new weapons, gadgets, and better perks to take on some of the tougher challenges and contracts. With 25 different contracts spread across the five missions or ‘levels’ as the game calls them, there’s a lot of variety, however many of the kills require you to do more than just snipe from afar, bringing the unpolished close-quarters combat into play once again.
The animations and textures of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts once again let the overall product down. It’s disappointing that CI has put so much effort into the story and gameplay elements only to have things like close-quarters AI, lack of any character animation that makes you feel like you’re actually in the world, and worst of all the muddy textures that look like they belong in the previous generation, let alone at the end of this one. With no 4K support on Xbox One X, we really struggled with the visuals of this game compared to the other shooters we’ve been playing recently. Explosions and even blood spray from kills looked dull, and nowhere near the level of AAA shooters of 2019 like Call of Duty Modern Warfare or The Division 2. Perhaps the console versions of the game could have launched later when CI had more time with the CRYENGINE to make it look more late-gen, or not at all. Perhaps it’s CryEngine V that needs some work, or an overhaul.
We have mixed feelings about Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, and it’s quite evident which platform is the superior one to play it on, which remarkably is also the cheaper option at just $40 on Steam. While the game has a great arsenal and fun bullet trajectory mechanics, the sniping never really felt like it lasted long enough before alarms sounded, and enemies began to swarm. Once you’ve unlocked a lot of the perks you can become an ultimate silenced assassin, but by then the story is mostly complete so unless you’re a completionist you’re not going to fully appreciate everything this game has to offer. Combining that with the substandard graphics and lack of any real character animation, we found it tough to muster up three stars for Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, but there’s clear potential with the current format and we’re looking forward to seeing if CI continues in this direction.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts on an Xbox One X console in 4K. The game is also available on Windows PC and PlayStation 4. For more information, head to the official website.
- Open-world bonds well with linear objectives in a restrictive but also sandbox style - Lots of weapons, gadgets and skills to unlock.
- Graphics - A.I.