Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PS4
Previewed On: PC
Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Previewing a beta build for a game is always a tricky prospect because naturally it’s going to have bugs and problems, and it can be tough to tell how many of those are going to get fixed before launch. In this case, though, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is going to be arriving on April, a mere two months in which to fix a game that is quite frankly a mess in its current stage. More importantly not amount of bug fixing is going to turn it into a great game.
That might sound like a harsh thing to say so early into a preview, but I believe it to be true. On paper Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is hugely appealing to me, despite having never played the previous two games, neither of which set the world ablaze with stunning review scores yet clearly still sold enough to warrant a third entry. An open world with an emphasis on long-range sniping. Sounds pretty awesome to me.
In practice, there’s a very Far Cry 4 vibe to the entire experience, from the way vehicles handle to the style of world you’re dumped in. The beta provides access to a very small slice of the open world so its hard to get a handle on whether there’s going to be anything to actually do outside of missions and a few areas marked with question marks, and so I’ve already found myself wondering if the developers haven’t just fallen for the falsehood that having an open world automatically makes a game better. Truthfully much of the time I’d rather just have some well-designed levels since so many games don’t benefit much from their open worlds, the resources required to build a vast empty playground being better spent on crafting truly memorable areas. Thus far the beta doesn’t inspire much confidence that CI have created a world worth exploring, potentially putting in the same category as Metal Gear Solid V’s beautiful but ultimately boring landscape.
The two missions available presumably come from reasonably early in the game as they are quite simple, but provide enough room to get to grips with the game’s mechanics. The first sees you simply eliminating a target occupying a building while the second has you infiltrating a base in order to adjust some satellites, which showcases not just the sniping but the stealth mechanics, too.
Let’s start with the sniping first since that’s where the game’s strength lies. You can’t just lie down some 500M away, put the crosshairs above an enemies head and pull the trigger to send a bullet to the brain via Rifle Courier System Ltd. This isn’t Call of Duty, son! No, instead you need to note the distance to the target as displayed in your scope and then zero in. Next you’ll also need to consider the strength of the wind, again indicated on the scope, and adjust your aim to compensate. Finally, take a breath in and pull the trigger. It’s not difficult or hugely realistic sniping, but still feels so much more satisfying than in other games where you don’t have to even think about bullet drop or what the wind is up to. Nailing a perfect headshot on a moving enemy while you’re hundreds of meters away lying on a rock outcrop in the pouring rain is the exact moment Ghost Warrior 3 feels right.
In case you can’t get enough of that whole x-ray vision and enemy tagging thing that seems to be in very game these days there’s a Scout Mode which automatically highlights enemies. Foes also get tagged if you look at them through the scope and there’s even a deployable, controllable drone that will also tag enemy soldiers.
While it’s fun to sit back and snipe everything from a distance there’s going to be times when you fancy trying to stealth, at which point things begin to fall apart. Even while snipping the controls feel sluggish and heavy, but it becomes more noticeable when sneaking around or needing to quickly pull off a close-range headshot. It simply doesn’t feel good, and neither do the rest of the weapons. In fact, for a game that often feels so much like Far Cry 4 it’s almost an insult to say that Far Cry 4 does the whole sneaking, takedowns and outpost assaults far better.
A bigger problem is arguably the A.I., who are actually more just like A. It can often feel like artificial intelligence has been forgotten about by developers these days, but that fact is even more apparent here. These soldiers are barely the mental equivalents of bricks, so hopeless are they at providing a challenge. They’ll merrily come one at a time up a cliffside in order to get shot, repeat the same few lines over and over when searching for you and generally just prove to be as challenging to face as a paper bag. Other issues with them include the entire base being alerted at by magic and how they are able to instantly pinpoint your location after a missed show. Now yes, experienced soldiers could certain guesstimate a shot’s direction if it hits a nearby object, but in Ghost Warrior they can instantly deliver a barrage of fire to your distant location. On the flipside there are times where you can stand beside or in front of them and they won’t have a clue.
I did at least quite like the amount of climbing you can do to reach high spots, even if it’s hard to determine what surfaces can be clambered up without using the scout mode.
General performance at this point is simply atrocious with huge framerate drops to be found everywhere. Perhaps even strange was that while using a mouse and keyboard turning would result in the framerate dipping so low that the game would essentially appear to freeze for a moment before the camera would suddenly zip around. However, using a controller stopped this problem. Weird. Driving also reduced the framerate to a horrible stutter. Basically right now the game is nowhere near a fit state to be released and with so little time before it hits shelves I have serious concerns as to whether the developers can get it running reasonably in time.
That’s not to mention the amount of bugs that currently plague just about every aspect of the game. In just four hours I had run into problems with my character having every currently available weapon strapped to him despite me not taking them, ammo failing to show up, enemy snipers appearing on camera when using a drone but not when aiming down a scope, enemies reappearing when loading checkpoints, being seen through solid objects, climbable surfaces being near-impossible to see without using scout vision and a host more.
I’ve been very negative throughout this quick preview, so let me say this: from what I played, assuming the developers do manage to get everything polished in time, Ghost Warrior 3 has the potential to be a reasonable game that might make a niche audience happy. It may even be good. But it’s also very, very standard stuff. Nothing in it stands out with the exception of the sniping. There’s an open world that seems a bit pointless, crappy A.I. and dull stealth, all of which serve to make it feel like a weaker Far Cry 4. Still, I hope they surprise me, I really do. They have some interesting competition with Sniper Elite 4 arriving in the next week, and like always I want to see developers succeed in making amazing games. They don’t have long to get everything sorted out, though. It’s a tall order.