Nailing your target in the head from 250 meters away and dropping them without anyone else seeing or hearing a thing is a most satisfying experience in a video game. However, that is not the case in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. I’ve played through the game’s recent PC beta, and came back from the Georgian wilderness with a few scrapes and bruises.
The Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 beta drops you in a rather small part of the game’s version of Georgia. After a very brief tutorial on your safe house, where you can change your loadout, craft items and sleep to change the time of day, you are given a choice between two missions: Cut Off and Blockout.
In Blockout, you are tasked with assassinating the war criminal Ivan Krustchev. He is hiding out in an abandoned apartment complex, with another abandoned building located right beside it, which is conveniently much less guarded. Cut Off sends you into an enemy installation in order to reposition three satellite dishes. Each mission is very open-ended. You can find a vantage point and clear the enemy from afar using a sniper rifle, sneak in and avoid most enemy soldiers, or try and go in guns blazing and die within a few seconds. These play styles are where the game gets its name, by the way: Sniper, Ghost and Warrior, respectively.
The sniping in SGW 3 is probably one of the most realistic depiction of the craft in a video game ever. Finding a suitable point from which to fire is only the first, and easiest part. Next, you need to spot your target, recalibrate your scope to make up for the distance, take the wind into account, and aim for the head. All this information is presented to you in an easy to understand manner, and if you learn to take all variables into account before you pull the trigger, you’ll score headshot after headshot right from the start. Sadly, I didn’t find too many reasons to pull out my sniper rifle during the beta. I used it maybe five times throughout my entire playthrough, twice of which were just because I felt I should use it more; it is a game about sniping after all.
The reason I didn’t find a lot of use for my rifle was because stealth was so easy. I practically waltzed into the enemy satellite compound in Cut Off, and just kept away from enemies all together. It was easy to know where they were thanks to the newest (and coolest) toy in this sniper’s arsenal – the aerial drone. Although it was cumbersome to control (I had to really lower the mouse sensitivity in order to stop it from doing a complete 180 turn with every movement of the mouse), the drone is very useful in almost every situation. You can use it to make a quick pass over the area, and tag any visible enemies. Most of the time it tagged enemies I didn’t even realize were there. Once tagged, an enemy permanently appears on your mini-map, so they are really easy to avoid or take down silently.
Other than that, the stealth is pretty basic – stay low and out of enemy sight. Enemies can spot you rather quickly if you are in their direct line of sight, but unless they are looking straight at you, they’ll ignore you completely. For example, the rooms where you need to reprogram the satellite dishes are occupied by scientists who will run and call a guard if they spot you. However, I was able to walk in, interacted with a computer for a few long seconds, and just walk out without them ever noticing me. Not because I’m a master of stealth, but because they never turned around. I did that three times. Another example of the AI’s incompetence is when I climbed the roof of the apartment building in Blockout, and started walking around, looking for an optional objective I wanted to complete. Only after I ran across the entire roof, jumping over railings and what not, I realized I wasn’t alone; there was a sniper in one of the corners, utterly oblivious to my presence. I grabbed him and interrogated him for the location of my assassination target, which just so happened to be a room with an open window right across from me.
Those, however, are two examples to when I stuck to the Ghost and Sniper play styles. Once I tried to go Warrior, I discovered that either modern shooters have made me soft, or that SGW 3 wasn’t built as a shooter at all. Clumsy and sluggish controls made using a gadget or healing mid-combat almost impossible, not to mention the fact that I usually died so quickly I never even had a chance to consider using them at all. You can’t run-and-gun in this game, which is fine, but you also can’t take on more than 2 bad guys at a time. Again, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I do feel like Warrior isn’t a very viable play style.
One other gameplay element that really bothers me is the first-person platforming. I don’t like climbing, jumping and balancing in first-person. Something about a face-full of wall doesn’t quite do it for me. There’s quite a bit of climbing in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, which makes sense as you do need to get to high areas to do all that sniping, but it’s really frustrating and annoying to try and see where to climb next when you can’t look around freely. You can use the game’s version of Focus to highlight climbable ledges, which is lucky as they are virtually distinguishable from any other ledge.
When playing a beta, I tend to ignore any technical problem I encounter that doesn’t render the game completely unplayable. “The game is still unfinished” I tell myself, and I just keep on playing. However, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 crashed so many times during my short playthrough, it basically ruined the whole experience for me. The game also stutters quite a bit, which is weird since it isn’t all that pretty to look at. I tried various settings, but none seem to affect the game’s performance at all. Before you ask – yes, my PC greatly exceeded the recommended system requirements. Again – it just might be a severe case of the beta jitters.
Needless to say, I was not impressed with the Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 beta. Between the bland gameplay and the technical difficulties, I did not have a good time in the Georgian wilderness. Some of the problems can be attributed to the fact that this is still a beta, but others run deep in the game’s gameplay, from sniping to the combat to the enemy AI. I was quite looking forward to playing SGW 3, as all the gameplay videos I saw so far made it look like a solid stealth and sniping game. However, now I’m not so sure about it. We’ll have to see how the full version of the game holds up when Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 launches on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on April 4.