Games where you absolutely have to remain in the shadows can be a bit tedious at times. The very nature of these video games requires the player character to be a fragile glass canon – a character who dies in one or two hits but packs a powerful punch. As a result, all stealth aspects of such a game must work together in beautiful harmony. In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, this is largely the case with a few hiccups here and there.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is the fifth instalment in the long-running Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise. The game, which deviates from the usual naming scheme, brings several changes – some of which work incredibly well, and others that simply fall flat without so much of a bang. In review, I go over exactly what it is that makes and breaks the game – all at the same time.
A whole lot’a shootin
Its name notwithstanding, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts can be considered a short game when compared to its older siblings. The game starts out with a flashy prologue mission where it is explained, in overly dramatic detail, how killing (in this context) is okay. You learn all about the weirdly convenient intricacies of oil giants, international espionage, and just enough about politics to keep you from yawning through the explanations.
The story is largely inconsequential. All of your objectives are linked by the thinnest of threads as the game pushes you forward to new targets (of which there are 25 to take out). In essence, you are a hitman hired to kill targets for money because of spies and oil. Honestly, you do not need to know more than that.
In many ways, this is perhaps the biggest issue with the game. It simply fails to keep you engaged in a plot that makes sense. Its very nature draws heavily from Hitman (2016) and its sequel Hitman 2 (2018). Specifically in terms of how the story is conveyed to and the way missions are set up. It is no secret that I adore the Hitman games dearly (the contracts given and the huge sandbox settings are filled with wonder as you keep finding new and creative ways to get the job done). In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, however, there are no exploding rubber ducks, laser-accurate pen darts, or falling boat paddles you can tamper with to kill your target. There is only the mercenary sniper hired to kill their target – you – and your weapon.
One target, two target, shoot
The best thing about the franchise has always been its steadfast gameplay. For the most part, this remains the case. Sniper Ghost Warrior veterans will be right at home with Contracts. Gameplay remains largely untouched, but there are a few key upgrades that show face every now and again.
The biggest draw of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, is how it incorporates incredible espionage and stealth gameplay into an open world setting while also keeping the one thing it did best (sniping) from becoming boring. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, on the other hand, takes another page out of Hitman’s book. The game throws you into one of five ridiculously large maps and tasks you with taking out your target. While this is not technically an issue, the size of the maps often gets in the way. Requiring the use of fast travel spots to get around. Levels have almost no restrictions either. Unfortunately, they are often so empty of enemy contact that it becomes a chore to slog through meters of snow, just to get up to a tower or some building worthy enough of being a vantage point.
Sometimes traversing levels can take hours, as you explore and sneak through hundreds of meters of concrete facilities, forested areas, or even arid wastes. Enemy placement in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is weird as well. Although levels are free of restrictions, enemy contact remains spotty. While this is the case most of the time, you will sometimes find yourself in a pretty deep pickle. This is because enemy units will randomly decide to show face for no particular reason. Not because an alarm has been tripped or a body discovered. They will either be there, or they will not. The spawn rates appear to be random, and either completely missing or overbearing. There is no middle ground.
Fortunately, exploring and traversing the stages can be fun in the few cases where enemies are dotted around the map in cool positions. In these scenarios, it can be to your benefit to get down and dirty. It may be a sniping game, but getting in close to the enemy and sharing the same square meter does get the adrenaline pumping in a way I did not expect from this franchise. Thankfully, you can take opponents down easily enough from close range, and most maps feature both enclosed spaces and tight corridors, as well as vast open plains where a single building or tower (when chosen correctly) will act as a good enough vantage point to snipe, anyone, anywhere.
Developer CI Games made sure not to overlap its 25 contracts too much over the five maps that come standard with the game. However, every so often, the game will not just task you with taking one of your targets, but also with retrieving something from their corpse. All contracts can be approached in many ways, but I found that getting as close as possible to said targets will usually result in the best and quickest ways out. The only issue there is how enemy forces become stronger and more abundant the closer you get to your target. This is even worse if you have two targets to take out at once.
In addition to figuring out how to take a target out, you also have to keep an exit strategy in mind. Once documents or Intel have been retrieved from the bodies of targets, the focus is then put on getting out and ex-filtrating. However, escape can only be done in a safe location, and far away from the action. This means that you must backtrack, a lot, and must be familiar with each and every map as you pass through it and avoid enemy contact. Fast travelling is also disabled in scenarios where you are transporting Intel, so be prepared to have a nice, long, slow and steady walk to your exit.
Another neat feature brought back from previous games are the cool-looking gadgets you can take advantage of. The idea is to spend the money you make on contracts to unlock powerful new weapons and upgrades for your tactical suit, visor, and gadgets. Upgrades include being able to spot traversal objects, enemy traps, improved binoculars, and a lot of things that go boom (grenades, C4 explosives, mines, and more). A particular favourite is a remote-controller sniper turret, which can fire at enemies at your command. This one is especially useful if you have two targets to take out at once. There is also a drone, which can be utilised to tag enemies and scout ahead.
Hootin’ tootin’, good lookin’
There is no denying that Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is a triple-A title, meant for modern systems. Flying the drone, in particular, helps to showcase the huge maps on offer. There is also a certain beauty to how the sun and weather, combined with stellar animations, can make the farther reaches of any map look great, even when not looking through an 8x scope.
While the game is by no means “authentic” in its geographical representation (there are a lot of “gamey” elements that keep you from being immersed), it is easy to get lost in how shiny everything is looks. From the snow-covered mountain tops and shrubbery to the dark and musty forests surrounding military camps – every model, texture, and animation is polished and made for modern systems. CI Games did an incredible job with this one, showcasing just how much they have learned from their previous ventures – looking at you, Lords of the Fallen and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3.
A good sign of things to come
While it is optimised exceptionally well, and the locales all look incredible, I will admit I wanted more from Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts. If a game is going to pull from the likes of Hitman, I would like it to not just take one or two aspects, but to fully commit. Give me the best of both worlds, not just a tease into what could have been. With that said, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts does what it needs to – and it does so very well. Sniping feels great, and actually hitting the target after you have accounted for wind, falloff distance, temperature, and more, is a very satisfying feeling – one that only Sniper Elite V2 has been able to replicate in the past. Moreover, gadgets are nice to have, and some of them are genuinely useful.
Despite its flaws, the game offers a solid experience made to be enjoyed by anyone – whether you are a Call of Duty connoisseur, or a Splinter Cell veteran. A lot of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contract’s appeal comes from how it has such a diverse set of locales to explore and people to shoot. This forces you to adapt your playstyle to whatever is thrown at you. The game is good, and if this is a sign of things to come, I think that a future Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 might be the one to look out for.
PS: Please just shorten the name to something that rolls off the tongue. Leave out the “warrior” bit, if you must!
|Time Played||15 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review code courtesy of CI Games|