- a successful implementation of contracts;
- interesting ideas for diversifying gameplay during elimination of the main objectives;
- excellent level design that accommodates both snipers and stealth enthusiasts;
- some environments look really good;
- quite a few extra tasks for those who enjoy more challenge.
- poor shooting mechanics;
- the story backdrop is bland;
- autosave problems sometimes forcing you to repeat the mission;
- a lot of minor and major technical problems with the AI, sound, and stuttering animation.
The third installment of Sniper: Ghost Warrior experienced a toxic flirt with the Far Cry franchise. The attempt to imitate the idol ended rather badly. The developers promised to do their homework, and so the latest part of their series, Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts, turned to another famous series – Hitman – for inspiration with some shy reminiscence of Sniper Elite. And while it's a bit of a pity that such a graceful theme, and a bonanza of ideas, that a military sniper character is didn't get an original formula, it's hard to deny that an amalgam of solutions from other games (similar to Jedi: Fallen Order) did work out this time, and Contracts plays pretty well.
The creators didn't go for the atmosphere of Clint Eastwood's Sniper. The new hero is more like an uncharismatic blend of Agent 47 and Carl Fairburne, i.e. an assassin and a spy who basically has to steal something from an enemy base, and the sniper rifle is only there to facilitate reaching the goal. The story background is really weak, and the only respite here stems from the fact that it's equally frugal as in the new Hitmans. At the time, this game offers probably the best gameplay we've seen in the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series, and we should be probably happy it's not the other way around. However, the game traditionally comes short of full success – there's no shortage of glitches and the low budget is clearly visible.
Agent 47 and Carl Fairburne walk into a bar…
If you're willing, however, to turn a blind eye on some of these shortcomings, you will likely get an overall pleasant experience in return. Instead of freedom in the open world and a storyline, we have a copy of the contracts known from Hitman. Of course, all the quests are tied together with some storyline, but the subsequent contracts are only remotely connected, so you don't have to bother following it closely. The protagonist seems more like an undernourished hacker who's recording a YouTube remake of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, than a professional marksman. In any case, he is hired by a guerrilla group operating in Siberia, which became an independent state after an uprising against Russia – the bold move didn't turn out very well, however, since power is still held by a corrupt bunch of rich businessmen.
THE MASK OF CONVENIENCE
What's the connection with Stanley Kubrick's stunning Eyes Wide Shut? The main character of the game wears a mask and a black hood, which I found evocative of Tom Cruise's character in that film. The mask is used as a basic gadget that justifies the super-abilities of our character, such as automatic highlighting of foot prints, interactive objects, or thermal imaging. Its main function, however, is the binocular mode, and the marking of the distance to targets.
And it's exactly those businessmen that we will have to eliminate, while also collecting evidence on their evil machinations, such as a basket full of toys for genetically modified children. In general, the story as a whole is a collection of hackneyed motifs from B-class action cinema. However, once you really get into completing the particular contracts as if you were playing Hitman, this game actually becomes engaging. Especially since the developers have managed to diversify the experience with things such as introducing the target's lookalike, or time constraints. I wish there were more scripted surprises, even if that would increase the risk of failing a mission.
Still, this game takes a step in the right direction, and I hope that these ideas will be further developed, because overall, Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts has the potential for new maps and episodes – exactly like the latest iterations of the games about Agent 47, which is a comparison you cannot escape with a subtitle like that. We even have a male counterpart of Diana Burnwood, who gives us briefings and guides us through the missions in a very similar way as Diana. Another thing imported from Hitman are the introductory video clips before missions – the editing is great, and the stylistics are coherent.
Sniper on contract, a ghost during after hours
The entire premise is very familiar – a paid assassin gets contracts for targets. Each of the five maps offers a few basic missions to complete in any order, as well as lots of side quests and challenges for those who like things a bit more difficult. We can try to penetrate an enemy base, which can be achieved with numerous hidden paths or corridors, or just "shoot" your way to the target from a remote location and enter a virtually empty object. In any case, raising an alarm is not recommended, since the opponents have overwhelming firepower, which makes the game a pure-blood "sniper stealth" in the style of Sniper Elite.
And no matter how satisfying the infiltration process can be, the mainstay of the game is, of course, "sniping." Methodically shooting opponents one by one so the rest doesn't notice actually makes for quite a riveting experience and is simply a lot of fun. Before the mission, we choose the right rifle and accessories. As usual, we can rely on simplified mechanics of ballistics, with the need to make adjustments for wind and distance. The game, as usual, abuses the killcam, showing in slow-motion how the enemies are torn apart with the player's precise shots. All would be great, if not for one thing – the shooting mechanics feel flimsy, completely insubstantial.
Powerful sniper rifles give almost no recoil, except for some swing of the sight, and when fired, they behave like a camera welded to the ground. The exaggerated ragdoll mechanics and underwhelming audio design don't help, too. Things are a little better with the recoil of assault rifles, which is mildly surprising in a game called "Sniper."
I also found it odd how the camouflage looks more like abstract wallpapers of questionable artistic value than actual military patterns. In general, clearing locations from enemies is better fun than shooting as such, since the budget constraints of the new Sniper really become apparent once we pull the virtual trigger.
MULTI IN DECEMBER
The game has no microtransactions, but there are as many as four types of currency, some of which we acquire only for completing challenges, completing side quests, or finding collectables. If you want to unlock everything the game offers, you'll also have to complete the most difficult, and hidden challenges. We can use the extra currency to expand the capabilities of our hero and his equipment in three main categories, as well as to purchase new weapons and equipment.
While character development seems perfectly reasonable, and we unlock mostly useful abilities, there's too many gadgets – again, the creators give us stuff that's unnecessary, since there are no defensive missions, in which we'd have to set up ambushes, for example. Maybe this will change and some of this equipment will become necessary when the multiplayer is introduced in December.