Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts by CI Games is not for the impatient. Realism and video games don’t often go hand in hand, but CI Games has managed to create a game both amazingly detailed and incredibly frustrating. Great ideas and huge levels are marred by small technical glitches and almost impossible odds but for those players willing to stick it out, there’s a gem of a game hiding underneath.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts target audience. While I’ve played and enjoyed past Sniper games, I’ve never been one willing to take long periods of time planning how to effectively wipe a room clean of enemies without being noticed. I’m more a run and gun and see what happens type of person and, if anything, this game punishes you for this. Rightly so, as doing that completely negates the point of the game.
You are the Seeker, a highly skilled sniper contacted by a mysterious entity who calls himself only the Handler, who hires you to help prevent an all out war between Kurchatov – the newly elected Prime Minister of the Siberian Republic – and The Siberian Wolves – a secret group of militia aimed at taking down Kurchatov and his assets.
Throughout the game’s five lengthy missions you are tasked with executing one or multiple authority figures while also obtaining evidence, finding test results, saving prisoners, and destroying tech and equipment. Each mission allows you to choose your difficulty level, although even on the easiest mode you’ll still be downed in a few shots – enemies just won’t notice you as quickly or be able to find you as easily.
Your main arsenal consists of your sniper rifle, your secondary weapon, and your sidearm. Various gadgets can be obtained including med kits, grenades, traps, and drones while new weapons can be bought during the level select screen.
Your mask serves as your most useful asset, as an upgraded mask can auto tag enemies, show you weak spots, find hidden passages, and provide many other useful functions to help you complete your goals. While in mask mode you can zoom and highlight far off enemies using the dynamic reticule system, which will then tell you how far away a target is, allowing you to accurately set up your sniper rifle for the shot.
The sniper rifle is your main weapon and learning how to accurately use it should be your first goal. When aiming you must first take into consideration how far away your target is and then calibrate your rifle for that range. You must then pay attention to the wind, which is thankfully shown as a falling line on your reticule. The farther away the target, the more work that will go into accurately hitting them.
The work involved in getting the perfect shot is always satisfying when it hits correctly, especially when the camera follows the bullet the entire distance. An inaccurate shot could easily trigger the enemy, letting the entire area know that you are present and sometimes alerting them to your exact location. You do not want this to happen, as there aren’t just a few enemies, there are upwards of 100+ enemies per level and when they all come after you, even on the easiest mode, the odds begin to tilt toward impossible.
Upgrading your equipment, suit, and mask are musts as they can give you the edge in combat you need to sneak through an area without too much hassle. An upgraded drone can release small EMP blasts to take out turrets and cameras, while an upgraded suit will equip you with additional armor. Even still, your health will drain fast when caught. While there are med kits and adrenaline shots to help you, using them in the thick of battle is almost always sure to get your killed.
The levels are huge and detailed, with terrain varying from lush forests to snowy mountaintops. Each level can branch from a warehouse, to a large field, to an abandoned town, to a hill top fortress with each area, whether or not it has an effect on the level itself, being beautifully detailed. I often found myself taking a moment to take in the scenery before scouting out the route to my next objective.
These large levels are due in part to the multi-tiered challenges present. You may need to execute someone on one side of the map before finding hidden video tapes in a house on the other side. This variety helps keep the game from getting stale, although the massive amount of land to cover and sheer amount of enemies placed everywhere did slowly begin to wear on me. Thankfully, a fast travel system does exist and will usually put you relatively close to your next target and the map allows you to choose which objective you want and highlights the area in a red or blue box giving you a general idea of where to go.
After completing any of the multiple missions per level you can head to an uplink to send the recovered data to the Handler and save. The game does auto save from time to time, but I would not count on it auto saving after completing a particularly nasty encounter and would strongly recommend heading immediately to the extraction point to make sure your progress isn’t lost by something as silly as a badly timed jump or stumbling upon a group of enemies you weren’t prepared for.
Between levels there is a contracts and loadout screen. The Contracts tab shows available levels and the missions and challenges in that level. The Loadout tab offers two choices: Soldier and Development. Soldier focuses on your weapons, allowing you to purchase new items or switch out equipment while Development focuses on upgrading your mask, suit, support, and gadgets.
The Mask tab allows you to upgrade based on awareness, utility, and scouting. Awareness allows you to auto tag enemies, reveal traps and strategic points, disarm turrets and mines, etc. Utility adds more zoom, allows you to intercept radio communication, grants immunity to gas and flash weapons, increases your mask’s range, reveals sound sources and enemy snipers’ line of sight. Scouting offers thermal night vision, tag all enemies, highlight enemies, reveal all tagged enemies regardless of obstacles and reveal interactive objects regardless of obstacles.
The Suit tab offers upgrades in marksman, infiltrator, and soldier allowing you to improve your armor, upgrade your bullet carrying capacity and special weapons ammo, gain faster stamina regeneration, equip additional gadget slots and hold more items per each slot, become harder to see in various terrains, etc.
Support focuses on your Drone and Turret and their various upgrades including silencers and EMP blasts.
Gadget focuses on Meds, Knife, and Deployable. Meds covers med-kits and adrenaline shots and allows for faster use and more of each item to be held. Knife allows you to auto loot after a kill and chain kills, while deployable helps with anti tank mines, warning devices, etc.
There are no boss fights to speak of, and the main targets are usually just as easy to take down – if not easier – than the regular enemies. I enjoyed this realistic aspect, as it allows the game to differentiate itself from what players tend to expect. While there are multitudes of guards blocking your path to a target, once you find them they rarely put up a fight.
I do want to warn players that I encountered multiple glitches, although none were game breaking. I found myself stuck on various objects multiple times and had to keep spinning and switching weapons before finally nudging my character far enough to escape. Downed enemies will disappear after a certain amount of time or after leaving the game and coming back, which made me miss out on obtaining a key needed to complete a level and had me spending tons of times scouring the map for another key – thankfully a well placed grenade solved the problem but I was minutes away from restarting a level due to a locked gate. I also encountered a weird glitch where enemies were completely in the open but my shots were unable to reach them as if a wall was there. One level in particular was bad about this and it became even more frustrating when the enemy could hit me, but I could not hit the enemy despite having a clear line of site.
Five levels may not seem like a lot, and indeed, if you are really good at these types of games it may not take you long to complete. I spent about 10 hours with Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, two or so hours per level and enjoyed the time I spent with the game. I’ll admit at first I was frustrated, especially in the incredibly dark opening level, but as my abilities grew and I better understood the tools at my disposal I found myself getting into a groove which I thoroughly enjoyed. Pity that the game ended so soon after I finally figured out what I was doing.
Still, fans of previous Sniper entries should be pleased with this outing and its far more realistic approach. Those who have patience and would like a break from the run and gun of Call of Duty and similar games should also not hesitate to give this one a try. Be patient and you’ll find a game worthy of your time.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and Windows with an MSRP of $39.99. A copy was given to Fan Fest News by CI Games for the purpose of this review.