STAFF REVIEW of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts (Xbox One)

Sunday, December 8, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts Box art There are few first-person shooter games that prioritize stealth, adaptation and military tactics. For the most part, it's the same methodology that we've experienced for decades. Spawn in, run around, kill people, die, respawn and repeat. This formula is literally the foundation of a lot of games, but what if there was a game that challenged that status quo? CI Games tries to tackle that very notion with their latest installment of their Sniper Ghost Warrior games, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts. Let's take a look through our scope and see just what this latest release is all about. Stay focused Seeker.

The last word of that title should already tell us a few things. First off, this really isn't a sequel to Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and the word Contracts indicate multiple options/targets. In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts (SGWC) you play the role of a Seeker. One who is contracted out for a variety of specific tasks and paid accordingly by your boss, The Handler. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts takes place after Siberia went to war for independence against Russia, and in typical fashion, once the war was over, the corrupt took over, which is where you come in. The game is split into 5 massive sandbox areas, and while you may be sitting there and think, "only 5 areas?", what you would be missing is the fact that the size of these areas permits you to actively pursue multiple targets however you wish. To do that, you'll need some gear.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts offers up a few pieces of kit. You have throwable items such as throwing knives, frag grenades, EMP grenades, flashbangs, etc. and you have items that you can plant such as warning detectors (you plant them and when an enemy gets near, they're tagged and you're alerted) and mines (which can also be used in a gas form to target enemies and is very useful for patrolling enemy pairs). However, there are two items that will become invaluable to you; your drone and your remote sniper turret. Yup, in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts you can outfit and even upgrade a sniper turret that can take out multiple enemies with a few button presses.

This turret can make small groups of enemies drop in moments and will become crucial to some strategy, but we're not done yet. There are still two more pieces of gear that are essential; your mask and your rock. Your mask is used by pressing 'LB' and acts as what you would use as your heads up display, as it allows you to see traps, highlight enemies, auto tag enemies, and when you upgrade it, even follow footprints of enemies to see where they went. Your last bit of kit I want to touch on is your rock. This tool will help you guide enemies to locations you want to use as a kill spot or steer them away from your location. Moving from cover to cover and utilizing a rock, you can gain access to even the hardest fortified areas without firing a shot. And speaking of shooting...

You're going to do a lot of it, but you need to learn the mechanics of the game in order to be successful. First, let's talk about your scope. There are multiple scopes for purchase, so I strongly suggest checking out the distance measurements as well as the magnification range. The more of each, the more detailed a shot you can get. Now that your scope is selected, you need to focus on what rifle you wish to use. Naturally you can expect a trade-off between power and noise suppression, and another trade-off between handling and preferred range. While some rifles are tailored for incredible range, I find that only a few times will I be engaging targets from over 400+ meters out, so based off how you play, this should be something to consider.

With all this gear and weaponry, you may think you're an incredible shot, but unless you practice the mechanics of shooting, all your gear means nothing. Let's say, for example, you have an enemy that is far away. You break out your binoculars or drone and tag the enemy and notice that the icon above his head reads 335m. Now you switch to your sniper rifle and take aim. You can manually adjust the zoom on the higher end scopes, so let's say you take the magnification up to 10x. Now you need to adjust the distance markers on your scope with the D-Pad until the number on the right of your scope reads 300.

You'll notice that the first tan line underneath 300 is either 325 or 400 depending on the scope, but let's say that it's 325 for this example. So, you make one final adjustment on your distance and cue up 325, and while you're doing this, you notice a dotted white line appearing intermittently about an inch from the center of the scope. This is the path of the bullet when it will be at the target, after factors such as elevation, distance and wind are factored in. Now, since your target is at 335 and your scope is dialed in to 325, you put the head of the target a little bit below the sights and line it up with the dotted line. Next, we hold our breath and pull the trigger. The 'bullet cam' doesn't always activate, so even if it doesn't load, you can still get an enemy kill.

All of this is important if you wish to take on your contracts which is what the bulk of this game is about. Each sandbox area carries with it at least 5 contracts. These contracts range from assassinating targets, retrieving items and even freeing prisoners. Within these sandbox levels also come with various challenges such as get 10 double kills, 2 kills with 1 sniper bullet, blow up 5 enemies, gas 3 enemies and so on. Each challenge will also pay you for your performance, so if you're looking to score some extra cash, this is the way to go. Also included in these levels are rival snipers (hey you thought you were the only big gun in town?) who are after you as well. If that weren't enough, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts also pack in a few bounties as well.

Just to do a quick recap, in one area you have your contracts, challenges, bounties and rivals. Completing all of this will seem incredibly daunting at first, but after a while you'll get the hang of it and how you need to go about planning your mission. Each one of these areas is prefaced with a video that goes into a generalized overview of your mission's contracts only. This lengthy introduction movie is also followed by a rather lengthy loading screen. Ultimately you will find some rather long load times when you play this game, however, should you have to reload a checkpoint the loading time is remarkably quick.

Now you're probably thinking that this game is incredible, and if it wasn't for the glitches and faults of the game, you would be right. For starters, the game has three difficulty modes. One of them I'm calling Blind mode, another I'm calling Normal mode and another I'm calling cheating overly sensitive mode. In their easiest mode, the field of view is relatively narrow and limited and takes a long time to 'dial in' on your position. This is thanks to a simple outline on the bottom right of the screen showing your character. Solid white means you're open and exposed. Solid black means you're hidden. This basic visual principle even applies to standing, so you can literally stand next to an enemy and have them not detect you as long as your character at the bottom right is solid black.

In normal mode, the field of view widens and the detection happens more rapidly. In cheating overly sensitive mode, every enemy becomes an omnipotent being of all knowledge that will be able to pick you off of a mountain edge at 400m with an assault rifle should you fart while crawling. This mode is what I like to call, comfort with restarting checkpoints mode and it's quite simple; either you kill your target with your first shot, or your position is then relayed to every enemy within the sandbox and they all descend upon you at once.

There are other issues as well that pertain to trying to navigate the levels themselves. Quite often I found myself getting stuck on invisible objects, or what I found to be the worst, instant running. I should point out that this happened quite often. I would take out some perimeter troops no problem, but then I would walk in a crouch position to eliminate sound (there's an upgrade where movement of any kind is silent). I would work my way to a point where I was just outside the target area and I wanted to do one last recon. Still crouched, I find some cover and send out my drone. I scan the area and realize that there's an enemy about 10m to my left. He's my target. Then, I go out of my drone and load up my rifle to see if there are any stragglers that I can pick off for engaging. With the coast clear I turn to go after my enemy that was just 10m away, but then it happens. Instant running.

Now, for whatever reason, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts thinks that I want to sprint as fast as I can to the target, so my character literally starts running towards the enemy. I was crouched but as soon as I started moving, my character it was instant running. Well of course the enemy heard that, turned towards me and opened fire. This caused me to restart my checkpoint and became a real pain in the ***. However, when you talk overpowered glitches, the enemy AI takes the cake hands down.

Let's say you're 800m away from your target and on top of a hill looking down at an industrial complex. You start tagging enemies and notice that there are some enemy turrets stationed throughout the place. They don't detect you as you're too far away; remember that fact. They... Don't... Detect... You. So you load a round into your rifle and shoot the turret that's oh say 750m away. Instantly, the turret starts locking in on your location and can see you with pinpoint accuracy. Just to quickly recap, these turrets go from not being able to see you at all to having the accuracy of Robin Hood in the form of an automatic gun turret, leaving me wondering"What the hell?". So now this turret is locking in on your position and you try to find cover, but in doing so you get stuck, because apparently the Sniper's feet get stuck on ledges? This stops all movement and also allows for the turret to lock in on your position and start firing. Now your cover is blown and it's time to start looking at restarting the checkpoint.

Other traversal issues arise as well. There were missions where I had to traverse side to side across ledges that I was hanging on. The problem with this is that the game doesn't allow your character to 'jump' to the next ledge at all. Instead you almost have to turn your field of view totally to the side to 'activate' the jump feature, and then you're jumping literally to the side and not to the ledge. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there IS fall damage. A LOT of fall damage. You may be a lot of things, but a sure-footed mountain goat that doesn't get hurt from a drop of 20 feet isn't one of them.

Another glitch comes from having a computer system that doesn't apply the same rules to the AI enemies as they do to you. Case in point, being in Siberia, the water you find there is obviously going to be freezing cold and you suffer tremendous damage should you have to swim in it for any period of time. That is, of course, unless you happen to be an enemy. There was a level where I was observing enemy positions on a dock where some boats were kept. I missed a shot and that sent the enemies into cover. Well, one of the enemies ended up taking cover behind a floating crate in the water. He was completely submerged in this water that damages me if I touch it, but yet he can camp there unscathed without any repercussions. This happened a few more times in the area and it became annoying because I was unable to try and interrogate them or even loot their bodies after I shot them in the water. However, I tried to loot their bodies thinking that there was some glitch in that area that I could do it and not get damaged; I was wrong.

Even though Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts has its share of faults and is far from perfect, it still has its moments of beauty. The sandbox levels feel unique and offer a variety of terrain styles to navigate through, the lighting effects are done well and the game offers a lot of various options for how you want to actually pursue the contracts. When you get down into the details though of the items in the game, you get the sense that this could use some more time in the oven to cook as it feels a bit unpolished at times, especially when observing the military vehicles.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts offers a lot in a surprisingly small package, however, with all the glitches and errors, there is just some guilty pleasure I get when I drop a sniper from 500m+. With a lackluster story mode that means relatively nothing, some graphics that are good but not great, an army of glitches at its disposal and no bullet X-Ray kill cam, this game is far from perfect, and at $40 maybe even a bit overpriced. When you think of all the content you get for that price however, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts just may be on your radar.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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