There aren’t many games these days that focus on sniper-based gameplay (the only other game in the same category I saw this year was Sniper Elite 4), but CI Games' Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, which the company showed at PAX West earlier this month, is an exception. The third installment in the series will take you to Georgia (the country, not the state) in order to eliminate a growing separatist movement. The short demo I played at the annual show impressed me because of its sniping mechanics and stealth-based gameplay, but it's just the tip of the iceberg on what CI Games had to offer in this title.
The demo opened with me at the edge of the forest on top of a small ridge. In front of me was a large clearing that housed a railyard. My objective was to infiltrate the area and sabotage two fuel-filled train cars. The area was dotted with enemies. From my vantage point, it was difficult to see their positions, so I had to scout the area before I entered the trainyard.
I could look down the scope of my sniper rifle to try and see where each enemy was located, but there was an easier method available. As it turns out, I had a small drone at my disposal that I could fly over the area. Whenever it spotted an enemy, a small arrow appeared above their head to mark their position. I was also told that I could upgrade the drone with different traits as I progressed in the game, such as a silent running mode (so that it could get close to enemies). I could also install a module that allows it to hack electronic devices. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of those upgrades in the demo.
The flyby from the drone showed that my main problems were the two guard towers at the front of the facility. Each tower was manned by a single guard. Luckily for me, they were both in my line of sight, so I could take them out before I descended into the area.
This was where the game’s sniping mechanic showed its colors. Your stance (standing, crouching, or prone) dictates the amount of gun sway you’ll have when you aim down the sights. Obviously, the lower you are to ground, the less the gun moves while you aim. Once you’re looking into the scope, the game’s UI will show you wind speed and direction as well as the target’s distance. You’ll also need to calibrate the scope’s range distance. Overestimate the distance, and your bullet will fly way above your target's head; underestimate, and the bullet will drop faster than expected. You’ll need to take all of these variables into account before you take a deep breath and pull the trigger.
Compared to the Sniper Elite series, the aiming mechanic seemed slightly more advanced. In those games, all I had to do was hold my breath to get an indicator that showed where the bullet would end up. I would compensate so that my target was inside that indicator before I fired the rifle. In Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, however, I needed to do a bit more work to get the right shot.
With the two scout guards out of the way, I made my way towards the trainyard. In addition to my sniper rifle, I had a modified assault rifle and a silenced pistol just in case I had to deal with an emergency or engage in close quarters combat.
Because I previously marked each enemy with the drone, it was easy to avoid patrols altogether and sneak into the area. Still, I had to be careful; nearby guards could see or hear me if I was too close. Slow and steady wins the race, or in this case, completes the mission.
I crept inside a small building in order to get around a patrol. Inside, I found scavenged crafting materials, with which you can craft special bullets to go along with your regular set of ammo. These bullets can lure enemies, trigger explosions, or simply mark enemies for you.
Eventually, I found the target cars and set demolition charge on each one. After eliminating two more guards in my path, I managed to get to a safe distance and shot the trucks to complete the mission.
A Taste Of The Open World
Unlike its predecessors, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is open-world and spreads across three massive maps. Each map has multiple safe houses where you can modify multiple parts of your weapon or buy new guns and attachments. Missions are located all over the map, and prior to the start of each sortie, you have to prepare your gear. You can even sleep in your safe house so that you can start the mission at night or during the day, depending on the requirements. You’ll also have access to the Sniper, Ghost and Warrior skill trees (how original) that will provide you with new skills and abilities.
However, I barely saw these elements in the demo. Most of my time was focused on the trainyard mission, which was enjoyable, to be sure. I enjoyed the challenge of scouting, taking out the necessary guard, and then sneaking my way to the objective. Even the developers present were amazed that I was able to remain undetected for the entire mission. The developers should be lauded for the visuals; even in its early state, the entire environment looked beautiful, whether it was dry and sunny or dark and stormy. It obviously had something to do with the fact that the studio is using the CryEngine to power the game. PC specs aren’t out yet, but the use of Crytek’s custom engine will probably mean that you’ll need a powerful system to play the game.
All in all, the short demo was convincing enough for me. I could see myself spending countless hours with the game, as it scratched my itch for sniper and stealth gameplay. However, I wished that I could see more of the many elements that make it stand out from the competition. We’re bound see more of these features in the coming months, but for now, the demo will have to do. It definitely piqued my interest, and I can’t wait to see what the final product has in store.