With Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts CI Games have taken a leaf out of Hitman’s playbook abandoning the open-world of the last game in favour of a series of well-realised environments.
As fun as past Sniper: Ghost Warrior games are, finely polished works, they are not. Fortunately, CI have pulled out the stops with Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts to give us a game that can stand head-and-shoulders with similar contemporary first-person-shooters.
The visuals are a huge improvement from previous games the maps, models and lighting all look great. The environments look very realistic with tall grass and foliage not only looking great, as it sways in the wind, but also providing some great cover.
Whilst the plot, explained via jump-cut visuals narrated by your very English accented handler, makes little sense, it does point you in the right direction for lots of long-distance shooting. It’s all, apparently, going down in Siberia with dodgy deals, genetic manipulation and a prime minister about to fire missiles at China. Each and every one of the bad guys responsible, of course, deserving a bullet to the cranium.
The game, like the others in the series, uses Crytek’s CryEngine. But with your sniper, now equipped with a high-tech mask and a special, impact-absorbent suit, the series seems to have taken a sci-fi turn, not unlike Crytek’s own Crysis games. As useful as mask mode sensor-vision and being able to drop down from heights is, I’d soon the game kept to being a bit more grounded.
The sniper, called Seeker by his handler, is equipped with a sniper rifle, assault rifle and a handgun. The handgun is very useful when there’s a risk of getting up-close and personal for some close quarters combat. The use of the assault rifle usually means that things have gone south and likely to get a lot worse.
Your choice of weapon very much influences your game. High powered rifles will, generally, take down an enemy with one shot to the head or chest, but are loud and will alert the enemy to your location. This means that you need to identify all your targets and fire in quick succession before relocating. Stick around once discovered and you’ll end up in a rain of mortar fire. A well-suppressed, low powered rifle will need headshots for a one-shot kill, but with careful shooting, you can clear the field without alerting anyone.
Weapons are customisable in a similar way as in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint’s Gunsmith. Players can upgrade them with better sights and optics, extended magazines, suppressors and even a camouflage paintjob.
Each contract has a number of main objectives, required to complete the assignment. After each objective is complete, players get the opportunity to head to an exfiltration point to upload the details, effectively saving the game. There are also challenges and collectables that earn extra cash and special challenge tokens.
The game maps are wonderfully detailed, packed full of places to explore and high points from which to take out enemies. The game gives player plenty of options and ways to take out targets. No two playthroughs are going to be the same.
The environments range from snowy tundra to lush woodland. There are five contract maps in total, plus a training area. The maps are quite big and but some do have fast travel points to minimise back tracking.
Dotted around the maps are ammo caches to replenish supplies and swap out weapons. Looting corpses can also yield ammo and cash. A sniper with no bullets in not a lot of good.
As a sniper, you really need to find a spot high and a good distance from your targets. Using binoculars, targets can be highlighted and their distance determined. From the sniper scope, the crosshairs can be adjusted to take into consideration bullet-drop. There’s a visual cue to show the horizontal offset required for wind adjustments as well.
Some areas have jammers that stop the Seeker from targeting enemies. Shooting a panel on the base of the rotating jammer will put it out of action.
Be careful to avoid mines in the minefields. Using the Seeker’s mask mode, you can spot mines to avoid them, or shoot them to set off, for a less stealthy approach. You can also examine footprints and follow them through the mines.
Whilst most targets are just common grunts, there are heavies to contend with and crafty fellow snipers. CCTV camera can also alert guard of your position as will getting caught in a searchlight. Remote sentry guns are also in play to be avoided or destroyed.
If the enemy does discover you; they will start to flank you. Snipers are deadly if they have line-of-sight, as are sentry guns. It’s best to keep moving and wait until things have calmed down rather than double-down, going in like Rambo.
Certain areas trigger optional bounty targets that can also be dispatched. It’s not just a case of popping open a head for long distance, proof of the kill needs to then be obtained from the corpse. This then turns the tables making the player the hunted party until they get clear of the bounty area. There are extra points to be had if you manage to take out the rival sniper before they get you.
Successful hits and optional challenges award money and challenge tokens that can be traded for upgraded weapons and equipment. Cashing in challenge tokens, players can purchase very special kit like drones.
There are a few autosave areas around the map, but they are few and far between. You have to be careful, if you’ve not found one else you end up right back where you started.
The game has three difficulty settings. The lowest setting is ridiculously easy with the middle setting offering a moderate challenge and the highest difficulty being pretty hard.
Whilst not as gruesome as Sniper Elite’s X-ray bullet cam, Contracts’ slow-motion headshot cam comes a good second showing heads bursting like melons and brain-chunks going everywhere. It’s not pretty. Once the shock value has worn off, you’ll probably find yourselves switching down the frequency of these gory slo-mo shots in order to get on with proceedings.
The game does a good job of introducing the mechanics to players, but as I progressed there were a few times when I had no idea where I was supposed to be going. I’m not sure if it was a glitch, but there were no indications on the map either. It was only when, by chance, I passed a trigger point that my handler gave me some guidance.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts may not be everybody’s cup of tea. The large map and crafty enemies require a strategic approach- running and gunning will not do. Players with the patience to wait for opportunities to take out targets from a safe distance and enjoy stealth gameplay mechanics will have a lot of fun. With plenty of challenges and optional activities the game has loads of replay value.