Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts Preview: Aiming To Be The Ultimate Sniping Game
It seems weird to me that after about 20 years of military shooters, so few of them really focus on sniping. Plenty of movies have highlighted snipers as lethal and heroic soldiers, but very few game franchises go through the effort — with one of those few staples being Sniper Ghost Warrior. While Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was a major departure for the franchise by expanding things into an open-world setting, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts scales things back to a mission-based format once again.In Contracts, out on November 22 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, you’ll complete 25 different jobs spread across five sprawling maps that act as mid-sized self-contained sandboxes. The preview build I played only had two missions available, so it’s hard to get a feel for how things will wind up at launch, but it seemed to strike a good balance between open-ended levels where you forge your own path alongside more traditional targeted, specific objectives. So it’s less about being let loose in a massive open world and figuring out where to go and what to do and more about tracking and eliminating targets on the other end of dense bases and battlefields.After completing the training ground to get the hang of marking targets with my binoculars and accounting for wind and bullet drop when lining up shots, I dove into the missions. The first one was at a harbor and was a great mix of stealthy sniping and mid-range firefights. Luckily you’re not screwed entirely if you get detected because you can always try to find new cover or just roll up guns blazing with other weapons to take out enemies. Missions aren’t automatically failed just because you miss a shot or get detected. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts might have “ghost” in the title, but it’s not really a classic stealth game — it’s much more focused on tactical sniping combat. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important to level expectations. You will creep around in the shadows, but detection is far from the end of the world.
For the first time in the series, Contracts also features a bloody dismemberment system. Since many of your rifles are extremely high-caliber it often only takes a single shot to kill an enemy. This means you should be ready to watch skulls erupting in explosions of blood, legs breaking, and arms flying off with well-placed shots. To some degree it feels a bit comical and unrealistic when you see an entire leg fly off the edge of a cliff, given the rest of the game’s tone, but it certainly is satisfying.The second mission was on a series of big, icy glaciers and features more long-distance engagements with enemies patrolling around structures. What really stuck out to me here is just how bad the AI seemed. I could blow someone’s brains out or even miss a shot entirely without really alerting any of the other soldiers in the area. At one point I completely obliterated a guy’s leg and sent his limp body flying right past another soldier and he didn’t even bat an eye. Other times a rival sniper perched on a tower 500m away will spot me, while I’m in cover, and kill me before I have a chance to line up a shot of my own.
CI Games has billed Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts as the “ultimate, realistic sniping experience” and there are certainly elements that adhere to that principle, despite the poor AI I experienced or the sometimes silly enemy deaths. For example, many of your shots will be long-range and require paying careful attention to not only the wind velocity and direction, but your trajectory for bullet drop and how many meters away targets are. Lining up the perfect shot requires patience and careful aiming. I often found myself involuntarily holding my own breath right alongside the main character when taking a shot. They’re really tense moments, and I’ve never played a game, except maybe PUBG, that made me feel like both a badass and math genius for calculating bullet drop distance correctly in a pinch.Another aspect that’s faithfully recreated, as far as I know regarding life as a sniper, is the tedium. Camping out waiting for enemies to walk by in the right spot or rewatching the same two or three slow-motion bullet camera animations certainly can get old. That’s not to say that Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is necessarily a boring game, as long as you like sniping, but it does perhaps help explain why there aren’t many great sniping games. The fact of the matter is that it’s just hard to make them consistently fun for long stretches of time.
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