Set in a futuristic Serbian landscape, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts takes the traditional stealth format and flips it on its head, and getting up close and personal was never in our mind when we were traversing the world. Having the restraint to take your time, sit back and only take the shot when you know it will be a killing blow is crucial in ensuring you pull off these contracts with the utmost precision and finesse.
The rather minimalist and easily forgettable prologue shines a light on why you have been contracted to assassinate the many targets throughout the game - 25 of them spread out across five large sandbox maps will mean you spend plenty of time choosing your shots with care. Starting out with a mandatory tutorial, taking place in a desolate region where no-one will question some sniper training, an introduction to the new high-tech mask you've been given will show off some of the earlier gadgets in the game (it also gives you the ability to spot targets). An array of close combat and longer-range weapons are also on show here allowing you to get a taste for how the gunplay, realistic bullet drop, and wind direction all play a massive part and will have to be taken into account with every bullet fired.
Gunplay is easily one of the best features in Sniper Ghost Warrior; it makes a change having a professional sniper struggle to operate their own weapon and gone are the times where every shot is going to find its target. Making sure you take every factor into consideration before pulling the trigger is key; scouting ahead with the binocular feature or using a drone to survey the area; adjusting the scope to zero in on the right distance; holding your breath; adjusting for wind direction; pulling the trigger. These actions are necessary with each shot of the gun meaning you can't get away with just running in with guns blazing. A wide variety of weapons and ammo allow for many different approaches at each mission, and we had a lot of fun playing around with explosive bullets and blowing up our targets when replaying missions. Different variations of snipers can be unlocked throughout the game and each has there own benefits and drawbacks, so choose wisely when picking your arsenal for each fight.
As previously stated, Ghost Warrior features 25 contracts across the five large sandbox maps. These contracts vary from assassinating a high-value target, retrieving information, destroying research, and more. Killing a target from long range can be very satisfying to pull off, and there's a 'bullet cam' feature that adds in an extra level of gore and head explosions.
The reasoning behind these contracts can easily get lost, however, and the freedom of exploration that these large maps allow hinders the already lacking story. We found ourselves just killing whatever got in our way rather than actually paying attention to why we were killing these enemies. After each contract is completed you will have to escape to an evac point, which will then allow the information recorded from the high-tech mask to be uploaded to Handler (the anonymous figure assigning you these contracts) - this can be very tedious, having to backtrack through a base can take quite some time to do and not being able to fast travel with the information can lead to walking across half the map just so you can start the next contract.
Another thing that Ghost Warrior does well is the map design. Whilst the game is not the prettiest out there, its world creation is beautiful. Exploring one of these maps, the snow fortress, in particular, we found that everything had some sort of purpose for being there; the large hills, erupted earth, built structures and everything else feels necessary in this world. Sneaking up the side of a cliff face to steal a vantage point from a rival sniper or crouching through some tall grass to gain cover whilst still having the enemies in sight - there is a whole variety of different approaches to take and discover throughout each map, and you'll explore mansions found deep in the forests, secret bases hidden in the mountainside, and a harbour full of transport ships and other large constructs.
Sniper Ghost Warrior is not, however, without a few setbacks that for us stop it being a great game. As we mentioned earlier, after finishing missions having to rewalk the landscape for extraction can be very tedious and feels like a waste of time; being able to send the information as long as there were no threats within range would have sped up the game a little. Also, the animations used for the bullet cam feature, although fun at first, lacked variety and eventually began to feel very repetitive (and we found some of them to feel nauseating). This feature can be turned off but we felt it appropriate to mention.
Another standout flaw was the climbing mechanic, which felt very dated and sluggish. For example, when climbing down the side of a cliff face we were forced to jump off at the bottom rather than dropping down, and this again slowed the whole pace of the game and felt like it could have easily been avoided. Lastly, the other big thing that we felt was lacking severely and held it back is the very forgettable story and characters within; we felt as if we were just going in and assassinating people for no reason other than the fact we are being paid to.
Overall, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is fun, the gunplay is enjoyable, and if you're looking for a challenging sniper game with no real story and large sandbox maps to explore then this will satisfy that itch. The roughly 12 hours it took to complete the main contracts is relatively short but with a large number of subchallenges to complete, there is definitely a reason to go back and repeat the missions.
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