Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is an upcoming open-world tactical shooter with a heavy focus on player choice. Its going to be up to you to decide how you'll complete each mission, whether this be through pure stealth, over-the-top aggression, a couple dozen well-placed sniper shots, or some sort of combination of those.
I've recently had the chance to play the beta which contained two missions and a small chunk of the open-world, so if you're wondering whether Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is even worth your attention, allow me to give you my thoughts on the gameplay shown so far. Naturally, since this is a beta we're talking about, its highly likely that some of the bugs and issues will be fixed by the time Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 launches, so do keep that in mind as we move forward.
I hope you like suicide missions, because you're going to be infiltrating places like this
Once I got through the fairly boring tutorial I instantly realized that Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is going to be a game after my own heart. Not only does it give you the ability to purchase and customize weapons, but it also requires you to spend some of your hard-earned money on ammo and gadgets you will need in order to make missions actually possible. In the beta I pretty much had infinite money so none of this really mattered, but the amount of cash I got through the missions themselves was by no means enough to support a wasteful playstyle.
While some people might consider this annoying, I genuinely love games that require you to prepare before a big mission. As such, before you even leave your hideout you're going to have to ask yourself: do I need armor piercing rounds or will normal bullets be enough, will I require a drone in order to scout a wide-open area or am I going to spend most of my time indoors, am I planning to pack some grenades in case things go loud or will I just wing it, and the list goes on. The more options you have the easier the mission will be, but the more peripherals you buy the less money you will have for armor and new weaponry, so striking a nice balance is hopefully going to be an important factor. My only fear is that halfway through the campaign you'll have all of the weapons you need, so special ammo and gadgets will no longer be as scarce, but that is a worry for another day.
You can bring plenty of stuff with you, but do you really need all of it?
As you might imagine from a game with "sniper" in its name, the various weapons you can buy are all satisfying to use. I've personally stuck with the default sniper, though I did upgrade an AK-47 with a better scope and a proper silencer, and throughout my four-hour playthrough I was never disappointed with either weapon. It did take me a little while to get used to the sniper rifle, however, as unlike most other games its not purely a "point & click" adventure. You need to account for both elevation and wind speed when taking your shot, but don't worry, its nowhere near as complicated as it sounds. While it doesn't drastically increase the skill required in order to snipe far-away enemies, it does make rushed shots fairly difficult, so you better make sure your opponents don't see you while you're still fiddling with your scope!
If they do spot you, however, you're going to have to prepare for a proper gunfight because the guards in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 are practically clairvoyant. The moment one of them gets a clear view of you the whole encampment will slowly start encroaching towards you, and if you haven't cleaned out the area beforehand this can quickly get out of control. Even though the AI isn't amazing by any stretch (it tends to stay in the open for far too long) it will still try to flank you from multiple directions at once, which does give it the edge it needs to be an actual threat. I've only played on the default difficulty, and even though you can take quite a few bullets before dying, any sort of combined fire is enough to ruin your day within seconds. The same applies to your enemies as it only takes a single bullet to the head to bring them down, but even so I wouldn't recommend taking on entire armies without a trick up your sleeve.
Sniping is all about location, location, location
Instead of going berserk and hoping the enemy is employing stormtroopers, its much smarter to first scout out the area, stealthily take out key targets, and then go on with whatever plan you had in mind. In order to do this efficiently Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 gives you the ability to deploy an adorable little drone you can fly around. Its use is pretty much entirely dedicated to scouting, much to my disappointed since I was planning to stick a cannon on it, but once you start getting to some of the more open-ended sections it becomes obvious why. There are simply far too many areas the enemies can and will hide in, so if you don't do reconnaissance before jumping in you're going to swiftly find yourself riddled with more holes than a fine piece of cheese.
This becomes glaringly obvious during the first mission that sends you to a rundown building complex with three or four snipers hiding on the various rooftops. If you don't figure out their location and take them down before advancing in your movement is going to be extremely restricted as any open space can be a potential death trap. I'm perfectly fine with the concept, but in the beta version these snipers are a bit too hard to avoid through pure stealth. They should be able to easily see you when you're walking in the middle of nowhere, but when you're sneaking through the bushes a sniper on the other side of the compound should not be able to see you, especially if he's not actively searching for you!
Thankfully, that is the only case of unfair stealth AI I've encountered in the beta. Every other enemy type behaves exactly as you would expect - completely blind and deaf at a distance, and incredibly easy to alert once close. In order to compensate for the added risk of close quarters combat you have the obvious inclusion of melee takedowns, but more interestingly, the ability to interrogate your victims about various mission objectives. The information they share with you isn't really that important, but it does occasionally give you a glimpse at alternative routes and interesting ways of solving the mission, so in my eyes its a great little addition to an otherwise fairly standard stealth system.
The tiny drone is downright adorable!
And speaking of missions, I had the opportunity to do two of them: "Cut Off" where I had to realign a large antenna array in order to intercept enemy communications, and "Blockout" where I had to sneak into an abandoned building complex, retrieve a high-tech drone, and dispose of a would-be warlord. Given the diversity in these two missions you might assume the story that follows them is equally as interesting, but unfortunately its about as generic as it gets. There's very little emotional attachment to the task at hand, the whole mission is described in three sentences, and there is basically no payoff at the very end. I'm sure all of this will tie into some sort of grand narrative when the full version of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 finally arrives, but the stuff I've seen so far does not inspire me with much confidence.
While I found the story to be about as engaging as watching paint dry, I am glad to say that the locations the missions take place in are all well crafted. Each one features a wide-open area with plenty of avenues of approach, a couple of side-objectives you can complete to help you out with the main task, and most importantly, enough cover and hidden pathways to make all playstyles equally viable. I've tried playing Blockout three times, and each time I've managed to complete it in a drastically different way. The first time around I crawled my way through a ruined building in order to snipe my target from the opposing rooftop, the second time I fought my way through the building complex in order to fight him directly, and the third time I just said "screw it" and threw a grenade in there!
The only real problem I had with the level design was the simple fact that you can avoid far too many of your enemies, which makes things a bit too easy for experienced stealth players. I'd imagine this is going to become less of an issue in some of the later missions, but I found the beta content to be a bit too simple for my liking. With that said, if the rest of the missions continue on with this sort of level design, but with a bit of added complexity, I have a feeling Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is going to be well worth playing... even if the story ends up being completely meaningless.
If you plan to sneak around, try and do so when its dark outside
After playing through the Blockout mission three times, and all three times using sneaky tactics in order to infiltrate the complex, I've come to realize that I have one extremely big problem with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 - I hate how the main character moves while sneaking. Instead of having nice and smooth movement your character constantly wobbles up and down, and as an extra bonus, he also constantly sways from side to side. A friend of mine dubbed it the "duckwalk", and honestly, that is a rather apt comparison given that your character doesn't actually walk - he waddles like a duck! I understand that the developers are trying to go for a realistic approach, so as you crawl through the undergrowth your massive sniper rifle will sway from side to side, but trying to focus on the game itself while your camera and weapon are having separate dance parties is incredibly annoying! So here's to hoping the launch version will bring with it an option to disable all of this.
Since I'm already talking about annoying things, its also worth mentioning that vehicles have the same problems with realism. You can't drive your car off-road and expect it to remain nice and smooth while plowing through bushes and rocks, that I can understand, but the issue here is that the cars are only half-realistic. So while the cars themselves behave as you would expect, the driving controls are straight out of an arcade game, which is not a combination that works very well. Trying to keep your car nice and stable on a bumpy road is a hard thing to do at the best of times, but when you turn like you're on ice - by which I mean quickly and violently - things tend to become downright unbearable. After spinning out and slamming into a tree for the tenth time I finally gave up and started only using fast-travel locations, because if you can't go fast and do ridiculous stunts with an all-terrain vehicle what is the point of even using one when teleportation is an option?
Chances are high I might change my mind when Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 releases in full given that the open-world content available in the beta was basically a small chunk of a small map. To the developers credit, however, that small chunk has been quite interesting to explore. I rummaged through a ruined tower (and fell off it like an idiot), took down numerous enemy outposts, and even explored a recently flooded church. Most importantly, at no point did I see a location that was a simple copy-paste job, though take this statement with a grain of salt given how limited the map was in the beta. I'm not the type that spends hours chasing collectibles and completing everything on the world map, but the bonus locations I found throughout my beta journey proved to be a rather pleasant distraction from the main missions, so I can't say I'm not glad to see them included.
I wasn't joking when I said the beta map was small
I entered the beta with very little knowledge about Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, but after spending a couple of days sneaking around I must admit my interest is now piqued. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is by no means perfect, and the beta has shown me plenty of annoying bugs, but at the end of the day I left it wanting more. So if the developers could fix some of the issues, and also give us an option to disable the constant headbanging while sneaking around, I could easily see Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 being one of the more interesting stealth games out there.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that all of my opinions are based on a fairly limited beta build. So as always, I would recommend waiting until proper reviews come out before making your purchase, just to be on the safe side. As for the release date, you can expect to see Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 arrive on April 4th for the PC, Xbox One, and PS4.