A run-of-the-mill military shooter series released a third iteration last month, and despite some changes to the recipe, the end product is still as bland and forgettable as its predecessors. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is many things, but technically sound is not one of those things, and the entire experience suffers.

SGW has placed itself somewhere in the Call of Duty clone market, with the focus on sniping being the distinction. Much like third-person series Sniper Elite, SGW proffers scenarios where specialised sniping mechanics come into play, such as account for changes in wind, bullet drop, and distance. Just like the first two, SGW3 struggles to maintain focus, and constantly forces close-range stealth combat upon the player. The sniping gameplay can be janky sometimes, with graphical fidelity clearly suffering at distance, but these problems are nothing compared to the troubles had by close-quarters combat. Sniping is imperfect, but it’s still fun, tactical, and exhilarating; the same cannot be said for any of the many missions that explicitly draw away from the Sniper and towards the Ghost, and ultimately Warrior.

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The differentiation of the three titular nouns into separate skill trees and de facto play styles is a strange, counter-intuitive design choice that dilutes the game. The Sniper tree receives XP and upgrades for, well, sniping, and the Ghost for all things stealth. The Warrior tree is rewarded when the player earns kill streaks and heals from critically low health. One of these is not like the others, in that one of them is demonstrably inferior, and this results in a stockpiling of meaningless points for one tree, with barely a hint of progress in the other.

A major draw card for this third instalment of the series is the new open world, but this ill-fated choice seems to bring down the experience in many ways. The first two Sniper Ghost Warrior titles had very linear, structured campaigns that placed players in various combat scenarios. All that the new open world does is force players to drive between each of these scenarios themselves. This direction change feels like the series stumbling upon and subsequently following the footsteps of Far Cry.

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It would be remiss of me to mention that as of writing Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is obviously technically substandard. Be prepared to wait at least ten minutes on startup, and again if you are sent to another region of the world without notice.

Three regions are explored in the world, and while you might expect the campaign’s four “Acts” to each be wholly contained within a particular area, they simply aren’t. Missions will send you back between the regions for no good reason at all, and with no warning, forcing every player to endure the maximum number of unbearable loading screens as possible. Every issue with SGW is something that could be overlooked, brushed under the carpet, if the player’s attention was focused on some better elements. Tragically, this is not the case. SGW appears to be in denial about how glaring and frustrating its flaws are.

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The crafty output of radio chatter into the PS4 controller’s speakers is insufficient to cover up the remarkably bland writing, especially since the characters are offensively wearisome and plot points are excruciatingly on the nose. Speaking of crafty, apparently crafting is a mechanic that needs to fit into a sniping game now! Instead of using the seemingly limitless amount of money to purchase bullets, players go out of their way to collect several dispersed resources to craft their own. Throw in the under-performing enemy-tagging drone, and you’ve ticked off quite a few genre staples off the checklist, something that clearly took precedent over developing an operational, enjoyable experience.

I was disappointed back in 2013 by Sniper Ghost Warrior 2, which I also reviewed for SSM, for the only meagre improvements over the initial title. I’m shocked to learn that the series has actually taken a solid step back since then. A lot of hard work, talent and care have no doubt gone into that game’s production. Unfortunately, none of it can truly be seen in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3.

One final point is that there appears to be no consensus on what the name of this game is. Press copy calls it Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, but the series was previously titled Sniper: Ghost Warrior. It seems like a small thing to bring up, but this fuzzy identity is actually rather indicative of the game itself. SGW doesn’t know what it is, tries to be too many things, and ultimately amounts to nothing.


Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 on PS4.