The Sniper Ghost Warrior series is one of my favourite series. I can’t exactly pinpoint the reason why, but I think it’s because I enjoy the idea of being a bit more tactical and strategic when it comes to first-person shooters. I’ll admit that the SGW games haven’t always been the best games, but they’ve certainly scratched an itch of mine.
Enter Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, the latest entry in CI Games’ franchise that hopes to atone for the flaws of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 – a game that CI Games admits bit off more than it can chew. Gone is the open world and ambitious plan to weave a tactical sniping game, blockbuster military shooter and stealth-driven game into one jack-of-all-trades experience. Instead, SGWC focuses on what the series does best: sniping.
During the first hour of PAX Australia 2019 (the media-only all-you-can-play buffet), while every man and their dog was busy trying to play the Final Fantasy VII remake, I made a beeline straight for the Alienware booth where SGWC was playable.
The level on offer was Kolchak Harbor, a snow-capped haven for criminals to conduct illegal activity, and one that features plenty of vantage points for sharpshooters. While Kolchalk Harbor was one big open area, the map was broken down into three self-contained areas, each with their own contracts and challenges.
The first thing I noticed was how stunning everything looked; I don’t know if was the Alienware hardware, CryEngine or a combination of the two (most likely), but the level of detail in the world was fantastic. I opened the map and took a squiz at my options. Straight ahead was a contract which required me to take out a man named Leonid Nizlhev, “How hard can it be?” I said to the PR rep manning the station, with whom I just bragged to about having the platinum for SGW3. I was about to find out how those words would bite me in the arse.
I start the contract by making my way up a hill, snow crunching under my boots as I make the ascent. Here I perch myself inside a decrepit tower with a perfect view for some reconnaissance and using my seeker mask’s built-in binoculars to survey the area I mark enemies on the map. For those who I can’t see I use my sniper’s tagging bullets, which reveals the location of one soon to be eliminated Leonid Nizlhev.
My first target was an enemy sniper, and it was here I got my first taste of the series’ new sniping mechanic, which takes distance, height, wind and bullet drop all into consideration. Gone are the days of holding your breath and having the red dot highlight where your bullet will hit, instead you’ll need use skill to hit your target.
By no mere happenstance my first shot was a bull’s eye, which activated the bullet cam, giving me a front-row seat to the death of my first victim. “Like riding a bike”, I thought to myself as I had a sneaky look over my shoulder to see if the PR rep had seen my kill. He hadn’t.
My second shot was not as accurate and proved that I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to be the ideal applicant to star in any potential American Sniper 2. I managed to not only miss my target but alert to the whole area to my presence. Of course the PR rep was there to witness that. Bastard.
Now I had the whole base looking for me. Time to go in guns blazing – which lasted all of about 20 seconds and emphasised how Contracts is more sniper and ghost, and less warrior. This happened another three times before I finally started to grasp the sniping mechanics, and once I did I was pulling off headshots that would make John Wick proud.
The most impressive part about Contracts’ gameplay is just how tense the moment-to-moment action feels
After dispatching of the enemies I could from afar I decided to stealth my way to the top dog and take out any leftovers (shoutout to Casey Jones from original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film). Here I was able to utilise my sniper’s arsenal of weaponry, such as a silenced pistol, an assault rifle and throwing knives.
Due to the open nature of the map there is more than one way to complete your main objective. When it came to Leonid Nizlhev, I took out all of his infantry before confronting him, however in the second contract I played I was able to lure the primary target into the open using my luring bullets, which allowed me to have a clean shot at him. There’s also a number of secondary objectives you can complete to gain further monetary rewards, which can go towards upgrading your character.
The most impressive part about Contracts’ gameplay is just how tense the moment-to-moment action feels. You need to be tactical in your approach; it’s about being certain with your decision to pull the trigger. Have you tagged all potential enemies? Are you using the right ammo? Can you make it to the exfiltration point safely? One missed shot and it can all come undone, making it hard to recover.
In the 45 minutes I spent playing Contracts I barely scratched the surface as to what’s on offer in the final release (there’s a feature where an AI-controlled sniper will infiltrate your game to try and take you out that I didn’t get to encounter). I completed two of the three contracts available and I have to say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it – I honestly could have stayed and played it for hours. If you’re a fan of first-person shooters and are looking for a slower-paced, more tactical experience, then Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts may be one to keep in your crosshairs.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts launches on November 22 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.