According to Senior Level Designer Tomasz Pruski, the team at CI Games aims to redefine the IP and sniping genre with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. Yet, playing a preview build last month – and with scant time left until its release in April — that vision seems currently unreachable. Only one thing was made abundantly clear: the game is in no shape ready.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3‘s selling point is that it’s an open world stealth game, taking everything fans loved about the series and adding exploration and more side content. Unfortunately, what I played showed off a poorly designed world with generic locations and AI. Soldiers guard abandoned debris that holds no real advantage; civilians repeat the same three lines through stale animations. Objectives feel forcefully gamified, too, and there’s no real reward for completing side quests. I never felt like my actions had purpose or emotional weight to them.
It suffers from a lot rendering issues as well. I noticed significant texture popping that felt worse when zoomed in from the scope of my sniper rifle. The camera was shaky and sometimes unresponsive; the fact I couldn’t climb up surfaces that felt naturally climbable felt like an archaic choice in level design. I was constantly battling with unresponsive controls and after the game crashed moments after I realised it hadn’t updated my objective – simply because I didn’t interact with a laptop that I couldn’t recognise because it was poorly detailed — I felt frustrated. The whole experience gave me a temporary feeling of vertigo; one that I would not recommend.
Cutscenes are as horribly rendered as the gameplay and feel out of place. Playing as a character with such a generic name as John North, you expect a cheesy action blockbuster that doesn’t take itself seriously. Oddly enough, you’re presented with a dramatic narrative driven with emotion but delivered sloppily. Cutscenes are visually unsettling due to a grainy blurry texture, and there’s a ridiculous amount of male-gazing camera angles that’s both laughable and insulting.
“John North is on a mission to stop the separatist movement spreading and taking over the entire country [of Georgia],” Pruski told Stevivor. “As a private agenda, you’re looking for your brother, Robert North, who’s been taken by a militia group two years ago. [After] reports of him spotted nearby, you volunteer for a mission hoping to find out what’s happened to him.”
As clichéd as this exposition is, it wasn’t until later that I realised how detached and inconsequential the narrative is. Moments after disguising yourself as a civilian and meeting an ally and ex-girlfriend of John’s, a bizarre point of view close-up shows her waking up in bed next to you after arguing and having angry sex. Poor writing and objectification pulls you out of any immersion from the international politics and drama of Sniper’s world. It’s confusing and I found myself quickly tuning out in cutscenes, searching for a skip button.
That said, Pruski stressed that there’s a lot of variety in character progression, as the three skill trees (Sniper, Ghost and Warrior) are tailored to different styles of play.
“If you want to play as a Sniper, you’re going to have to change sniping spots,” he said. “[If you’re playing] as a Ghost, you need to hide in lockers, wardrobes and car trunks. As a Warrior, there’s always cover to hide behind.”
“What really links it all together is the level design,” he continued. “You’re not going to have locations where you can perch up on one spot and take out everybody. Enemy perception is based on light levels, [too]. Even at night, if the moonlight is shining on top of a location, and you’re crouched down in the shadows, you’re going to be less detectable than [if you were standing] out in the moonlight.”
“The open world aspect helps us push the Sniper gameplay. It’s not the only aspect; there’s also the Ghost and Warrior [classes], but the open world blends it all together and lets you play how you want.”
Pruski told Stevivor there’s a lot of potential to the game, but that wasn’t reflected in the preview build we played. While sniper fans will be drawn to the strategic intentions of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s gameplay, most won’t be able to overlook its many faults. It’s clunky, poorly rendered and buggy – and after being delayed a third time, I’m not quite sure if CI Games can fix these problems before its release in a month’s time.