The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series is one of the most love-it-or-hate-it collections of first-person shooters ever released. While some relish the ability to live out their Chris Kyle-inspired marksman dreams, others can’t get past the series’ notorious janky feel and condemn its consistent shortcomings. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, despite a slightly lackluster presentation and name befitting a mobile title attempting to rip-off Call of Duty, is a much more fulfilling experience than 2017’s Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 and introduces enough depth and intrigue to circumvent its clunky A.I. and silly narrative.
Contracts puts players in the shoes of a mysterious mercenary dubbed “seeker” by his shadowy employ and tasks them with fulfilling a set of contracts—or mission objectives, as they’re more conventionally known—which mostly involve assassinating targets and stealing sensitive data connected to the apparently-corrupt Siberian separatist government. The game offers five different levels, with five contracts available per level, and, while mission directives rarely change, the player’s ability to organically survey each situation and execute each self-derived plan lends Contracts a sense of player agency which is so often absent from action-oriented FPS titles.
Taking a cue from IO Interactive’s Hitman series reboot, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts throws linearity totally out the window, instead handing the player a list of objectives and asking them to figure out how to accomplish them. This doesn’t result in quite as much trial and error as what’s sometimes seen in Hitman, but it does often require players to either ad-lib their methods of compound infiltration or quickly revert to a secondary plan should their first scheme fail to pan out. It isn’t quite as complex and is made much easier by a Crysis-esque mask and suit combo, which allows players to scan the environment for things like climbable ledges, hiding spots, and extra equipment. However, the two titles still seem to share at least some of the same DNA.
Optional contracts, mission parameters, and difficulty modes allow skilled players to test their limits and offer a ton of replayability, and that’s to say nothing of the customization options afforded to those who go the extra mile. Players earn money by taking down enemies and meeting contract requirements, which they can use to upgrade gear and purchase new weapons. There’s a decent amount of equipment to play with, a particular favorite being a drone which allows for easy surveillance, and it all adds up to a satisfyingly individualistic experience that lets players tackle challenges as they see fit.
Clean Up The Competition
The best new inclusion in Contracts, however, is the bounty system that tasks the protagonist with hunting down rival assassins. These come up more or less at random and ask players to lure out the competing sniper by disabling their equipment or otherwise causing enough chaos to draw their attention. Killing them nets players a nice bonus, and it's an engaging emergent mechanic that adds some variety to gameplay that can, at times, feel a bit formulaic.
What’s more, the gameplay is satisfyingly deep, and hitting a target from across a great gap with a sniper rifle or stealthing up behind a pack of enemy guards feels sufficiently risky. In fact, when sniping, players are made to account for things like wind speed and distance, and watching a bullet curve to connect with an enemy’s skull from 500 meters away is as rewarding as a near-miss from the same distance is frustrating.
Sub-Par Stealth, Shallow Story
That said, the game isn’t without its flaws, the most egregious being the artificial intelligence of the enemy soldiers. The game should be played on the highest setting, as anything below that sees enemy units more or less behaving as if they were wearing both blindfolds and earmuffs. In fact, some beefier enemies actually took a bullet to the head without being alerted, which is just ridiculous.
Yet, on the highest difficulty, enemy awareness seems inconsistent. Combatants will sometimes act like eagle-eyed super soldiers who are able to spot the player from hundreds of meters away, while they’ll display serious cases of tunnel vision at other times, occasionally allowing the player to encroach fairly liberally on what should certainly be in their peripheral vision. Plus, alerted enemies are fairly easy to escape, and, provided they don’t call in reinforcements or mortar fire, they’re basic patrol patterns and lackluster search attempts are easy to exploit.
The story is also pretty terrible. Like something from a half-baked Tom Clancy novel, it revolves around the concept of an independent Siberian state seceding from Russia and then engaging in a civil war between government loyalists and anti-government revolutionaries. It’s utterly silly and barely serves to move the plot from place to place and target to target, though that’s fairly par-for-the-course for this budget series.
Worth The Payout?
Perhaps the most attractive thing about Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is its price. For thirty dollars, the game offers a ten-to-twelve-hour campaign that plays like a slightly less cinematic version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s legendary Chernobyl missions. It could use a bit more polish and certainly doesn’t use Crytek’s Cryengine to its full potential, but players who come in with appropriately tempered expectations will be satisfied with the latest iteration of CI Games’ most notable franchise.
A PC version of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.