When is Far Cry 4 not Far Cry 4? When you shrink the map, remove almost everything fun about it and call it Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. I have been a fan of tactical shooters for as long as I remember, right from my very first time playing the original Rainbow Six demo. I am also an avid competitive shooter so I feel I have a bit more of an insight into the real world mechanics the developers were attempting to portray with the fourth foray for CI Games into the Sniper Universe. Lets look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3.
Lets be straight up and honest, this has to be one of the best applications of modern ballistic mechanics in a game. I define modern ballistic mechanics because this game is inevitably going to be compared to Sniper Elite 4 (which ‘coincidentally’ launched its next wave of DLC on the day of release of Ghost Warrior). Ghost Warriors ballistics mechanics take into account the standard gravity and wind that’s in every sniper based section of games these days but have included an elevation setting on scopes, and even go the extra step by showing the character’s hands manipulating the scope controls while zoomed in, something very few games take the time to do. Another nice aspect to see is the use of a bipod and cover based weapon stabilization. Too often have we seen snipers in other games able to go prone and all of a sudden you are almost as steady as a rock on your reticule. Not so here! As in real life holding a rifle, which is a heavy piece of equipment, even prone means your sight picture is going to move. To combat this you deploy a bipod or some other hard surface to rest your rifle on and stop that wobble dead.
Having said that, the game does meet its creators claim: you can play it how you want. You can sit back, plan out your sniping spots and unlike Ghost Recon Wildlands the AI won’t instantly see you half a mile away hidden behind a rock with a suppressed weapon and have everything bearing on you within seconds. You can go in guns blazing with the small selection of secondary and tertiary weapons, grenades going each and every way or you can be that ghost relying on silenced pistols, throwing knives and melee to get the job done.
The number of missions are pretty good, 26 main missions and 16 side missions with some extras in the Escape of Lydia DLC you get with the season pass, so its not a short game but it isn’t reaching some of those really massive time frames either. Collectors may be disappointed depending on why they collect, for fun or because you are a completionist. For me I found the collecting to be a positive because there weren’t many collectibles, 31 to be exact, but both the historic rifles and the artifacts had tidbits of information associated with them and I like reading that kind of stuff. What would have made it better is if you could use the rifles you collected. There are also 193 points of interest in the game, not really a collectible but the visited ones are kept as a record in your stats.
That unfortunately is where for me the good ended, so lets have a look at the bad.
Unfortunately there is more bad here than good. I tried to think how I could turn these into positives and for me I just couldn’t find a way.
I would have to say out of all the bad things, there are three that top the list. They wouldn’t have been ranked together except for the fact they all overlap with each other.
The map, your means of movement and your stamina.
I implied earlier that the map was small; I won’t imply it here I will down right say it. The map at any one time is tiny (I included a picture), but there are multiple maps that you transition to via loading screens unlike Far Cry and other open world games. This shouldn’t have been a problem. After all, having a single soldier running all over a country isn’t too realistic, but what made it annoying is that CI made your character’s movement options just horrible.
Tiny map is tiny.
I don’t know if they intended to try to make the map feel bigger than what it is by slowing your movement down but for an apparent special forces sniper you don’t move at anything like even a regular walking pace. It felt like I was in a permanent crouch walk. To get around the map at anything that doesn’t feel like a snails pace you need to find a vehicle to drive (more on that later) or fast travel everywhere, and this simply isn’t good enough. But surely there is a run button I hear you ask, well yeah there is. It feels like the jog you get in other games that operates as your normal movement speed and on top of it you are limited by your stamina, especially early on, which is shared with your held breath when you are sniping.
Another thing that just doesn’t meet expectations is the leveling system. To earn skills you spend XP earned in three specific areas, Sniper, Ghost and Warrior. One point for every 1000xp and there is a chance you may never earn XP in one of those areas. After my time playing this I had earned very little in the ghost skill tree while I had earned enough to complete two tiers of sniper and a tier and a half of warrior. Skill trees are a great thing but when you require specific types of game play to earn the experience points to go into those it limits the game play.
There is also a lack of something about the world you are playing in. I hate to use the comparison again as you could apply this comparison to most “open world” games these days and have the same response but in Far Cry 4 you experience animals, rebels, soldiers and just general civilians and all these just out in the wild, whereas in Ghost Warrior you have the standard birds, deer and wolves from the animal kingdom (which I am not going to deny I spent time stalking with the compound bow), but your interaction with people is limited. Unless there was an outpost, I didn’t come across an enemy soldier wondering around nor a rebel and who ever programmed the civilians who appear in outposts needs to have a job performance review because you can only hear the same two lines of dialogue so many times before you are ready to kill every civilian in the area (Although still not as bad as minstrels from Assassins Creed).
So what about our characters? The player character is Jon who is honestly just a mix of John Wayne and Stephen Segal for character story and motivation; typical soldier ordered onto a mission but has alternative motives for doing what he does. “Love interest” Lydia is a also a typical trope of eastern European mercenary with a sordid past and a previous relationship with the protagonist. Robert is the bratty younger brother following in his older brothers footsteps and Frank Simms, the stoic voice of command. They just felt cliche to the point of boring. This along with the overall story just didn’t draw me in.
Playing with the bow in the safehouse
There are a number of vehicles in the game and if you don’t want to fast travel they are really your only way around the map at any sort of decent speed. That is of course if you can get into them as the majority I came across popped up a little message saying they were locked. I honestly would say I wouldn’t have even made it through as far as I did in the game without the buggy DLC that gives you a permanently placed buggy at every fast travel waypoint.
There have been a few reported bugs and glitches within the game. I personally haven’t seen any but I did experience the load times. I sat through them a couple of times before thinking to time them, from clicking on the continue game option it took 1:47 to get to a prompt saying game starting and then 2.23 until I was actually in the game. Simply not acceptable these days.
The graphics, wow what can I say. I haven’t played Homefront: The Revolution but I have seen videos from it and I have played Ryse: Son of Rome and you would never think those two games shared the same graphics engine as this. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible but they do look dated. I run a pretty beefy set up for a review PC and it had no problem keeping up on Very High everything. I have yet to try it on my lower spec rig but I suspect even that now hitting about five years old with the little bit of upgrading I have done it would handle high level okay. The AI models seem to be lacking a certain human quality about them, something I can’t quite put my finger on and the environment just seems muted.
Looking through the scope
Then we get to the thing that I hated the most about this game. Ever since drones became a commercial thing that everyone can get they have been appearing in games, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon etc. Ghost Warrior doesn’t skimp on this. Unlike other drones in games however, this one is just plain horrible to control. I appreciate they tried to be realistic with its movements but having a drone in a game that sways back and forwards while moving and trying to use does just the opposite, makes it completely unusable (and in all honesty nauseating, I felt sick a number of times using it).
Simply put, at launch there is none. According to CI its coming in a free update down the line.
There are a number of things wrong with the game, they might be patched out later but I don’t know if that is enough to save it. Maybe keep this one on the wishlist until its on sale if you really have to get it.