The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series turned out to be an unexpected hit on the previous generation of consoles. Parts one and two sold like sweet buns, apparently because players were craving games that could spread the All Ghillied Up mission of the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007) over an entire game. Admittedly, developer CI Games was more than just a copycat, because especially Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 was effectively a strong game. However, as you can read in the Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 review , the series went deeply wrong when it tried to squeeze the sniper formula into an open world. With Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts , CI Games hits the spotand it promises a more classic game that steps away from an open world. In practice, however, it appears that this is not entirely true …
Contracts is not a big open world like part three, but it is definitely not a classic linear game like parts one and two. Instead, Contracts will board the train that also had Metro Exodus and Gears of War 5 in 2019: large, open levels with lots of freedom of movement. If we stay in the sniper world, then there is another similar game: the Sniper Elite series that made the move to large, open levels with parts three and four. During this preview it soon turns out to be the right choice for Sniper: Ghost Warrior. You have the freedom of movement to come up with tactics yourself and move around between vantage points, but at the same time the level design is focused on well-designed environments. It seems like a big step forward compared to part three,
CI Games also offers you more tactical options than ever to make use of that freedom of movement. There are different types of sniperam ammunition with different functions. You can tag enemies to see them through walls, there is ammunition that lures enemies, and there are EMP bullets to disable electronic devices with. There are even more gadgets, including gas mines and traps that alert you to the presence of enemies. In combination with the many routes that each level presents to you and the wide sight lines interspersed with buildings, you can theoretically approach every situation how you want.
All of this is accompanied by the strong sniping mechanics that the series has always had. You really have to take wind speed into account, twist your scope to keep the distance in mind and finally keep your breathing under control. They are many elements, but with practice you will perform headshots in no time. The feel of the precision weapons in Contracts is good: you really feel like a deadly long-range shooter. If you are spotted and you have to fight enemies at a shorter distance, then the traditional defects of the series remain intact. Working with ordinary weapons remains anything but fun – though smooth, fully automatic weapons partly undermine the spirit of the game. Anyway, long-distance stealth remains the ‘name of the game’ and for the time being the gun handling seems to be of high quality.
The graphic side of the game is of less high quality. Although the level I played took place in a nice harbor area where small ice glaciers floated between the industrial buildings, Contracts runs just like parts two and three on the CryEngine – and just like those games, this also results in textures that are only recently loaded and a frame rate that always stays just below 30fps. The preview of the game was on a PC where the CryEngine is normally the most stable, making the frame rate problems even more worrying. It remains to be seen whether the game will run technically smoothly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
With Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts, developer CI Games is once again looking for the success of parts one and two, without the unnecessary open world of part three. Although Contracts is promoted as ‘back to the roots’, the truth lies somewhere in the middle: the individual levels are small sandboxes in which you have a lot of flexibility in tactics and movement. With the help of the strong gunplay of the series – at least in terms of the sniper rifles – and a wide range of gadgets, the strategic aspect of the game seems to be in the right place. However, it remains to be seen whether the game is technically successful or again an example of poor CryEngine optimization. You will find out at the end of this month whether Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts is a bull’s-eye.