The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series has always teetered on being great, but always just missed the mark. However, it’s always had fun sniping and interesting gadget-based mechanics to keep things interesting; and after some missteps with the third entry, Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts enhances what makes the franchise work while stripping down what doesn’t, making it arguably the best entry to date.
The biggest change this time around is that Contracts ditches the laborious open-world from the previous entry, rather opting for a streamlined experience, with 5 large open areas with multiple targets and objectives on each. You do a bit of criss-crossing and back and forth across the largely square maps, but each has its own cliffs, obstacles, and setting to keep them refreshingly different.
Part of the fun is the journey though, as Contracts improves the traversal and climbing mechanics from previous games, allowing you to scale, shimmy, and dash through the snow-capped or jungle-ridden landscapes in an almost Mirror’s Edge fashion. And this enhanced manoeuvrability is explained by the new exoskeleton and high-tech mask which your character is donned with.
This injection of cutting-edge tech into the game makes it feel like a sniping spin-off of Crysis, not to mention also running on the familiar-looking CryEngine. It gives the player a feeling of superiority on the battlefield, and allows you to use the mask to calculate wind trajectory, gravity, and distance all a little more accurately.
That’s not to say the suit gives you a clear upper-hand though. Contracts can be difficult, and taking a few bullets will end your run before you know it. So, stealth is most often the best route forward. Sneaking into mission areas, taking out some peripheral guards, and finding the opportunity to snipe or go in for a melee kill on your designated target is the usual routine of things, but the diverse locations make it an interesting loop. Each level throws its own curve-balls or literal obstructions, requiring you to study the map, move around, and find a clear shot on your target. It’s all incredibly satisfying when it comes off right.
On the downside, the story could’ve been a little more engaging. There is a narrative thread attached to what you’re doing – helping rid the world of some sketchy Eastern European terrorists – but it’s nothing to write home about. Thankfully, the moment-to-moment gameplay is a lot of fun, but that too does have its hiccups, with some enemy AI being very obtuse and inconsistent, often spotting you from hundreds of metres away then moments later completely missing you when you’re in front of them. It doesn’t hurt the game much though, as you can always drop to a prone position or move out of sight relatively easily thanks to the dense environments.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts pulls back on the ambitious open-world of previous entries to offer a more streamlined sniping experience – and it’s for the better. Enjoyable traversal, challenging environments, and some satisfying shooting makes it a worthwhile experience, especially considering the budget price-tag.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.