NOTE: I wrote a review for Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts around a year ago for a different website, but that site is now defunct and so I thought I’d share it here. With that, bear in mind that the game has received a number of bug fixes since the day-one version that I played, so a good number of the bugs I whinge about here might be gone. A review code was provided to me, and the good people at CI shipped me out to a press event (remember those?!), where I played the game and got a chance to interview the developers, among other fun activities. That interview is, unfortunately, now lost to time, but I still have a copy of the review at the very least.
With all of that said, let’s dive in!
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts Review
The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series is one that many may not know too intimately – the series, developed by CI Games (formerly City Interactive), has been a valiant effort at creating an AAA-quality series from the formerly budget studio. Now, with this newest release, CI is looking to breathe some new life into the series by changing up some things and keeping hold of the series’ best qualities. So, how does Contracts fare?
The core gameplay loop is fairly simple – you’re placed in a reasonably-sized open area, and you have a set of tasks – the eponymous “Contracts” – to accomplish. These range from killing targets to planting C4, among other things, and you can complete them in whatever order you like. Completing most of these contracts involves infiltrating some kind of heavily-fortified building or camp by whatever means necessary. This gameplay loop can get a little repetitive, although the challenges and varied maps do help to alleviate this slightly.
The game’s real variety comes from the range of ways you can go about accomplishing these tasks: after scouting out the area Far Cry-style from a vantage point, you can stay there with your trusty Sniper Rifle and pick enemies off one by one, giving you a safe distance from your assailants and a good view of the whole area. Alternatively, you can attempt to sneak in and take down enemies up-close. This has its benefits too: interrogating enemies can yield useful information such as enemy positions and supply locations. Additionally, of course, you can always attempt to go all-out and treat the game like any other FPS, although the games punishing difficulty when confronting enemies head-on makes this a very challenging task to accomplish. The game does its best to accommodate whatever playstyle you choose to adopt, with levels being very open-ended and boasting a variety of ways to get around them. It’s mixing these approaches and finding your own personal play style that makes playing Contracts a very satisfying experience.
The game’s gunplay is excellent – fitting for a Sniper-focused game. Bullet drop and wind have to be considered, and landing a perfect headshot with a powerful Sniper Rifle rewards you with a slow-motion bullet time sequence capped off with a deliciously gory finish. Enemies are decapitated and dismembered frequently in this game, be it via a well-placed sniper round or an errant grenade, and this helps to further amplify the gratifying, punchy weight of this game’s combat. An unexpected yet welcome feature of the game is its traversal – a surprisingly solid climbing system sees you scaling cliffs and pipes to infiltrate buildings and reach new vantage points.
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts is at its best when it’s dynamically creating interesting and unique gameplay scenarios for the player. A small mistake could see you frantically trying to escape a barrage of bullets in the middle of an enemy base, or a loss of your ammo, although rare, has you sneaking around attempting to get through enemy territory with what little you have. It’s this kind of stuff that makes each death in this game a learning experience as well. I took down an enemy stealthily, only to have his body roll down a hill, alerting another enemy and blowing my cover. Playing Contracts, you begin to develop a familiarity with the environments and enemy movement patterns.
Between missions, you’re able to upgrade your weapons and your character to a pretty large degree. A wide variety of weapons are available, and you can purchase attachments and specialised ammo for them to help you during gameplay. There’s also a fairly deep skill tree to give your Seeker new and improved skills, although I ended up spending more in-game currency on weapons than these upgrades. It’s probably worth mentioning that there was no sign of being able to pay real money for currency in-game, so no microtransactions here.
How much content does the game have?
The game boasts a respectably sizeable amount of content as well – between the five maps (six if you count the tutorial), there are a host of challenges to complete and collectables to find. Kill two enemies within a set time limit, only use stealth kills, that kind of thing. The game allows you to restart missions while retaining your progress, so you’re free to attempt these challenges free of frustration. Throughout the missions, you’ll also come across “Bounties” – other targets who roam areas of the map. Killing them bags you a good amount of extra cash and contributes to the level’s completion. For this review, I completed every contract required to progress as well as finding the odd collectable or bounty, and I was only at around 30% completion for each of the maps. This game’s absolutely loaded with content and should keep you coming back for more for quite some time.
In terms of the game’s presentation, Contracts creates a cool cinematic atmosphere through its orchestral & synth-punctuated score combined with a spy thriller-style plot. Graphically the game is very impressive, looking its best when presenting you with vast, snowy Siberian landscapes – impressive water & lighting effects seem to be pushing the CryEngine to its limits. On PS4 (not the Pro), I did encounter fairly frequent frame drops, but they were never enough to make the game unplayable. While the environments are varied, the snowier ones fare far better graphically than others, especially the one set in a jungle which not only isn’t as visually striking but also suffers from more frequent frame rate issues – likely a result of the large amount of dense foliage being rendered.
But the bugs…
It’s at this point that I should mention that there will be a day one patch for this game, which should fix some of the bugs I’m about to discuss [Update: Read Above.]. I have to talk about these issues, however, since they greatly impacted my enjoyment of the game. Beyond the aforementioned frame rate drops, I ran into a host of bugs and glitches during my playthrough of the game. At least once per map, I’d come across an area where markers placed on enemies would disappear immediately after I placed them, making infiltrating that area somewhat of a chore.
The game also seems to struggle with interrogations – all too often I’d interrogate an enemy only for them to glitch through my arms and even occasionally send me to a different area – this is one of the issues that will be fixed in the day one patch , and in the Jungle level, interrogating the targets would comically lock you into the interrogation animation before the kill, allowing enemies to find and kill you quickly. Other small things like respawning in a wall and having to restart the entire mission were dotted around Contracts, and by the end, I was wrestling with all of these bugs just to complete the game. I no longer wanted to explore the maps and complete challenges, but simply complete the contracts and get out of there. In a way, the game had turned me into the calculated, efficient mercenary that I was supposed to be, but I imagine this was unintentional.
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts is a tight, enjoyable stealth title with a lot to offer in terms of gameplay and presentation, perfect for any stealth action fan looking to fill the Splinter Cell & Metal Gear-shaped void in their hearts. However, a host of unfortunate technical issues mar an otherwise fun experience to a pretty large degree.
Formats: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Price: 34.99 (Console), 24.99 (PC)
Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Release Date: 22nd November 2019
Age Rating: 18
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