First impressions are often key to how much you’re going to enjoy a game. If one was to rate a game and give it a final score based on initial impressions, this would be bottom of the barrel stuff. Some future tech sniper thrown into Siberia with contracts and an Agent 47 level of assassin world building via rival contract seekers? Bit overwhelming to say the least. Then you’re exposed to the unforgiving difficulty of the game, and you’re almost immediately frustrated right out of the gate. But again, these were my first impressions of the game. And as is often the case, first impressions are misleading. Every Tavernite has their own way of scoring games. Mine involves starting at a zero out of 10, and then rewarding and subtracting points as required, rather than just summing up the whole experience at the end. To that end, this game was sat at a 4 for a very long time, but it ended up winning back a few points.
The first thing you’ll notice that this game has some truly underwhelming graphics for 2019. There are doors and catwalks that look like they were rendered on a PS2. Blood splatters are incredibly underwhelming as well. The ‘pink mist’ is good, but the comical explosion of skulls looks truly awful. Many sniper games offer a special ‘bullet cam’ for clinical shots, that result in a slow motion ultra-satisfying death cam for your unfortunate victim. It stuck poorly with me that the bullet and surroundings during these death cams were so detailed, but the character models are cheap, and the impact of the bullets range from pointless to embarrassingly pointless. It’s a small gripe, but given that other sniper games do this so much better, you come to expect a bit more from this feature. Not something that breaks the game, by any means.
A major problem the game suffers from is a lack of impact. When I fire into someone’s head from 300 metres, and splatter their brains up a wall, I want to feel the shot. I want to feel like I absolutely wrecked that guy. Games like Sniper Elite do this so well. Every shot has punch and weight. In Contracts, kills have no weight. That’s not to say they can’t be satisfying, but other games definitely do it better. I was disappointed to learn that going in with an unsuppressed rifle makes little to no difference in this regard. And because weapons lack weight, its easier to notice how floaty everything is. It feels like you’re wrestling the control stick to aim properly, and not just with snipers. The game includes multi-shot taking enemies that break your stealth or make it unfair to try and clear out an area silently. Cameras that are very difficult to spot also pick you up in a flash, and suddenly an army is baring down on you. The unforgiving difficulty really points the spotlight in the direction of the floaty weapons, as even using something like an AK-47 becomes incredibly frustrating.
The music is very one note. From area to area the ‘detected’ music is always the same low hum and offers virtually no variety. Audio from NPC’s is decent, and some of the voice acting, while hammy, is competent. But again, the weak sound of gun fire lends nothing to the experience of being a sniper able to take anyone out at any time without anyone else knowing. I kept feeling like it made me want to play MGSV or Far Cry: New Dawn, or numerous other games that did these ‘stealth and clear’ mechanics much better. The game borrows heavily from similar titles but doesn’t do anything better than any of them. The few things that the game does to innovate the genre get lost in the swirl of tropes and average knock offs.
That said, there are a lot of reasons to go after collectables, such as other contracts, bounties, and special bonuses like interrogating certain guards for intel. These are the moments where the game comes into its own. Getting extra money for doing these side activities is satisfying and trying to ex-filtrate with your bounty is intense and exciting. These fleeting moments help the game stay fun for longer spells, as the main missions themselves are fairly bland. I was always excited to enter into a new area and be told a bounty was nearby. Then I’d have to find the target and fend off rival seekers looking for the bounty. The big attraction of the game is the strange mask you wear that allows a sort of scan of immediate surroundings, but honestly, I forgot to use it half the time. It feels more like a gimmick than an essential part of the gameplay.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts demonstrates the capability of the developers. Throw a big project and big budget at these guys, and I’m fairly sure they’ll come up with something really good. There is fun to be had, and there are people who will enjoy the slower, more methodical pace of the gameplay. But with such a disconnect between what I want to get from a sniper game, and what I have got, its hard to sing its praises.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts has a few fresh ideas, but it takes several steps sideways steps as it looks to make a claim in the sniper game sub-genre. An experience that is often good, but never great.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.