One of the more difficult parts of video game design is finding the sweet spot of difficulty where it’s not too tough and not too easy but does get steadily more challenging as the game progresses. It’s an issue that undermines Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), a realistic first-person stealth-action sniper game that shooter fans will either find engaging or punishing….and maybe both.
In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts,
Siberia has broken away from Russia and formed a new nation called the Siberian Republic. But, as the cliché says, the apple doesn’t always fall far from the tree, and thus the politicians running this new country are as corrupt as the previous leaders. Which is why you’ve been hired to go in and, using your skills as a sneaky sniper, commit a series of political assassinations.
While you may be the main character in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, the real star of this game is the Siberian Republic itself. Much like Sniper Elite 4 and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, this game is set on a series of mid-sized, open battlefields, ones where you have multiple ways to approach your objective. More importantly, the varied and vertical terrain offers numerous places to hide, to duck behind, and to get a good line of sight on your target from a distance. It also offers opportunity for visibility to be a factor, while also having some environmental hazards that include a freakishly cold river.
The structures in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts offer interesting opportunities as well. While you can use your binoculars to scout ahead and locate enemies, it can also identify fuse boxes and other items that, when shot, can make it easier to stay hidden.
Further aiding you in your missions is a mask that has a scan mode like the ones in Death Stranding and the Batman: Arkham games. With it, you can not only locate important items in the world, including your next objective, but also map the terrain to see where you can climb up and down cliffs and the sides of buildings. This is especially handy since there are times when you’ll be standing at the bottom of a cliff, hoping you can climb up to get a better angle on your objective. Or, if you’ve been clumsy, to get away from the trigger-happy bad guys.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts also gives you some interesting options when it comes to your ammo. Along with regular bullets, you can also use ones that explode on contact, emit an EMP pulse that will knock out enemy equipment, and even distract your enemies. This gives you a variety of ways to take out your enemies and complete your objectives.
Being sneaky in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts…
can also be handy in ways other than getting you close to your target. Not only can you stab guys all quiet-like, but you can also opt to interrogate them in hopes they’ll tell you where their coworkers are located. You can even use rocks to distract people you’ll like to sneak past or up behind. All of which is rather helpful since it means you can enjoy a bit of cat and mouse as you thin out the enemy’s ranks.
But as I mentioned earlier, where Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts potentially fails in its mission is its difficulty. For starters, it is decidedly more of a simulation than the Sniper Elite series or other first-person shooters. While sniping in nearly every shooter requires you to hold your breath, and be prone whenever possible, players here also have to take the wind and other factors into account when sniping, especially from a great distance.
Now, if you want to play Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts as a challenging and authentic simulation, great. But if you’d like less of a challenge, well, then you’re out of luck. Unlike Sniper Elite 4 — and such non-sniper games as Forza Motorsport 7 — Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts doesn’t have options to adjust the realism. You can’t, for instance, turn off the wind that prevents bullets from flying straight.
More to the point, the difficulty options in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts are off. Playing this game on the “normal” actually feels like “hard” in other games, while playing on “easy” doesn’t make things easy. Part of the problem is that while your enemies have really sturdy body armor and, in some cases, equally resilient helmets, you just have a nice coat. And it’s not even that nice, as you’ll learn when you step into the aforementioned river and watch your health click down. Your enemies are also crack shots, almost like they don’t have to compensate for the wind.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts isn’t hard like a Dark Souls game; it’s not a game that requires perseverance or trial and error, it’s just not balanced well.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts also has issues that are not connected to its difficulty, and thus are ones that everyone may take issue with. While you are supposed to be a highly trained assassin, you clearly didn’t pay attention in sniper school. Why else would you not bring enough ammo when you begin a mission? Granted, you can find some inside buildings and the pockets of your dead enemies, but not always. And even when you do, you can’t carry much.
In a similar vein, it seems you also missed the class where they told you to always bring a silencer for your pistol when going on a mission that requires stealth. And, as I alluded to earlier, the one where they explain why it’s important to wear body armor when you might get shot.
It’s also annoying that your aforementioned mask’s scanning ability doesn’t highlight your enemies. Granted, you can use your binoculars and tag any enemies you see, but it’s not the same as being able to use your mask to locate nearby guards when you’re hiding in some tall grass and don’t want to poke your head out to see if it’s safe. Because it’s not; it’s never safe.
There are also some technical issues with Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts. Most notably with the surveillance drones that your enemies can deploy to find you. Not only are they not very accurate or sensitive, but they sometimes get distracted. In the first mission after the training one, for instance, I strolled right past a drone that was just hovering in front of a wall like it was waiting for something.
if your hope for Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts was that it would teach you how to be a bad ass sniper, well, mission accomplished…save for the faulty drones, of course. But if your hope for this game was that it would make you feel like you’re already a bad ass sniper — y’know, like the one you got to be in Sniper Elite 4 — well, sorry, this ain’t the sweet spot you’ve been aiming for.