Breaking from their tradition of numbered releases, CI Games is bringing back their Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise with Contracts, out now for PC as well as Xbox One and PS4. We tested the Playstation 4 version.
When it comes to sniper-centric games, two franchises come to mind – Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series and CI’s Sniper Ghost Warrior. They’re different in a few ways, but similar in others. Besides the obvious role that sniping plays in the game, both franchises also feature a ‘kill cam’ that gives you dramatic and cinematic slow motion close-ups of your kill shots. At the same time, while Sniper Elite is focused on the WWII-era, Ghost Warrior has a bigger role reserved for modern technological gadgets.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts feels like an attempt to differentiate both franchises just a little more, replacing a traditional level-based design with a more open world approach in which you take up individual contracts inside five giant hub areas that all feature multiple hits for you to take on. While I enjoy a tightly designed level in which your possible approaches are clear, I also appreciate the less linear possibilities that this new direction offers. With so many options to approach your target, there’s also a lot of potential for replayability through what is essentially a sniper sandbox at times.
There’s a story that loosely connects the jobs you take on, but because you take on multiple contracts inside each area you quickly forget about the overarching narrative – which in all honesty was never the strongest suit for this franchise. It ultimately all boils down to accepting contracts, collecting your reward and investing in new and better gear. Completing your objectives isn’t just about getting headshots though, since some contracts will require you to extract valuable items or information or destroy enemy assets.
What’s a good testament to how big these levels actually are is the fact that you can fast-travel around them to get to your contracts and objectives more quickly. Each contract ends with an extraction phase where you have to get to safety as well, and because you can’t fast travel during this phase these treks can feel a bit long-winded. You’ve most likely come in the same way, but when the tension of the impending target is gone it suddenly feels like a chore. If you didn’t approach your target with stealth then this can become a lot more tense, but that’s not really the point of the game and feels counterintuitive.
The AI in previous games has never been particularly impressive, and Contracts doesn’t change that. Guards who patrol an area can go on high alert when you’ve been spotted, but they’ll just resume their normal patrol if you steer clear of them for long enough, as if nothing happened. This is a relatively minor gripe though, because if you do your job correctly they’ll never even know you were around until they drop to the ground.
To achieve that goal, you have a large number of tools at your disposal that don’t just allow you to take out your target, but also give you a chance to set up an elaborate sequence with which to do so – taking out a bunch of guards with an automated gun you previously positioned, or distracting them with a detonation while you move in for the primary target. When you pull it off, it’s definitely one of those “I love it when a plan comes together” moments.
Besides using your own creativity to find novel new approaches, you can also replay missions to achieve unlock trophies – though unless you’re a bit of a trophy hunter replaying the actual missions in your own way feels a lot more rewarding. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is a fun sniper game despite so-so AI and a few pacing issues. It’s shown us that the franchise is alive and well, unlike many of our targets.