Competition can be a great thing. It can push both competitors to be better. This certainly seemed to be the case with Sniper games during the last generation of consoles. The Sniper Elite franchise and Sniper: Ghost Warrior series sparred with each other to become better. However, during this console generation, it has been a one-horse race. Rebellion’s Sniper Elite has been the superior sniper experience by quite a margin on Xbox One. Sniper Elite 3 and 4 have both been amazing games. Meanwhile, City Interactive’s Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 was very much a sub-par experience. Well, the Polish developer is back with Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts but does this entry hit the mark?
Once again, the action takes place in Eastern Europe. The basic premise is that Siberia has become independent from Russia. While the country has become free from Russian rule it has become incredibly corrupt. You are tasked by your handlers to take out a variety of leading officials and generally cause disruption. Ninety percent of this involves you sniping (almost literally) a legion of foes. The rest of the time you will be creeping around stealing data and evidence. After the tutorial, there are 5 locations for you to operate within. These are large areas with multiple objectives to achieve in each. You can easily spend multiple hours achieving all the objectives, completing all the challenges, and obtaining all the collectables in each location.
All of the locations are brilliantly designed with numerous ways to go through them. You are given lots of choices of sniping nests, areas to creep through, and different ways to eliminate your targets. Do you want to climb to higher ground to get a good vantage point or disappear amongst the tall grass? The choice is yours. And all of this looks great too. The lighting and textures are a big step up from previous entries in the series. It may not quite match the beauty of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare but it is more than a match for Sniper Elite 4. The developers have done a great job of mixing up the visuals while keeping it appropriate for Siberia. There is a nice range of snow, foliage, mountains, and industrial buildings.
Of course, all of this would be worthless if the sniping mechanics weren’t up to snuff. Fortunately, Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts has the best sniping I have come across in a game. If you are a fan of the genre, you will be familiar with the way that Sniper Elite holds your hand by providing a red square showing you exactly where your bullet will land. You can up the difficulty to remove this but then you are struggling to properly range your shots. Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts dodges all of this by allowing you to tag your opponents and you will then be shown your distance to them. You then have to judge with your scope how much to allow for bullet drop-off. There is also a marker on your scope to adjust for wind but it always feels like your skill is responsible for each shot.
While the locations, visuals, and sniping are all great, the game is let down by an array of technical glitches. These can be simple but annoying things like looting a corpse where the animation plays but it doesn’t actually work. Then there are really frustrating things like zip lines that drop you down the side of a cliff rather than getting you to the other side. While I never experienced any actual frame drops or screen tearing there were lots of times where it appeared that way as enemies appeared to walk on the spot and then shot forward a few yards. Speaking of enemies, I encountered several that were stuck against posts or walls and others in animation loops. The overall stability of the game was pretty poor with the game crashing around ten times during my 12-15 hours playthrough.
This is all a massive shame as Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts has the makings of an excellent game. If City Interactive were able to patch out all the bugs, this would be the premier Sniper game on Xbox One. They have done such great work with the sniping mechanics and level layout. To then see it struggle with technical issues is a real shame. I still had a lot of fun with the game and I may even revisit it to clean up all the challenges and collectables. However, I can’t help but think about what could have been. Some people may lament that there are only five main locations but you should keep in mind that this isn’t a full-price game. This doesn’t excuse the bugs, though. All of this means that Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts is a good game rather than a truly great game.