Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is a game where we can be a.. Sniper.. Ghost.. and Warrior? As we run through its dialogue and scenes for context, we discover core gameplay trapped beneath atrocious dialogue, story, and characters. The tutorial especially oozes with potential after a not-so-oozing cutscene. So, the question beckons: What did Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3’s tutorial and opening missions do right and wrong?
There are two opening cutscenes that are complete polar opposites.
The game begins “19 years ago” with one brother (Rob) practicing shooting his rifle while the older brother (Jon) pops up to spend the day with his brother before Jon had to leave for Afghanistan. This scene actually builds the relationship with well-written dialogue and without dragging on for too long.
Zoom into the future to “23 months ago”: the brothers are in a helicopter ETA 2 minutes. Your brother (Rob) picks up a medal that you (Jon) somehow dropped without noticing until ETA 2 minutes. Of course, with inexperienced writers, we have Rob taunting Jon with the medal by saying some obscure line, “You still using it to beat yourself up, Altar Boy? Hanging yourself on a bent and tarnished cross?” This back and forth banter happens during the whole ride, thankfully only for 2 minutes.
It’s obvious what the developers are trying to do. They’re trying to show how much Jon and Rob’s relationship has gone downhill in its stereotypical brother rivalry fashion. It doesn’t work. The entire scene is simply the two brothers arguing and bickering. I would imagine they, being in the military together, would be very close, especially in such a dedicated and cooperative field. The way they were developed makes them out to be… well… insignificant. Who cares what happens to his brother Rob at the end of the tutorial? They were downplayed through unrealistic, malicious dialogue.
A key aspect to game design and tutorials is making sure the player learns what they need to learn and in a safe environment. This tutorial does so in droves.
Our first obstacle is to simply climb up. The brothers then look across to their target location, seeing that they’re too far to scout anything, so they plan their next move thanks to Jon scouting with his scope and seeing a better vantage point. This was well-incorporated and didn’t feel like a tutorial as much as it did a meaningful interaction with his partner. We jump onto a ledge and Uncharted our way across.
A wolf runs at us. Although I have yet to see wolves or quick-time events in the actual game itself, here we are introduced to a quick-time event to punch the crap out of a wolf. However, I’m afraid this breaks the “safe environment” rule because it’s not necessarily scripted. The wolf can be shot or it can just attack.
The burnt tree is one of the best tutorial moments. Here we learn about different bullet types, shooting, and possibly different future environmental interactions (although unlikely from what I’ve played; again, could be in future missions). We must switch our ammo type to explosive and shoot the tree to get across the large gap. The dialogue shows real personality here as they figure it out and work together. Rob ends up complimenting Jon for the shot, which felt like a natural, normal line that felt good to hear instead of the constant bickering.
It’s very important to note here how we learned to shoot without the possibility of being spotted or dying. That’s a huge game design win.
As we continue and hide in some bushes, something peculiar caught my ears. When close to Rob, we hear his voice directly instead of through the radio. It’s such a nice touch that helps with the immersion.
Jon is introduced as being the tracker in the family. He proceeds to analyze the footprints and determines that two men were carrying something heavy, probably weapons. This scene is well-done since it sets up how or why Jon is able to track footprints in the open-world game. It makes it feel more genuine.
After taking out two guards where are destination lies, Rob suddenly spouts, “Here, take it.” We grab a drone from Rob, although a little sudden and unexpected.
The drone is a great tool. Recon is important as a sniper, and so being able to recon the area yourself feels like part of the mission and adds depth to the gameplay. There are enemies guarding the area including two enemies on the buildings, so it has a nice variety of locations for drone practice.
The area is clearly contained. The dome keeps the tutorial area focused without it feeling forced, although it makes you wonder what that dome even is.
The first two targets are impossible to fail since Rob shoots them if you miss. That’s a great way to add leniency to the new concept of shooting real targets where distance and wind matter. Next, we wait to shoot a group of two enemies. As a sniper, sometimes being patient is worth it if it means an easier target.
We climb down, sneak in, learn about interrogation and gain additional intel for doing so, continue forward into a building, and get spotted by a camera since Rob is reckless and didn’t shoot the cameras. It’s unavoidable, which is disappointing, but it had to be scripted in order to introduce the player to different aspects of the game.
Once we’re spotted, we’re introduced to combat in the more typical FPS style, although not something I ever employ in the actual game. The good news is enemies die in only a few hits (or fewer well-placed shots), so it feels more realistic and less like Call of Duty, especially when being so reckless in this game usually kills you because of non-regenerating health.
Notice that recoil. That’s an important feature to have for both realism and for the fact that the secondary weapon should only be a last resort weapon at best. Imagine how the game would pan out if we were given a machine gun with no recoil in a stealth, sniper game?
Finally, we hack into the CCTVs to scout out enemies, finish them off, plant the bomb, and roll on outta there into one of the worst villain voice actors I’ve ever heard.
Steal My Brother Please
Oh no, the brother is being stolen, and we barely got away from that meddling maniac by our sheer 1/3 luck of the barrel. Alright, well… who cares?
So the game set up this brother-brother relationship only to completely tear it down. This isn’t The Last of Us where the story and characters become the central focus; no, the game set up these situations that required cooperation and teamwork with a who-cares kind-of story overlay. Or maybe it’s just the fact that the game started with the brothers hating each other. Maybe that’s when I stopped caring.
Not to mention nothing from this scene with the villain Vasilisk makes any sense. The dialogue is that bad. It’s so unrealistic and fake that it’s painful, and that’s considering games are already unrealistic.
The Open-World Aspect
In any case, I stepped through the tutorial not only to display certain game design features, but to showcase what the tutorial showcases, or rather, what the tutorial teaches you and how. We learned everything we needed to learn and more all within an environment that remains completely safe for a long while. None of what we learned feels jammed, forced, or unreasonable. They nailed it pretty well, only to drop me into an open-world. Is that bad? Not necessarily, although rather shocking.
The big part of the open-world aspect is positioning and scouting, which is complimented by the fact that it is an open-world game. Watch the video for Max’s take on the open-world matter, since he’s all for the open-world (or scroll down to watch his video clip).
Shawn, on the other hand, found the open-world pointless (at least from a First Impressions standpoint). Positioning and scouting is a great feature implemented for the missions themselves, so why didn’t they dedicate their resources toward missions, story, dialogue, characters, and so on? Sure positioning and scouting CAN matter in the open-world between missions, but the mission gameplay is where the game shines.
Which begs the question: What’s in-between these open-world missions? Roads, random enemy camps, fast-travel, well… all you’re gonna do in-between missions in the open-world is either fast-travel or drive your truck. I mean, the game even gives you a truck if you fast-travel anywhere. So what’s the point when everything is localized with fast-travel and roads everywhere?
One, Two, Three Missions
Mission One – The Tutorial After The Tutorial?
The missions, as previously mentioned, are where the game shines. For the first mission, we are led by the mission objective to a perch. So despite the tutorial we just went through, the game eases us in and helps us adjust by providing a short, simple mission that leans us into scouting the area, making sure we’re aware of our surroundings, and taking the high ground or at least taking a reasonably external approach.
We receive an amazing reward too: A one-way trip to Lydia’s terrible dialogue that makes no logical sense. They have a history back in Afghanistan. Something happened that made her hate him. So what else would she do, but completely change everything around and help him while cursing his very name?
Mission Two – Hostages & Patrol Pathing
For the second mission, we have to save hostages that are digging their own graves. Although the enemies are scattered in the general sense of building, backyard, and outside building patrols, there’s a group of them in the backyard with the civilian hostages. Despite this grouping, the pathing is well-done.
The patrols outside of the building are easy to take out, but if you’re not careful and on top of things, others patrolling will notice the body eventually.
The enemy watching from the edge of the cliff is an isolationist, but we must be aware of our surroundings to notice.
Approaching from the rocks allows either a stealth knife or silenced pistol kill on the poor sap who patrols around our post.
The last two offer two opportunities: Either take them out when one is walking away and nobody will notice, or take them both out with one bullet.
Of course, we could approach from the other side as well if we wanted and we’d have similar opportunities. This is a crucial combination and takeaway from this mission: What makes this mission well-made is not only the variety of approaches we can take — both in direction and vantage points — but the variety of opportunities we have as well.
Optional Mission One – Chainsaw, Please Buzz In My Ear
There’s a chainsaw that buzzes constantly, which sums up this mission. This mission comprises an awkwardly placed building surrounded by high cliffs and close to no vantage points.
The keys to the truck are hidden somewhere as well if you do successfully make it to the truck unseen, so.. best solution.. kill them all, which defeats the purpose of the core gameplay. This isn’t how missions usually play out, however. Usually there are many vantage points and different approaches to take.