There’s this little niche within the genre of shooting games where the primary focus is long-range sniper combat. Within this niche, Sniper Ghost Warrior excelled because of its engaging and well-crafted sniping mechanics, but everything surrounding the games could easily be criticised. The ideas appeared to be half baked while the other trimmings such as story and additional mechanics were middling at best. The franchise has also made it tough to trust them since each offering in the Sniper Ghost Warrior saga felt like it was just getting worse.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts takes what the franchise has been doing and goes in a completely different direction. Boring story trails and lame ideas were culled in favour of something bolder. This whole experiment is a pretty large gamble and the synopsis might make you perk up and make you want to stick your finger into the wind, but just how well did this gamble work out?
Hitman Sniper Challenge
Instead of another generic army story, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts takes a lot of inspiration from another murdering franchise involving snipers, Hitman. You are called the Seeker and you’re given tools by a mysterious organisation that wants to hire you to take care of some problems in the extremely cold and dangerous Siberia. Among those tools is a mask capable of making you see bullet drop and gives you superhuman vision when activated.
The set-up and premise of the whole game revolves around various missions involving key members of the enemy force that need to be assassinated. In addition to simply taking out the head bad guy, there are also additional objectives scattered all over the map that you have to complete and some bonus challenges are available if you want to push yourself and get rewarded for it. Objectives have multiple paths to completion and you’re given free rein on the map from the moment you start.
Sounds a lot like Hitman, doesn’t it? The similarities are definitely not a stretch as the entire presentation style has been lifted wholesale. A disembodied voice talks to you before each mission giving you the lowdown on why you need to kill these people and what effect it will have on Siberia while slick animations get interspersed to give you broader context about what you’re doing. It’s Hitman through and through and that’s for sure not a bad thing.
What sets the game apart is obviously the whole sniping angle. Long-range warfare where you need to account for the wind and distance to get that perfect shot. It’s what the series is known for and they can still be known for it in this game. The flight pattern on the scope is sleek with a breadcrumb trail following the bullet’s projected flight path that accounts for the wind, but you still need to judge distance which you can do with your binoculars. This creates a very frictionless sniping experience and no matter how many times you do it, getting that perfect shot always feels criminally satisfying.
Seeing a bullet drop and swerve as it gracefully falls in mid-air and hits your enemy hundreds of meters away is an intoxicating feeling. It’s made even more satisfying by the audible thuds that a headshot makes and the gore is bordering on upsetting because enemies don’t just get shot in the head, their entire head flies off in tiny bloody pieces and brain matter fills the cold Siberian air.
The sniping is for sure still the focus and it’s as fun as ever. However, sniping is but one tool in your colourful toolbox as the game makes ample use of different secondary weapons and gadgets to give you the most options possible. You get your standard military equipment and then you also get the spicy stuff such as a remote sniper turret or a pocket drone that you can send in to fry turrets and spot enemies.
There’s a whole skill tree to explore and unlock as well and you use money and tokens you gain from missions to buy more upgrades and they can range from nice to have to immensely useful. New weapons can also be bought with money, but I wish there were more options for stealth since silenced firearms were rather rare to see. The steady upward progression makes you want to take on more difficult challenges to unlock that cool thing or awesome skill boost and while these light RPG mechanics aren’t crucial, they do a good job of keeping you invested and trying harder.
The money shot
Because you’re just dropped into a map with no direction given except some map markers, you’re pretty much free to do as you please. All sorts of tactics and styles are available to you and you can easily go full stealth and that’s what you actually have to do for some of the more difficult challenges. It’s a killer’s sandbox and it’s your show. I have a love for the pink mist and would perch myself on top of some high vantage point and carefully snipe everyone without them even noticing that something is wrong and the game allowed me to do that.
There’s this perverse satisfaction to be had from being a ruthlessly efficient killer and the game just shovels options at you to get the job done.
The options are endless and you can try all sorts of combinations and strategies. You have special bullets, the remote turret I talked about earlier, recon gear, mask modes that let you see climbable areas and a wide assortment of weapons at your disposal. Like Hitman, it gives the player a playground and the fun you have is the fun you make.
There are only five contracts available in the game and each location feels relatively similar to the last with a couple of deviations along the way. Mostly it’s snowy mountain areas with typical military encampments but there are some striking and even somewhat beautiful environments that you can stumble into. However, there really wasn’t much variety to be found in the locations as it all remained fairly standard throughout which made the experience feel flat at times.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts rather easily and sadly falls into the camp of being generic. All the things I’ve mentioned as positives aren’t new at all and let’s not forget that basically the whole game was ripped off from another arguably much more successful franchise. It tries its best with what it has and through the magic of just sheer volume, it manages to become an enjoyable experience.
Once I got into the flow and all of the mechanics became second nature, I felt like some kind of rampaging killing machine that no enemy ever even saw. I loved playing the role of the stealthy sniper scoping out and evaluating their target and executing it so gracefully that nobody heard anything but the gentle thud of their friends around a corner who just had their cranium plastered on the wall. There’s this perverse satisfaction to be had from being a ruthlessly efficient killer and the game just shovels options at you to get the job done.
At its core, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the hordes of other shooters out there, which has been the prevailing problem for the franchise all these years. But, it is just so fun. Sniping feels and functions wonderfully while everything else encourages you to experiment and allow you to control the battlefield how you see fit. If you’re in the market for a relatively no thrills sniping game with some interesting mechanics and a safe story, there isn’t much else that will hit that mark quite as perfectly, especially for the price.