The Sniper Ghost Warrior games have always emphasized the freedom to tackle situations in a variety of ways, which is one of the strengths of the series. At E3 2019, we got to see 2o minutes of behind-closed-doors footage of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, the latest entry in the action-stealth franchise by City Interactive. In addition, we had a chance to play the same level shown in the hands-off demo to get the best of both worlds.
What was shown looked and played well, but it felt very safe and it’s a shame, because this genre has gotten stale in recent memory. Still, it was a competent display of beauty, interesting design, and featured a fair amount of variety, so it’s not all bad news.
The downside of many action-stealth games is often in the design of the mechanics. It’s difficult to achieve a satisfying balance of trial and error, repetition, and careful planning, and from the short demo I participated in, Contracts seems to play it safe. For those who just want more Sniper Ghost Warrior, this is not a downside. But when time and money are limited, others might find it hard to justify a purchase when there are so many interesting and unique games on the horizon. That being said, only a short level was shown, so we’ll have to check out the full product to come up with a final opinion.
E3 2019 Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts Preview — It’s Okay to Be Linear
During the 20-minute demo, a snowy map was presented, with various side missions and multiple ways to take out the main target. If you’re unfamiliar with these games, they’re a lot like Hitman, wherein you must take out the target and escape the map to succeed.
The map shown was absolutely beautiful and featured an impressive snowy landscape with tons of variety in its terrain. This is where Contracts shines, because it opens things up and allows you to take various routes to reach your destination. However, the fact that the levels are more linear than in the past makes it less overwhelming.
Of course, you can always handle things loudly and go guns blazing, but in the demo, we were shown the stealthy approach, which required some planning. During my playthrough, I tried to mimic this approach and did not find as much success, so it seems like it will implement a skill-based experience, much like previous installments.
One of the side objectives in this level tasks the player with collecting a sample of a virus, presumably to do research and work on a cure. This is something that the presenter was aiming for and it dictated the approach of the demonstration. One could simply snipe the target and escape, but since the virus was needed, a different method was used.
This is where we got a look at some of the various ammo types, like an EMP bullet that disables electronics. Since the entire base was covered in cameras, we got to see the EMP bullet in action. Using it keeps the player from being detected throughout their trek up to the objective. In addition to that, a high penetration bullet was shown that makes it easier to go through multiple enemies: one shot, two kills. This is particularly important, since it lowers the chance of being detected. Finally, we got to see the distraction ammo type that makes a noise that attracts enemies, which is useful in manipulating their placement.
Seeing the slow-mo footage of the bullet traveling through the air and connecting with the enemy is still novel and absolutely disgusting, much like in other entries. It makes the shots seems so much more impactful. If you want to make sure you get the perfect shot, a new kind of scope has been implemented, as well. This accounts for wind and distance, placing a smaller red dot on the enemy, aside from the main reticle of the scope. The scope also features the number of meters away an enemy is, so it makes things easier, but still requires skill to execute properly. And the level shown was windy enough to have to compensate, which adds to the challenge.
E3 2019 Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts Preview — False Sense of Variety
But of course, you can always run through and alert enemies for a more aggressive approach. This can impact your score, though, so it’s clear how the game wants you to play. It also doesn’t help that you have limited ammo, at least during this point in the game, which makes it even tougher to justify playing it like DOOM. Still, it was explained that you could absolutely run through in a more fast-paced manner. It just may not feel as clean and the game sort of punishes you for doing so.
When I finally got my hands on Contracts, my initial reaction was that it controlled very sluggishly. Even after pumping up the sensitivity to the max, it never felt as good as other first-person games that you might compare this to. This might be by design, as the intention seems to push you towards being deliberate with your actions, but that very aspect undermines playing it in a more aggressive nature even further.
That’s sort of the issue with Contracts. It’s presented as a game that allows for lots of variation and experimentation with gameplay styles, but in reality, you’re punished for playing it like a fast-paced shooter. And if that’s what the developers at City Interactive are are going for, that’s absolutely fine, but as it stands, Contracts is trying to have the best of both worlds and it only really does one of them right: stealth. If that’s your thing and you love the strategy of planning your route and thinking on the fly to get through undetected, you’ll find exactly that here.
But if you’re looking for a new take on the action stealth genre or something that will “sneak up” and blow you away, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts seems too close to the rest of the games in the series. Let’s hope the rest of the game has some memorable moments to freshen things up.