PAX West: Hands On With Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3

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CI Games’ Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is looking like – wait for it – a bullseye in the stealth-heavy sniper genre, based on what I saw during my brief hands-on at PAX West.

Simply by dint of being a sniper game, you already know a lot about what this game is – you’re a lone soldier relying on stealth, skills, and a weapon that allows you to reach out and touch people across long distances. What Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 brings to the table is primarily refinement – plus a few handy new gadgets.

Notable among these is the backpack-portable aerial recon drone, which is about the size of a hotel room coffee pot. During my hands-on demo of the game, I found a convenient high point on a rock overlooking an occupied train yard, and was encouraged to try the drone out. On-screen, my character’s left hand lifted the device up a bit and it took to the air, and my point of view immediately shifted to the drone’s camera.

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Gaining some altitude, I flew toward the walled train yard and was able to mark several sentries posted by the approaches, snipers in two towers, and a mortar team who’d been hidden by some of the idle boxcars that littered the facility. Another couple guards patrolled a footbridge over a few of the rails, and another posted up outside the small building that held a manifest I was instructed to steal.

Calling my drone back, I decided on some isolated targets, thanks to some advice from the developer team staff – bad guys in pairs tend to notice when their buddy keels over, and will usually take the opportunity to call their manager. Fortunately, the soldiers in the towers were on their own, so I settled into a prone position and took aim.

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The game pulls in enough realism to make using a scope slightly more challenging, without going so far as turning into a sim. You need to adjust the zoom, of course, but you’ll also need to adjust the optic range so that your crosshairs line up properly. To do so you’ll need to be able to estimate distances with a certain degree of accuracy, and that’s a skill you’ll have to develop with practice.

CI Games told me that the game is set in several massive, open areas which will each hold several missions, somewhat in the vein of Metal Gear Solid V. You’ll have to collect resources and craft items to keep yourself mobile between resupplies, and there are three skill trees to advance in. While I didn’t get to see it, I was told that you’ll have to choose your loadout and actually drive yourself to mission drop-off points in the release version of the game.

It’s also drop-dead gorgeous. Developed in CryEngine, the game’s sunlight dances off swaying foliage and rusty corrugated metal roofs. Beefy, vibrant explosions rocked the forest after I whiffed a shot and alerted the mortar crew to my location.

Still, it is a sniper game, and that’s a subgenre in which ultimately you’re doing much the same things from game to game. Some folks – and you know who you are – probably only needed to read the title to know they’ll be buying it when it comes out January 27 (it’ll be available on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One), while others will be bored to tears just by reading my description of it.

Something everyone can love about it though: the ragdoll physics are excellent.