We’re gonna need a bigger gun.
In the world of military shooters, Call of Duty and Battlefield have been the top dogs for a long time. There are, of course, dozens of other shooters that fill different niches (Halo, Gears of War, Far Cry, Borderlands, and so on), but it’s a genre filled with triple-A dollars. Existing a notch below those titles in terms of resources has been the specialized shooters, Sniper Elite and Sniper Ghost Warrior.
While we’ve generally preferred the former, CI Games’ newest entry, Contracts, aims to change that with one squeeze of the trigger.
One of our primary complaints with these sniper-driven games is that they make you lethal at range but nearly incompetent in close quarters. Thankfully, Contracts has no such issues as both of your secondary weapons are viable options when you’re pressed into a legit firefight. That’s important since you’re moving around large areas and can be taken almost unawares at times by roving patrols or concealed enemy snipers.
Stealth and long-range combat are still your primary advantages, though, and much of your time will be spent scouting and marking targets, and then finding the best way to pick them off without alerting other enemies. Pulling off clean kills at long distance is immensely satisfying, particularly when the “bullet cam” kicks in, even if it feels like a total ripoff of Sniper Elite. The further out you are the more challenging hitting your targets becomes, and we definitely would’ve appreciated a better tutorial to explain adjusting for bullet drop and wind.
Presentation is where budgetary constraints tend to show up, and Contracts is no different. The different maps offer impressive scale, and there’s some nice touches with abandoned villages, industrial structures and the like dotting the Siberian landscape of snow and woods. Enemy design is repetitive but solid. Performance is an issue, though, with lengthy load times and lots of texture pop in. Things like bushes and water don’t hold up all that well under close viewing, either.
There’s a small amount of dialogue, most of it coming during the contract briefings. It’s fine for what it is, but we repeatedly encountered some weird static-like distortion toward the end of said briefings that made us cringe for our poor soundbar. Music is limited but decent enough, and the gunfire and explosions do the job.
In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, you assume the role of the Seeker, a deadly sniper equipped with a high-tech mask that protects your identity and offers advantages in combat. The game is made up of a series of contract killings, set in one of five locations across Siberia, where you’ll be given a set of objectives and given the option to exfil each time you complete any of them successfully. It’s very straightforward and plays to the game’s strength of overcoming the odds with stealth and ranged precision.
Each level also comes with a set of optional challenges along with collectibles scattered across the map. The challenges consist of things like getting a certain number of head shots, killing a target under a time limit, using only knives, not triggering alarms and more. Completing these and finding the collectibles offer up monetary and secondary pseudo currency (like stars) that are then used to purchase new weapons and gear, upgrade your suit and unlock new functions for your mask. It’s a fun little system.
That mask is your top tool outside of the sniper rifle, as you’ll use it constantly to scout out areas and mark targets — without marking them with your mask, no range is provided for you to adjust your rifle’s scope. It can also allow you to track footprints, illuminate and automatically mark nearby enemies (with an upgrade) and more. It has a heavy Deus Ex feel to it.
While the game certainly encourages you to take down targets from great distance and infiltrate areas quietly, it also affords plenty of freedom, giving off a bit of a Hitman vibe in the way it gives you a list of things to accomplish and then pretty much says “now go do it.” It’s nice to have some options as there were definitely times when we struggled with the patience and planning needed for a clean kill.
For as much as we enjoyed Contracts most of the time, there are some drawbacks. Beyond some of the technical hiccups and bugs, enemy A.I. is really uneven. In terms of awareness, roving patrols can be pretty dense, even on the higher difficulty settings.
They’re seemingly all crack shots, though, pelting you with bullets from assault rifles while your sniper rounds whiz past them as you try to read bullet drop under fire. The game doesn’t do a great job of cluing you in to how injured you are, either, offering a numeric counter at the bottom of your HUD, and oft times we’d just suddenly be dead.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts isn’t a great game, but it’s fun for what it is. We enjoyed taking down hapless enemies on the wide-open levels and upgrading our loadout to become more powerful killing machines. If you don’t need much plot or top-shelf enemy A.I. to embrace a shooter, this should be worth your time.