Posted on 03 Dec 2019 by Jay Shaw

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts

The Defence

Developer: CI Games
Publisher: CI Games
Genre: Action, Shooter, Stealth
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 22 Nov 2019

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 4460
AMD FX 6350
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
HDD: 20 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 4690k
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB
AMD Radeon RX 580x 4GB
RAM: 16 GB
HDD: 20 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is the fourth entry in a series that has gone from strength to strength over the years; from a Call of Duty clone to the open-world structure of something like Far Cry 3. There’s not a huge amount of competition in the long-range head-popping scene but can Contracts‘ new structure provide a magic bullet that will propel the series to mainstream fame or will it remain a faceless mook just trying to get by?

The Trial

Contracts has ditched the large open world of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 in favour of more Sniper Elite 4 style sandboxes. If you’ve never played the latter: instead of a huge open world traversable with vehicles, the sandboxes are more like open-plan levels where you can choose your own approach to objectives and the order you tackle them in. This change suits Contracts well, allowing more detail and care to be taken in the design of each map. A particular highlight is the game’s second map, a large shipyard and military dry dock that’s accompanied by a chunk of Siberian wilderness. The dry dock and base both have multiple routes of infiltration and different guard set-ups that provide unique challenges.

Enemy compounds provide the highlight for fans of stealth games; each is presented like a puzzle with multiple solutions. You might find a nearby perch and begin picking off isolated guards with your rifle or you might sneak up close and begin luring guards away for a quick game of knifey-throaty behind the bike shed. You might take neither of those approaches and go all Metal Gear, sneaking in and evading patrols to steal sensitive information or eliminate your target without hurting anyone else. Or you might cause a nearby diversion with explosives or a brief gunfight and lure base guards away – or it might backfire and reinforcements may arrive with an armoured personnel carrier and soldiers to secure your target. Every single one of those approaches is valid and the structure of the puzzle will change based on your approach.

Less puzzling is your choice of gear. Contracts has a loadout screen you can use to customise your gear before each contract attempt. The issue is that your starting equipment is more than capable of carrying you through the entire game; so long as you have a suppressed sniper rifle and your trusty AK there’s little reason to bother trying out any of the other guns. Ammunition is in broad categories (heavy sniper, pistol, etc.) and some pistols have the distinction of firing heavy sniper ammo while being suppressed. We ended up sticking with the starting AK and two DLC guns our review key provided us with and while we did stick new attachments and camo patterns on them, we never felt the need to use other weapons for practical reasons. We did try out the other guns for the sake of comparison however and couldn’t find a reason to bother with any of them besides two reasons: some can equip a bipod allowing you to enter a stable stance called supported stance anywhere you can go prone, and some sniper scopes have different zoom levels that may be preferable based on personal taste.

Being on a boat in Contracts is a bit more hazardous than Dangerous Catch.

CI Games catalogue has never been “AAA quality” but Contracts suffers from some pretty serious glitches that aren’t game-ending but can lead to some hilarious situations and exploits. In our time with the game we discovered how to: climb thin air and clip through ceilings/floors, clip inside trees to hide from enemy patrols, and plant bouncing betty mines at head-height in the air. We’ve even got the screenshots to prove it. All of these happened naturally without us doing anything special or weird to trigger them.

But what about the shooting? Sniping typically takes place at ranges from 50-300 meters and every sight uses a dotted line to indicate bullet drop and windage. Windage and drop is also represented by yellow lines on the range demarcations. Hitting your target is never a challenge even from a crouch or standing as holding your breath is extremely generous and steadies the scope entirely. At least the game doesn’t seem to copy Sniper Elite‘s weird range adjustment actually adjusting the drop of the bullet. It does suffer from an overly enthusiastic bullet cam, triggered when you make a long range shot with the sniper rifle, which we can only describe as having the personality of an overly enthusiastic sign spinner. We don’t suffer from motion sickness while gaming but if you’re unsure if you do the bullet cam in Contracts is a good test. Sniper rifles can also use alternate special ammunition types like armour piercing or guided rounds unaffected by bullet drop and wind but special ammunition is extremely limited and usually only provides you with 5 rounds of each type.

Assault rifle and pistol stopping power can sometimes feel inconsistent though, we’ve had instances where enemies can take a dozen bullets to the torso before going down and an identical enemy will drop in a single hit. If it’s enemy armour stopping the bullets then there’s no appropriate feedback to make that obvious. Our advice is just pack whatever guns do the most damage and can equip a suppressor because the game has no noise radius and you can fire with impunity that way. Assault rifles also suffer from rather extreme recoil in some cases, like the protagonist’s forearms have turned to jelly as soon as the trigger is depressed. The best comparison we can think of is how Insurgency: Sandstorm handles LMG recoil, but applied to an assault rifle. Don’t expect to be using your weapons at authentic ranges. That said, there doesn’t seem to be any damage drop-off over range either so a carefully aimed shot from your AK will drop a target just as well at 300 meters as it does at 30.

Knifey-throaty is a gentleman's sport.

Gadgets also suffer from extremes of usefulness. Even unaware enemies react quickly to a grenade landing by them – great for maintaining the illusion of a trained military force – and will escape the blast radius more often than not. Mines offer a far more effective weapon, both for defending your position and for ambushing a patrol while you’re far away in safety. You can also unlock a small reconnaissance drone that can create decoy noises or a small EMP blast to disrupt electronics, it’s easily spotted by enemies but when used carefully can sow chaos or open a gap in enemy patrols. There’s also a wonderful sniper turret; you plonk it down somewhere and mark up to three targets for it to shoot when you give the signal. The possibility for synchronised sniping is wonderful, or it can be used to draw enemies away from your infiltration point. The tactical opportunities these two gadgets offer are brilliant additions to the series and shouldn’t be ignored.

You can also upgrade several categories of equipment; support (like the turret), your mask, your suit, and your gadgets. These upgrade trees tie into the game’s challenges and side-missions during contracts. These can range from easy like interrogating three officers or blowing up 10 guards, to extremely difficult like taking out your target without killing anyone else. These reward you with money and tokens of three types – locks, stars, and skulls – which are then spent on higher level upgrades and new weapon unlocks. Upgrades are relevant to their categories and can improve your camouflage in certain terrain, provide more armour plating, more gadget slots, more ammunition capacity, etc. Some of the more useful upgrades allow you to perform new abilities like hacking automated turrets and disarming mines or automatically tagging enemies within a radius when you activate your mask’s vision mode. Naturally, earning some of these will require you to replay older missions to complete challenges for tokens and money which provides a good reason to revisit older areas and try new play styles or items.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite hold up as strongly as Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 and is largely presented in the form of loading screen briefings. You can find additional intel while in-mission, either from interjections by your handler or interrogating key enemies but it never really goes anywhere. There’s some vague tale about Siberian separatists and their development of a new chemical or biological weapon. It’s never entirely clear. While the contracts structure has done wonders for the quality of the maps and gameplay it fragments the story and perhaps a second attempt by the developers would refine this structure further into something more compelling. The Seeker is a faceless, quiet protagonist but his personality shines through in his actions; both by the player and preset actions such as killing enemies you’ve interrogated. The Seeker never lets anyone he grabs walk away intact, there’s no non-lethal option and no mercy, you’re playing a merciless and hardened killer. This is a man who doesn’t care one bit for the lives of his enemies and takes them down without any wasted effort. We hope he makes a return in a sequel because he’s a refreshing change from the goody-two-shoes protagonists of other games and we rather fell in love with his no-nonsense style.

The Verdict

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is a very enjoyable game but it has its warts. Sniping would greatly benefit from extreme range opportunities while close range engagements would benefit either from better visual feedback of damage dealt or faster time to kill. The bullet cam is a little over excitable but can be turned off and it’s very cool to see the different ammunition types in flight but the fifteenth time you see someone’s skull fragment in the same way begins to feel a little flat. If we have one major complaint it’d be that the game should lean more into the Sniper part of its title and embrace a more in-depth ballistics and damage model – landing a shot through crosswinds and temperature variance at 700 meters would feel absolutely badass. Is Contracts perfect? No. Is it a lot of fun and worth your time if you enjoy stealth FPS? Absolutely.

Case Review

  • Boom Headshot: The simplified scope model can make anyone a crack shot.

  • Opportunities: The possible variety of tactical approaches is great.

  • Challenges: Side missions provide a reason to replay the game and try new things.

  • Short Range: More long range shooting please.

  • Cockroaches: The game has Pre-Cambrian sized bugs.

4 Score: 4/5
Look past the rough bits and there's a very solid game here.


  • Gameplay: Bullet camera toggle, frequency slider, sprint and aim toggle.
  • Audio: Volume sliders for music, effects, and dialogue. Subtitles toggle.
  • Video: Resolution selection, fullscreen and vsync toggles, gamma and field of view sliders. Quality preset selection. Advanced options for varying qualities of in-game effects, object detail, particles, physics, post processing, shader quality, and shading.
  • Controls: Fully rebindable keyboard controls, mouse sensitivity for general movement, aim sensitivity, and drone look sensitivity. Y-axis inversion for general gameplay and drone flight.

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