Back in 2017, “Sniper Ghost Warrior 3” took the series in a whole new direction by creating an expansive open world for all the long-range gunplay fans could hope for in a game. Unfortunately, the third entry in the franchise was full of bugs and artificial limitations that made it a struggle to carry out a mission without running into technical issues. Fans went as far to make their own extensive patches and mods that fixed many of those lingering issues after release.
“Going into an open world setting diverted a lot of our resources,” CI Games senior level designer Daniel Sławiński tells Variety. “Without it we can focus on what matters.”
For CI Games, what matters is versatility in carrying out a deadly assassination from hundreds of meters out (or any other way the player can come up with). They’re trying to keep that vision alive by creating reasonably sized sandbox levels that still give players that freedom. They’re losing the open world but hopefully retaining the sandbox mentality that came with “Sniper Ghost Warrior 3.”
During a special demo behind closed doors lead by Sławiński, which I also played afterward, it was clear that the development team was trying to retain that player freedom. The demo put you in the middle of a snowy mountain base where you needed to assassinate a Russian defector and complete other side objectives if time and safety allowed it.
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Sławiński showed us multiple entry points to the area of the map where the target was staying, using different types of gear to mark enemies and fortify his position, as well as the different play styles that could be used. At one point Sławiński slipped and set off the base alarm alerting dozens of enemies to his general location.
“Anything can happen when you play,” said art director Rick Nath who was brought on to help address the franchises technical issues. “That’s the kind of replayability it has. We’ve gone through the demo multiple times and this is the first time this has happened. The first time the alarm has gone off like this.”
The demo featured a long list of different types of gear that could be utilized during missions including tracker rounds that locate enemies, bullets that work like an EMP blast, special visors that help you track, as well as other items that can help personalize an assassination.
At the beginning of the presentation, Nath said they had listened to the fan reaction to Contracts predecessor and focusing on correcting the mistakes they had made, mainly talking about the extensive bugs.
My experience with the demo was mostly smooth, shots connected and the weight of the rifle felt powerful. Enemies reacted in intelligent ways. When I alerted a guard by killing two of his companions, he came back with an armored vehicle full of reinforcements. “Contracts” retains the methodical, decision-based gameplay the series is known for. Although I don’t know if it holds up for an entire game.
Both Nath and Sławiński believe that the structural change would help alleviate the major issues that players had with “Sniper Ghost Warriors 3,” although it wasn’t the primary reason for the shift away from an open world. “Some of it was based on technical issues,” Nath said. “Some of it was story based, there is an overarching story across the various missions in the game.”
On paper and on screen, “Sniper Ghost Warriors Contracts” seems like it’s steering the series in a better direction. We won’t know if that’s completely true until the full release later this year.