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C I Games recently released the 3rd game in their Sniper Ghost Warrior series, aptly named Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. Now before I get too deep into this review I have to lay a few cards on the table. The first is that I have not played either of the first two games in the series. The second is that I was taught to shoot by a Marine Corps Sniper who served in Vietnam, then rotated back to the states to become a Scout Sniper instructor. While I am not a complete expert on ballistics, I do know my way around a weapon. So with that out of the way - let's begin. The game begins with a prologue mission, which serves to set up some back story for our main character, John North and act as a basic tutorial. You are introduced to different types of movement, weapons, attacks, ammunition, and the equipment you have at your disposal. The mission centers on John and his brother Robert, another sniper, when they are sent on a classified mission to scout and clear an enemy base. But things don't always go as planned. Fast forward a bit and our story continues. John is now in Georgia - the country, not the state - and he is on assignment to help out the locals and destabalize the seperatists. This assignment takes on a lot of different roles. Your missions will vary from intellegence gathering, hostage rescue, termination of most wanted targets, and creating general chaos. The regions that you operate in also contain dozens of points of interest for you to explore. These points contain different smaller missions for you to complete. Some may require you to save civilians, some have you track down needed supplies, while others simply serve as fast travel points around the area. Regardless, they add some depth and more time that you can spend in the world. These side missions will also help you increase your skill, gather supplies so that you can craft resources and help you explore the landscapes. Most of your traveling is designed to be done in your car. Your exit your safe house, hop in your ride, drive to your mission, park and go through the objectives. Once complete, you exfiltrate the area, return to your vehicle and drive back to the safe house to get your next set of orders. Unfortunately, things tend to go pear shaped when you really don't want them too. Many times once you complete a mission and return to where you stashed your ride it has vanished. This means you are left to run back to a fast travel location or in some cases all the way back to your safehouse since you are not able to grab any of the other cars that are in the world. You can work straight through the story and be done with the game or take your time doing the optional side missions and hunting the most wanted targets as you like. This offers a bit of variety in the flow of the game. It will also allow you to travel between the different regions of the game, explore more, earn and find more of the weapons of the trade. One of the most crucial aspects of the game is the shooting mechanics. It is after all a sniping game. Most of the weapons you use you will have to take distance, elevation and wind speed into account prior to your shot. Only a few high powered / high tech sniper rifles are immune from these factors. You will also have to take enemy armor into your calculations. At 100 yards you may be able to get away with a headshot against an enemy wearing a helmet, but at 400 + yards that same shot will require armor piercing rounds to ensure a killshot. It is nice to see kinectics and ballistics taken into account. The other interesting aspect is that each round fired through a silenced weapon will degrade the attached silencer until it is destroyed. The only way to counter this is to repair it in between missions when you are at your safe house, or carry repair kits with you. The amount of noise you make can influence if the enemy hears you, but this seems to vary a lot. I have been crouched and had an enemy on the far side of an objective take notice of me and one that was less than half his distance to me pay no attention to me. I have also been able to run full speed up to enemies over 30-40 meters and they didn't bat an eye before I was able to "stealth" kill them. If you are spotted, you can usually go prone and simply vanish. If things do go sideways with your mission and a fire fight breaks out, if you are able to move your position, and don't return fire for a minute or so the AI figures you have bugged out and they continue their regular patrol patterns. Graphics in the game are really good. There is a good diversity of enemy types and they are rendered well. Environments are set up beautifully, and there are a few very interesting destinations used as set pieces. The slow motion kill shots are well done, but can get a bit repeatative if you are only going for head shots, and let's face it - we are all trying to pop them like ripe melons for the extra points. The music is upbeat, regional tunes that go well with the setting. The sound effects also help to enhance the game astetic whether it is the howling of the wind, or the howling of the wolves, you will begin to feel like a lone sniper on a mission where survival is solely up to your skills. As fun and interesting as this title is, it does suffer a few setbacks. The 1st is one that you will see right off. Really long load times when you start up the game - like start up the game and go make a sandwich long. These usually only happen at the start of each session, but they are very frustrating. Next, as I mentioned, there is a good chance your vechile will not be where you left it. Also multiple times as I played I encountered the same bug. I would shoot someone, the game would go into the slow motion kill shot and stop just before bullet impact and I was taken back to the moment right before I pulled the trigger. This means you have to re-adjust and try the same shot 3 to 4 times. You can also clear objectives, get an in game notification they are cleared and then get shot my a random enemy that has been re-spawned. The story is interesting, if not predictable, but will give you many hours of engaging gameplay. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is out now on XB1, PS4, PC, and Wii U. You can pick it up now with a season pass that includes extra content for $59.99. I reviewed the game on XB1. 7/10
Headup Games has released a new adventure, puzzle, platformer that will have you chasing after bad guys and searching for your friends. Toby - The Secret Mine tells the story of young Toby, one of the last remaining residents of his village. He must venture out into the dark, unforgiving world and rescue his 26 friends. You set out across the bleak landscape in search of your friends trapped in cages. Along the way you will have to solve puzzles to alter the landscape to allow you to pass and disarm deadly traps. But not all of your friends are sitting out in the open. You will have to poke into the darkness to try and see in the enemies have hidden any of the village residents there. The puzzles will make you rely on most of your senses. Besides the typical reflexes, you will have to have a keen eye to spy triggers for deadly traps, and be listening for strange creaking noises that might mean a loose floor board that can be broken. As you progress through the levels you will have to build on the the skills you have learned to solve more complex problems. Game graphics are, for the most part, dark and eerie. They convey the sense that you are on an overwhelming quest, that you are under prepared for in trying to save the village residents. Tihe stark palette really helps set the tone. The 1st half of the game most of the foreground is all black, so you get very accustomed to it, but suddenly you get thrust into a snow world that is blindingly white and it takes a little bit to adjust. The game music helps add to the spooky atmosphere. This game is a puzzle platformer at heart. For the most it is not really difficult, it will just take some trial and error. And those errors, while frustrating, will rack up a pretty impressive death count for most players. To be honest I wandered into several traps just to watch poor Toby bite the dust. But then again, Toby went into the beyond many times just because of my lack of skills at times. Death has little impact on your game progress. If you die you are transported back to the start of the last puzzle you have not completed. This makes it easier to push through the puzzles until you finally figure them out. Toby - The Secret Mine is out now on XB1, PS4, Wii U and Steam for $9.99. You can even grab it on Android or iOS.