It's difficult to nail down one specific issue that plagues Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts but it's abundantly clear what the game is trying to be - a mix between the episodic Hitman games and Far Cry with some generic near-future elements. It's an experience that's routinely frustrating and almost never rewarding. A slow, boorish, slog that's at best mediocre and at worst infuriating. The game is relatively short, only taking roughly 8 hours to complete the main objectives, but it becomes a slog as more issues become apparent.
For a game that's built on its apparent replayability, Contracts seems hell-bent on shooing players away, even more than the luke-warm Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. It only has a few primary objectives throughout its five main levels, eliminating a target, collecting intel, and two instances where players get to place C4 on a structure. Any time it feels like Contracts is going to try and do something new and interesting, it never extends.
In one mission, intel is locked behind a gated area indoors. The gate is locked, but there's no lock to blow off to swing the door open, as there had been up until that point in previous encounters. With a sputtering breaker box nearby, it seemed as though there may be some type of puzzle, or at least a path to follow to a separate breaker that could open the door. Unfortunately, the solution was to throw a grenade at the door, blasting it open and allowing the precious intel to be snatched up. Except blowing up that door caused the intel to glitch out and disappear, repeatedly. After about an hour of checkpoint and mission reloads, the intel finally managed to stay in place, finally allowing the objective to be completed.
That experience defines Contracts as a whole. While that's one of the more severe instances we experienced during our playthrough, there was little else that made it feel worth playing. Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts has some of the most inconsistent AI of any game this generation, sometimes as bad as Aliens: Colonial Marines. Dropping an enemy right in front of another enemy would often yield no reaction from the one left standing, and scripted conversations between the two would sometimes continue. The problem is so bad that repeatedly shooting one of the heavy, juggernaut-style enemies in the head with the starter sniper rifle wouldn't seem to phase them.
And while the standard and juggernaut enemies are essentially blindfolded, deaf, and completely numbed to pain, the snipers and CCTV cameras dotting the map could spot a fly at 500 meters in a blizzard. The slightest movement outside of cover will often result in detection, immediately raising the alarm and causing groups of enemies to emerge and blast at the player. The obvious answer is to stay in cover, but that usually means tall grass. In Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts, the grass effectively blinds the player, making it nearly impossible to move about stealthily.
Contracts only really has two redeeming qualities. The game does, occasionally, look pretty sharp, especially in the areas that aren't snow-covered. The levels also allow players to tackle objectives in any order they see fit, though this did lead to an instance where a target we had already killed showed up in a different part of the map later on - something the game apparently didn't account for. There are multiple paths to each objective, and finding the stealthier ones becomes essential later on as more enemies begin to populate target locations.
Beyond that, there's little to enjoy. The game feels stale to play, as the few objectives quickly get old and the level design is boring, despite its open-endedness. Every main target can be eliminated with relative ease by finding a decent location to snipe them, making the multiple methods of taking them down feel pointless. There are a few gadgets the player can use to try and spice things up, but the remote sniper is really the only interesting one and it's essentially the same as the player eliminating targets themselves. Retrieving intel for an objective can feel difficult, but more so in an arbitrary than challenging way, as the game essentially just ups the number of enemies present in later levels rather than trying to spice up the level design with unique challenges.
Contracts has a few technical problems as well. There was only one instance of it actually crashing during our playthrough, but there were plenty of bugs. One, in particular, would cause a loud screeching, static sound to be emitted from either the TV speakers or headphones. Cutscenes would regularly be a black screen with audio playing behind it, enemies would frequently get caught in audio loops causing them to repeat voice lines, and zooming into the sniper scope would frequently render a broken texture.
For those that want to drop in and shoot some enemies, Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts may be worth checking out, so long as they can ignore the many bugs present in the game. Even then, its an incredibly tough sell. Some early E3 demos made it seem as though this would be a first-person Hitman game, but the end result is disappointing and frustrating.
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts will release on November 22nd, 2019, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.