Lots of gamers love sniping, fact. It’s the largely prevalent method of shooting things thanks to its ability to keep you a safe distance from other bullets, whilst at the same time giving you the ultimate satisfaction of feeling like a true marksman. Rebellion Developments recognised this niche and gave us 2005’s Sniper Elite. After a sequel, they’re ready to unleash the third iteration of the series, which we candidly dive into to see if it’s really worth a… shot?
Game: Sniper Elite 3
Publisher: 505 Games
It’s nice to return to WWII amidst a hiatus from in it in the genre. It’s not the typical European setting here, though. The game takes place during the African campaigns and offer a distinct matinee flavour and sun-kissed colour palette – a nice change to the norm. You’ll play Karl Fairburn; your typical generic grisly American who’s been sent behind enemy lines to shatter bones with unerring accuracy that only a rheumatologist might know about. The narrative never really comes alive at any stage, though. There’s few cutscenes and plot points and even less memorable moments to warrant mulling over.
Visuals are a mixed bag, too. Past Sniper Elite games have disappointed a little in the visual department, and although there’s obvious advancements in that area, this one still lacks a level of polish that is befitting of a new generation of gaming systems. The wide open areas can look gorgeous at times, peering through sand laden Africa and the excellent use of lighting on show. There’s definite benefit to the new technology in regards to draw distances that manage to not only aid perception, but also help out the sniping elements of gameplay – no one likes shooting blurry Nazis.
What dampens the spirits is the rigid look and feel of player and enemy movement. The game felt at its most polished when the protagonist was stationary and not fighting with clumsy controls and bugs. No matter what adjustments I made in settings, it never really felt as good as they perhaps could have, often refusing to register altogether. The game physics in general leave little to be desired throughout, too. Bodies landing in unnatural, awkward positions or even just left twitching in mid air can be occasionally stumbled across during your time in game.
From a gameplay perspective Sniper Elite III definitely has plenty to offer, though. Compared to recent counterparts, the developers have really done well to create a more genuine and engaging pace to gameplay that requires you to think a little more about how to progress and tackle certain situations. At the root there’s the sniping that feels great, albeit way over the top, thanks to Sniper Elite’s centerpiece slow motion shots ripping into human flesh and bone with intricate detailing. To the side of that there’s plenty of third person stealth and a large focus on choosing the right positions to take your shot; a tactical element, if you like.
The only real hinderance to enjoyment was the enemy placement and their AI, which in all honesty stood out considerably. For instance, early on you’ll happen across large gun encampments that seem to work on a loop with two men reloading, then taking cover for the shot. This wouldn’t have been too negating if those same two men, repeating the same loop, on the same time frame didn’t reoccur at the next encampment, but sadly they do.
Further more, you’ll rarely find a stationary soldier that’s not facing away from you waiting for a silent takedown, or a guard who noticed you an age ago carefully examining the spot you were occupying with a fine toothpick. And all this whilst you’re showing his wrong-way facing buddy into an early grave – seriously, the war would have gone much smoother for any side facing these guys. But with those problems aside, the actual shooting is still as genuinely enjoyable as it was in Sniper Elite’s past outings.
Missions begin by laying out the scenario, then you’re given the choice to modify loadouts. Once you’re in the game you won’t be greeted by any kind of run-and-gun affair. Choosing the correct spots to take down your targets as to not alert too much attention is key. You might find a power generator or AA gun too create enough noise to mask your shots which adds enough diversity and challenge to gameplay if you’re invested enough to become a true sniper. If you’re even more keen, upping the difficulty adds wind and gravity into the equation with your heart-rate when shooting, so there’s real incentive if you’re willing to go the extra mile in the role.
There’s some shrewd design to Sniper Elite III’s wide open levels; so much so that exploring and revisiting them can lead to discovering new places you’d completely missed first time round. Traversing the levels open up possibilities to use stealth as your main weapon. Taking enemies down from behind silently and hiding the bodies from patrolling guards is a great way to keep alarms at a minimal; raising one means you’ll have to ‘relocate’ to another area before enemies close on your position and all hell breaks loose – you won’t take too much damage before death, which benefits the gameplay greatly.
You’ll probably muster up between 10-13 hours depending on how you play the game and how direct you are with your checkpoints, but you might not want to revisit as gameplay does get a bit repetitive when it comes to what you’re asked to do. There’s plenty of side missions and collectables/weapon upgrades scattered throughout the game, some of which are acquired through leveling up with XP based on your sniping ability and completing side objectives. Multiplayer also adds something to the package. Deathmatches are pretty standard affairs, albeit slower due to the sniping elements. However, game modes based on accumulated shot distance and ones where teams are separated so no close quarter shots can take place end up being particularly interesting, and offer something completely unique online.
Sniper Elite III makes strides with the series but is still lacking polish in places that could take it to the next level. What it has got is some brutal close up cam kills, a nice alternative to your typical WWII setting and plenty of tactical game play that’s brilliantly paced throughout. With the bugs, glitchy graphics and slightly repetitive nature in missions in mind, it can’t be recommended as a definite purchase, but Sniper Elite 3 is a thinking man’s shooter, so for many that might be enough.