Developer Rebellion Oxford Publishers 505 Games (consoles)/Rebellion (PC)
Genre Third-Person Shooter Platforms Played On PC/PS3
Sniping is an art. Taking into consideration your rifle’s specifications, the distance between you and your target, the wind, all while being seconds away from blowing someone’s mind – literally – is not something easily done. Almost every first-person and third-person shooter provides players with this opportunity, but very few are actually 100% focusing on this “relation” between the soldier and his scoped rifle.
Fortunately, over the course of three generations now, the Sniper Elite franchise has stepped in to fill this void. The sixth generation had Sniper Elite, the seventh had Sniper Elite V2, and now, the seventh and eight have Sniper Elite III. Is it any better than its predecessor? Yes; Sniper Elite III is a huge improvement in almost every aspect. Here’s why…
Developer Rebellion’s latest sniping-fest offers players three main modes to experience: a Campaign, a Challenge mode, and Multiplayer. First of all, let’s talk about the campaign.
Sniper Elite III’s campaign is surprisingly short. I have completed half its missions on the ‘normal’ difficulty setting, while the rest was spent on the ‘hard’ one. My time? Six hours and roughly twelve minutes. Of course, players whom will want to gather every last collectible and finish every last secondary objective might squeeze two-four more hours, but that’s about it. Every mission from the campaign can also be played cooperatively, with one other player. It’s also worth noting that all of the campaign’s missions are unlocked from the very beginning, if you’re willing to share your experience with another player.
The Sniper Elite series isn’t known for having an in-depth storyline – nor characters – and #3 seems to be no different. The protagonist is your standard military tough-guy, and the villain is the usual Nazi general, hell-bent on the vilest of things. Your main task across the eight-mission storyline? You guessed it – stop the evil guy from developing super weapons for taking over the world. It’s completely unremarkable, but thankfully, it never gets in the way of the gameplay; which is great, because playing Sniper Elite III is a blast from start to finish.
Along the way, you’ll visit stunning mountain-passes, infiltrate castles under the cover of darkness, make your way into deserted cities, assault an airbase, and make yourself comfortable among various ruins. The environments are a much-needed improvement over the generic war-torn streets of Berlin.
The game’s level design deserves a special shout-out. Rebellion wasn’t kidding when it said that levels in Sniper Elite III will truly be open-ended. Each mission presents you with quite a few alternative/hidden paths to take, most of the times allowing you to bypass a whole garrison of soldiers. More than that, if the game doesn’t specifically require it, one could finish an entire level without killing a single soldier. This truly is a far-cry from V2’s “cramped corridor” levels.
Veterans of V2 will feel right at home when playing #3. Lower difficulty settings always display your bullet’s “final spot” – completely neglecting features like wind and distance – while also making enemies more forgiving when it comes to detection, in addition to making you less vulnerable to enemy fire. On the other hand, the most difficult of settings – only suitable to “purists and masochists,” as the game puts it – completely erases any kind of heads-up-display, the ability of tagging enemies, in addition to fully integrating ballistics for your weapons, and making enemies more agile in spotting you. The sweet-spot is somewhere in the middle, but this integrated system makes sure that anyone can enjoy some pure sniping action.
New to the series is the “art of relocation.” When an enemy detects you, a white silhouette will appear on your current/last known position. By relocating to another area – without being seen, of course – enemies will lose track of you, and their aggressive nature will turn back to passive. One shot – soldiers are going into cover. Firing a second shot will give them a rough idea of your location, so you’ll have to move. If they’re not passive while taking your third shot, you’ll be discovered.
Sniper Elite III benefits from this feature immensely, as it always keeps players on their toes. You can’t just sit in one place, kill everyone in the current area, and move on. If, however, you’d want to do that, you can always leave some mines and trip-wires behind you, and start the mayhem. Remember, being a sniper doesn’t necessarily mean to be completely stealthy.
That said, it’s a bit weird that firing one shot and waiting a few seconds will render the enemy soldiers once again passive, but looking at the bigger picture, I think this supposed flaw can be overlooked, in favour of a more fun gameplay.
Another important factor to consider is sound-masking. Although it was barely touched in V2, this most-of-the-times logical feature is another great addition to #3. During any level, your shots can be masked using different objects and opportunities, such as broken engines, storms, passing-by planes, anti-aircraft guns etc. Most often, your rifle will be covered by damaging different kinds of engines. On this end, it doesn’t particularly make sense why the usual grunt wouldn’t just stop the respective noise, but – again – logic is sacrificed in favour of gameplay, and that’s totally fine by me.
Sound plays an important part in Sniper Elite III, so, for the majority of the game, you will need to stay crouched. This is not a game for the impatient sort; unless you want to cause a mass-murder in every level; which would be the equivalent to a mass-murder in a Hitman level; which would mean missing the point of the game.
Obviously, the x-ray kill-camera makes a return, and it’s even bloodier than Sniper Elite V2’s. This time, it’s also present when shooting vehicles. That said, it’s not that impressive, when compared to the spectacle of seeing someone’s skull being completely crushed; or someone’s testicles.
All of the above features are tied to a levelling system, which is also a first-timer for the Sniper Elite series. Experience is obtained from doing pretty much anything: killing, performing stealth take-downs, finding sniper nests etc. Levelling up grants you new weapons and gadgets (e.g. trip mines, grenades etc.), in addition to a few customisation options (e.g. options for better performances, crosshairs etc.). Of course, each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages, but you won’t really be bothered selecting one over another. The selection of weapons, gadgets, and customisation options is also short, but, as I mentioned before, you’ll hardly care about by it.
I’m loving the fact that enemies actually speak Italian and German. It makes for a far more authentic experience, when compared to most other first-person shooters, which deliver God-awful German – for example – accents, in order to mask the fact that everyone speaks English. Unfortunately, this does not include the cinematics. Fortunately, the total number of said cinematics which feature Germans talking in English can be counted on one hand.
Sniper Elite III’s A.I. is either smart, dumb, or has super-detection abilities. On the plus side, the enemy soldiers always make sure to take cover, and even heal their allies, if you manage to simply incapacitate them. On the down side, I would sometimes stand right in front of a whole group, and even though I was killing them one by one, they would simply stumble one upon another, not being capable of identifying me. On the annoying side, there were moments when I would fire the third shot, and even though there was no one around me, the soldiers on the other side of the map would pinpoint my exact location. It’s not a perfect system, of course, but most of the times, it works.
Other small – but still-noticeable quirks – are the tank “bosses,” and the fact that, even though the game advises you to keep to the shadows, interestingly-enough, the various sources of lights throughout the game are seemingly indestructible; apart from spotlights. I also encountered a game-breaking bug, which made me restart an entire level.
Besides the Campaign, Sniper Elite III also offers you a Challenge mode, which comes in three varieties: Solo Survival, Survival – two players – and Overwatch. Survival is your basic Hoard mode, in which you and another friend must take on wave after wave of enemies. Between rounds, you are given the opportunity of restocking and healing; you are also granted a checkpoint every three new rounds. Sadly, this mode offers only two maps, at launch. Overwatch is a bit more creative, as one player takes the role of the spotter, tagging the enemy for his partner, while the sniper “takes care” of the tagged soldiers. Again, Overwatch only features two maps.
Sniper Elite III’s Multiplayer offers a total of five modes. There’s the usual Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch modes, Team Distance Kill (which is the same as TD, only the team with the highest total kill-distance wins), Distance Kill, and No Cross – a Team Deathmatch style mode, with both teams being on different sides of the map, with no possibilities of close-quarter fire-fights. That said, all of these five modes feel essentially the same, because even in Team Deathmatch or Deathmatch, you would want to keep a considerable distance from your enemy. The “distance-kill” feature is not that significant. No Cross, on the other hand, is a nice addition, simply because it completely stops players whom prefer the “run-and-gun” technique from ruining the game. The progression system from the Campaign crosses over to Multiplayer, so by the time you finish the storyline, you’ll be well-equipped for taking on real foes.
There’s really not much to say about the game’s score. The most noticeable thing about it is the fact that its main theme has been reused from the previous instalment. On the graphics’ side, however, Sniper Elite III looks great. The PC version features sharp textures, and even though the whole game is set in North Africa, each level has its own distinct feel; especially missions set during the night. Animations can be a bit wonky, more so when corpses are about to fall off a cliff – for example – but it’s nothing immersion-breaking.
The PlayStation 3 version is obviously a step behind in this regard – having lower-resolution textures and rougher shadows – but except for that, it plays exactly the same. The frame-rate can sometimes drop to annoying-levels, especially during Multiplayer matches.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, Sniper Elite III is a major improvement over its predecessor, and the perfect beginning for the franchise on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It offers beautiful and varied environments, smart level-design, a ballistics system for every kind of player, and the x-ray kill-cam; it’s that good. Unfortunately, not everything is perfect, and this includes the boring storyline, the fact that the Campaign is kind of short, the sometimes-dumb A.I., and the tank “bosses;” I couldn’t stand them.
+ Superb and varied environments
+ Smart and open-ended level-design
+ Gameplay Suitable for Every Kind of Player
+ The Relocation and Sound-Masking Features
– Short Campaign
– Unimpressive story and characters
– Sometimes-Weird A.I.
– Tank “Bosses”
The Score 8.5
In addition to being a PC editor, Vlad Pintea is also a chief of news and reviews here at Analog Addiction. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, on Skype (vlad94pintea), Steam, Facebook, and Twitter.