Most shooters these days tend to focus on top-of-the-line graphics, large-scale battles and action sequences; entering with a bang and leaving in kind is the usual formula. But the Sniper Elite series is renowned for being one the few shooters where the main objective is to complete entire missions undetected.
Sniper Elite III takes place in Africa during World War II, where Hitler’s Nazi army is expanding their forces. You play as lone-wolf sniper Karl Fairburne, who must uncover a secret held by one of the Nazi generals that has the potential to win the war.
There are eight single-player missions, covering locations such as dense forests, airfields, rural desert towns and scenic mountaintop paths. These areas are littered with enemy troops, alternate paths and optional objectives that make your life easier throughout the campaign. All of the missions are very well designed, with both day- and night-time settings, which encourages both stealthy and opportunistic approaches to combat. Furthermore, the eight levels in Sniper Elite III contain a wide variety of ground level and high vantage points for sniping and planning your next move.
Developer Rebellion has provided an ample array of items to help the player progress through missions. Old-fashioned hand grenades, trip wire bombs, dynamite and anti-vehicle mines are accessible in a ‘weapon wheel’, along with rocks and a flint – a great way to distract enemy soldiers. Using your long-range binoculars is another invaluable tool in Sniper Elite 3, as it keeps track of what enemies you’ve tagged – as well as anything that explodes and causes some havoc.
One thing that has remained constant in Sniper Elite is the x-ray kill cameras. They have been slightly tweaked since Sniper Elite V2 to show a wider variety of internal body parts, and trigger every time players hit a vital point of the body – headshots, kidney shots, heart shots, and the dreaded double testicle shot. These short cinematics are strangely addictive and never get old.
The stealth mechanics themselves have also been changed. If you’re spotted, an enemy’s sight indicator will light up yellow. If the indicator completely fills with yellow – meaning they’re investigating the area – and begins to fill with red, players have milliseconds to escape to cover before the Germans open fire.
The AI is quite cheap here because you are forced to stay in a crouched position for most of the time, as your footsteps are much easier to detect when you’re jogging or running. Even still, enemies often spot you from ridiculous angles when you’re covered by a tree-line or a wall. It makes Sniper Elite III an infuriating experience at times, leading to unnecessary and frustrating deaths.
Graphically, Sniper Elite III isn’t overly impressive for a current-gen title. There’s lots of grey and brown, and it would’ve been great to see a bit more colour thrown around. In terms of production values, the bad voice-acting definitely doesn’t make up for it, either. However, this shooter isn’t a game you play for the graphics or even the story.
Sniper Elite III offers plenty of co-operative play. This can be done through the campaign itself and a particular mode called Challenges, where one partner must ‘infiltrate’ an enemy base and the other must ‘cover’ for them. The two players are also separated by a barrier for a substantial length of time during the challenge. The game becomes super-tense when your teammate is shouting at you to tag and eliminate enemies while they’re in a hunkered-down position being shot at. In those moments, being cool, calm and collected is key.
In contrast, the competitive multiplayer is rather haphazard. There are glitches, unstable connections, and ‘Call of Duty spawns’ where an enemy player can randomly appear behind you for an easy kill. A Battlefield setup would’ve been better, where players have a ‘safe spawn’ area that the opposing team cannot enter.
Some game modes, such as No Cross (where two teams of players are on opposite sides of the battlefield and separated by an impenetrable object) fit the Sniper Elite model perfectly. The time limit for each match is long, at 20 minutes, and matches tend to go the distance since other players are well hidden and kills can be hard to come by. There’s also Team Distance King, where the winning team is decided by the cumulative amount of their kill distance. This offers some pretty enjoyable gameplay as players become more reckless as the clock reaches zero.
Sniper Elite III is a decent game. While it has definite flaws with its campaign and issues with its online component, it is still a delight to play co-operatively with a friend. It’s heartening to see that there are still shooters out there opting for stealth rather than a guns-blazing only approach to combat.
Several issues put Sniper Elite III off the mark.