Although not as commercially successful as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, Sniper Elite has carved out a niche in the shooter genre for the blatant and unrepentant camper crowd. Sniper Elite 3, developed by Rebellion Development and published by 505 Games, has brought the best parts of Sniper Elite V2 to the current generation of consoles.
In Sniper Elite 3, American sniper Karl Fairburne is sent to the besieged city of Tobruk to help repel Nazi forces, under the command of General Vahlen, during their North African campaign of 1942. The city ultimately falls to the overpowering offensive capabilities of the Germans, but Fairburne’s efforts get noticed by the British, who recruit the hawk-eyed sniper for a little recon and assassination mission. It is the player’s mission to uncover General Vahlen’s plans, disrupt whatever evil he is planning to unleash upon North Africa, and put a bullet in his bitch ass.
Tools of the Trade
Snipers are not armed like regular infantry. Karl’s starting loadout is comprised of a scoped M1 Garand, a Sten SMG, and a silenced Welrod pistol. These weapons can all be upgraded with different scopes, barrels, and stocks as the game progresses. Other weapons, like the Thompson SMG, MP-40, or Luger 9mm, can be substituted for the standard loadout, but I was happy with the starter set for most of the game.
Players are also able to make use of trip mines, land mine, AP mines, dynamite, grenades, and rocks. Camping snipers are generally big pussies in a firefight, so the smart ones set up traps to cover their six while they cowardly eliminate targets from a relatively safe distance. Bonus points are awarded for shooting from cover or from sniper nests, or by muffling their shots. Shots can be muffled by passing aircraft, noisy Ratte Factory machinery, or by sabotaging generators to sputter noisily,. This often requires that shooters synchronize their shots with the ambient noise spikes to effectively camouflage their shots. Some secondary weapons, like the Panzerschreck, can also be found in certain areas and are useful in taking out tanks, vehicles, and groups of unfriendlies.
The Trail of a Dangerous Man
General Vahlen is a very dangerous adversary who is up to some large scale shit. However, being a video game villain, he has left a trail of information for those who are willing to kill to get it. This trail winds through Nazi oasis camps, dusty canyons littered with destroyed vehicles and ancient ruins, occupied African cities and fortresses, and a super weapon factory built into the side of a mountain. The levels are mini-sandboxes, generally allowing the player to complete objectives in any order desired. The graphics are very good, but the landscape is mostly brown and drab: it is set in the desert, after all.
Karl will have to assassinate targets to obtain information from the bodies, track enemies, disable vehicles and howitzers, protect allies, rescue prisoners, and kill a mountain of Axis soldiers to get to Vahlen. Players can also collect items like playing cards and war journals for some extra XP.
Carving a Niche
The Second World War has been mined to death for game content. Stormed Normandy beach? Yep, done that. Parachuted into Nazi-occupied France? Been there. Tortured Nazi officers for information with a chainsaw before flying to the moon? You betcha. However, scoping in on a soldier, calculating for distance and elevation, and pulling off a perfect head shot was more rewarding than I expected it to be. Especially when that reward comes in the form of an X-ray slow motion close-up of the carnage. Why can’t this feature be in every shooter campaign? The money shot not only features head shots: I blew out intestines, punctured kidneys, perforated lungs, and even blasted the balls off of bad guys. Anatomy has never been this much fun.
Sniper Elite 3 is, by no means, a particularly fast-paced game, but that doesn’t make it slow or unexciting. If you do fuck up and get in a jam, the Sten will be effective enough for a group of three or so, but the player will need to relocate if he or she draws too much attention. Moving vehicles will have to be taken out by either sniping vital parts or with anti-vehicle weapons. Players can also take a stealthy approach with the Welrod or the knife...but they better make it count the first time.
Rebellion has conjured up several competitive multiplayer modes based on the sniper-centric theme of the SP campaign. Cooperative includes a protect the partner from a distance, tag and bag, and horde mode. Several single player challenges exist for those who have exhausted other play types, and there’s a global leaderboard to let players know where they stand in each challenge.
You Knew it Was Coming
No game is perfect, and Sniper Elite 3 is certainly no exception. Sometimes the vaulting/jumping mechanic doesn’t work correctly, often exposing the player to enemies at an inopportune time. Although Karl is a formidable sniper, the nature of his profession requires him to travel light and unarmored and as a result he dies very quickly in gunfights. Disappearing bodies can be problematic, especially if they are carrying the vital information that Karl needs to progress the level.
Most objects in the game cannot be interacted with, which means a folding canvas chair poses the same impenetrable quality as a wall. The AI, for the most part, is incredibly unbalanced. They are either infallible sharpshooters of the highest quality and keenest level of alertness, or they are nearsighted dolts who incompetently ignore grazing bullets and a completely visible opponent directly in their line of sight. The single player portion of the game is very short, less than 12 hours, but the multiplayer stuff can keep the magic alive a bit longer, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I had more fun with Sniper Elite 3 than I should have but, despite its relatively short campaign, I had enough by the time I had finished and had no desire to participate in a 4v4 sniper campfest. It’s a fun experience, but I would wait for a sale before adding Sniper Elite 3 to my game library.