Sniper Elite III / 16th of July 2014
Developer Rebellion brings us their latest instalment of their third person tactical shooter; Sniper Elite. Yet again we take on the role of Karl Fairburne; the trusty lone wolf sniper extraordinaire hell bent on ridding the world of those pesky Nazi’s. This time we find ourselves in Africa, prior to the events of Sniper Elite V2, journeying though the deserts and sand ridden territories of the German Afrika Korps in search of Hitler’s Wunderwaffe and disposing any kraut that gets in our way.
I am quite the sniper enthusiast and a fan of many Sniper games such as the last two titles in this series, so I was very excited to see Sniper Elite 3 boasting greater graphical detail, an improved bullet cam, realistic sniping mechanics, bigger maps, a good selection of weapons and more Nazi’s than you can throw a potato masher at. Unfortunately on top of all these tasty treats is a dense coating of salt, made up of stupid AI, clumsy game mechanics and more glitches and bugs than you can fill a Tiger Tank with.
The first thing you will notice when playing this game is the vast improvement in textures, lighting and the lush attention to detail; for example you can zoom right in on a rock or a sand bag and the textures stay vivid. The environments you find yourself in are beautifully recreated and are ever changing with fresh levels that are open and vast; populated by a multitude of structures, greenery, deep canyons, sweeping valleys, cliff faces and baron deserts during both day and night, allowing for multiple points of reconnaissance, planning and attack. That said the graphics would not go amiss solely on a last generation console.
Due to the size of these maps each level can take up to an hour or two to complete when the game is played correctly and on the higher difficulties. By correctly, I mean taking the time to stealthily pick and execute targets while remaining undetected, accomplishing side objectives and gathering intelligence, this in itself requires you to have the patience of a sniper. I found myself spending hours trying to complete each level professionally, much like I would in Hitman, masking my shots and dispatching enemies quietly, only to succumb to impatience and run and gun the rest of the way.
On the topic of difficulties I played this game through on Sniper Elite (hard) and some levels on Authentic (veteran/legendary) and found ‘Sniper Elite’ disappointing and ‘Authentic’ a bit harsh at times. The ‘Sniper Elite’ difficulty provides players with much more responsive enemies and greater sniping mechanics such as bullet drop, wind alteration and the coriolis effect, only to ruin it all with a red indicator of where your shot will land. The ‘Authentic’ difficulty on the other hand is the purer way to go; removing the shot indicator and providing tougher enemies, harsher sniping conditions and with neither save options or checkpoints, hours of investment can be lost by making one small mistake. Of course if neither of the difficulty modes take your fancy you can always make your own up via Custom Difficulty.
Much like Far Cry you spend a good portion of your time tagging targets through your binoculars and waiting for the right moment to cover your rifle shot as a plane flies over or a bomb goes off. Setting up ambushes and laying traps such as land and trip mines can be satisfying to watch and it gives you a much needed sense of dominance. Observing your prey through your scope, stalking your enemies for close quarter take downs and Welrod attacks is your stealthy key to success in Sniper Elite 3. When all that fails you can take the less than subtle route by throwing in a few grenades, whipping out your Thomson and having at it with anything that moves (this is not a euphemism).
Take a moment now to brace yourself; the one point that really shocked me about this game, was the lack of sniping! You read that correctly. You must think I’ve gone mad, but truly there’s not many opportunities to safely unload sniper rounds into targets without the entire 3 rd Reich invading your personal space. I found myself using the Welrod more than my sniper rifle, but I guess ‘Welrod Elite’ doesn’t have the same ring to it. I rarely felt I fired any great shots, considering I had prior knowledge of where my bullet would hit, taking the concentration and judgement out of it along with my sense of achievement. When I did hit my target, which was often, the bullet cam would show the damage I had caused in all its glory. We were promised graphic detail with muscles and organs being torn apart as one bullet shatters through bones and cartilage sending blood all over the place, but what we got was more like Lee Harvey Oswald’s “magic bullet.” The bullet system seems to only favour one or the other; either the organ or the bone, never both regardless of bullet trajectory or impact which is both strange and rather disappointing. The bullet cam does present some horribly realistic shots on enemies; seeing their bones shatter, testicles split and intestines burst open sending blood spluttering everywhere in great graphical detail, but eventually I found myself skipping these kill cams as it happened so often, and became less and less impressive each time.
Fans of the Sniper Elite series may be disappointed in the lack of advancements in Sniper Elite 3: Afrika, but will find comfort in knowing that this game is still a solid third person tactical shooter. There are still a lot of bugs and issues than need ironed out and we can only hope that in due time these issues are resolved with later updates. With a long Single Player Campaign full of collectibles and hidden items, and the Solo Survival Challenge there is a lot to do by yourself and even more to do with a friend; such as Co-op Campaign, Co-op Survival and Co-op Overwatch as well as Team Deathmatch, Team Distance King and No Cross, enough to keep you occupied for days. This game isn’t for everyone but it is enjoyable and if you are willing to invest the time, then this game may pleasantly surprise you.