Sniper Elite 3 Review
Written Thursday, June 26, 2014 By Lee Bradley
Sniper Elite III isn’t perfect. In fact, it has a whole bunch of niggly little problems and a couple of big ones. But you know what? Who cares! It lets you shoot bad dudes in the face and watch as their skulls splinter and their brains explode in glorious slow motion. When it’s not being annoying, Sniper Elite III is really, really fun.
The story is nonsense. Transplanting the action to World War II era North Africa, Sniper Elite III follows the adventures of series star, Shooty McGruff Voice, the kind of shaven-headed character void we’ve played a million times before. He’s utterly forgettable, as is the narrative, but focusing on all that misses the point. This is a game that lets you shoot a Nazi’s bollocks off.
Is that the best cover you could find?
Sniper Elite III’s levels are much larger than those of its predecessor, encompassing dusty desert encampments, crumbling citadels and mountainside bases that offer impressive freedom. The game occasionally funnels you down a particular path, but more often than not you’ll find multiple routes to a particular location, and a handful of ways to complete your objective.
As ever, you’l spend most of your time seeking out vantage points, tagging enemies, sneaking between cover to execute stabby stabby stealth kills, setting up booby traps and generally taking advantage of increased environmental opportunities. Sniper Elite III makes decent use of its scale.
Stealth continues to play a big role too, necessitating that you fire under cover of either natural or manufactured environmental noise. Failing to do so will allow enemies to immediately zero in on your location and start pumping you with bullets, even if you’re in the deepest of cover. It’s weird, because the rest of the time enemies will display all the awareness of a spoon.
The game also employs a weird system, whereby when you’re spotted you have to run a set distance away from the location. I spent loads of time in the game sniping from a particularly choice spot, running away at full pelt to relocate, then coming straight back again to discover that nobody cared about their friend with the big hole in his lung.
The stealth system doesn't make much sense, is what I’m saying, but it doesn’t matter. Sniper Elite III’s main drawn remains its ridiculously overblown kill-cams, which follow your bullet all the way from the muzzle of your customisable rifle to your intended target, switching to a kind of X-Ray vision before bursting someone's ribcage and heart in quick succession.
These moments are the brilliant payoff to finding the right location, waiting for some covering noise, gripping onto the focus mode button to slightly slow time, taking into account wind and bullet drop and POW - bye bye ball sack.
Shot through the heart? You’re to blame. Wait, that’s his lung.
It just feels so good. Even after watching countless numbers of these gleefully grotesque little sequences, I never got tired. Whether you’re blasting a Nazi in the leg and watching his tibia shatter, burying lead into his intestines, piercing his kidneys, causing his weapon to explode, or pinging a conveniently-placed red barrel to unleash fiery hell, it’s great fun.
One time I lined up a shot that went through the neck of one guy, between the eyes of the fella behind him and into the top of the skull of the bloke behind him. Let’s not linger on what this says about my personality, but I’ve never been so fucking happy.
The only time Sniper Elite III gets truly tedious is when you’re up against an armoured vehicle. These vehicles, typically tanks and half-tracks, have weak spots for you to expertly pick off. But good luck pinging the weak spot at the front. I must have spent a good couple of hours trying to execute this shot, only to be frustrated with the results. Either it didn’t work despite seemingly being lined up perfectly, or it did but I was immediately shot.
When the game deems you to have aimed correctly, your bullet goes through a tiny slit in the front of the vehicle, through the cockpit and straight into the mother humping mouth of the driver. It’s ace, but little compensation for the frustration these sequences cause. You’re much better off taking a tank from behind, as it were.
Which isn’t to say that Sniper Elite III doesn’t have anything going for it beyond satisfying your blood lust. There’s evidence of good design here. From my playthrough one mission in particular stands out. After reaching a vantage point in a dusty African town, I was asked to get my binoculars out and tag a specific Nazi officer, then track him as he retrieved a piece of sensitive information. It was my job to take him down then steal the intel.
I could have done this in any number of ways. I could have stayed in my position, tracked him, pinged him from distance and then stealthed my way to the location of his remains to pick up the info. Or I could have just blasted and stabbed my way to success without consequence. I chose a different route.
After tracking the officer to the location of the intel, I let him wander, keen to find out where he would go. Sneaking between cover I followed his meanderings all the way to an ammunition dump. From a hidden location I waited for a plane to fly over then popped a shot into one of the ammo crates, which in turn blew up a truck and killed my prey. Staying in my location, I watched as soldiers rushed to the scene and decided it was all an accident. The perfect crime.
Any second now, those Nazis are gonna be mush.
I got an achievement for pulling all of this off. Indeed, every mission has a dedicated reward for thinking outside the box. It’s testament to the design of the game that such things are possible, and hearing the cheevo ping made it all the more satisfying.
Indeed, Sniper Elite III has a strong achievement list. It’s sprinkled with collectible cheevos, but they’re enjoyable enough as they encourage exploration in a game where looking around and finding new locations is part of the attraction. Plus there’s a whole bunch of creative achievements, rewarding you for your most outlandish kills.
It’s also pleasingly light on online achievements, which is good because the co-op and competitive modes will likely offer little more than a distraction. They’re solid enough, offering co-op and single-player Horde modes, as well as a variety of Deathmatch variants and Distance King - which rewards players for racking up the longest kills. They’re fine, but longevity will come from hoovering up everything there is to do in the campaign.
Sniper Elite III isn’t the kind of game that reviewers typically rave about. It has dodgy AI, a rubbish story and a non-existent lead character. It has bugs that occasionally see enemies levitate. It has that bloody annoying thing with the tanks. It’s arguably pretty repetitive. But whatever. Shooting Nazis in the face from a very long way away is fun! You should give it a go.
A forgettable soundtrack and solid enough voice acting make Sniper Elite III fairly unremarkable in terms of audio. The squelchy noises of a well placed shot are enjoyably nasty though.
It’s a handsome game, with some lovely lighting effects as the North African sun pours into the wide open environments. Occasional frame rate issues and screen tearing hold it back a little.
With big, open levels, freedom of choice and those ultra satisfying kill-cam shots, Sniper Elite III is good dumb fun, let down only by a smattering of frustrating issues.
The largely enjoyable campaign offers around 12 hours of play, plus enough reasons to go back and search out new possibilities. Multiplayer exists too, but likely won’t offer too much longevity.
A strong list, rewarding players for creative kills, collectible searching and alternative mission solutions. You’ll have fun 1000G-ing this one.
Sniper Elite III answers the perennial question of ‘are video games art?’ by saying, “Dude, who gives a crap? I just shot a freaking Nazi in the testicles!” It’s an occasionally annoying but often enjoyable game.
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