Sniper Elite 3 (SE3) is the latest entry in the Sniper Elite franchise. The Sniper Elite series has always been a bit of a throwback in that the games have yet to abandon the World War II setting in favor of a modern (or near future) setting and that it is one of the few remaining middle market game franchises (games the lies somewhere between AAA and indie) that are still going strong. With Sniper Elite 3, British independent developer Rebellion is setting its sights on the Next-Generation of consoles. Will Sniper Elite 3 hit its mark ? Or will it miss?
Sniper Elite 3 doesn’t really have a story. What the game has instead is a scenario; an excuse for The Sniper (I don’t recall SE3 ever giving the protagonist a name) to stalk, stab, scope, and shoot his way across the sandy oasis that is North Africa. The Nazis are building a super secret weapon that can turn the tide of World War II; and The Sniper ( and the user) must thwart their nefarious plans. This minimalistic story is refreshing in 2014, where every game has a “deep character driven plot” (some well paid marketing expert’s words not mine) that quickly devolves into a melodramatic pretentious mess by the second act. Sniper Elite 3 (thankfully) skips all of that and focuses its energy on what’s truly important, gameplay.
Sniper Elite 3’s gameplay is where the game shines. The sniping mechanics are easy to acclimate to (especially if you have experience with third person action titles). Relocating after a shot and using sound to mask your shots add to what is already solid mechanics and further lends itself to creating a very immersive and realistic experience for the user. Lining up your shots just right awards the user with an in-game cut scene that follows the trajectory of the bullet as it enter the enemies body and fatally wounds vital organs. The environments are surprisingly diverse and encourage exploration through multiple paths to objectives, optional side missions, and collectibles. Stealth is a major aspect of SE3. The stealth mechanics reminds me of Ground Zeroes, in that you use binoculars to plan your next move and tag enemies. SE3’s stealth is more predatory than Ground Zeroes’ in that it encourages you to take out enemies through silenced pistol shots and unarmed combat, rather than avoiding conflict. The A.I. is fun to play against, they’re smart enough to discover your location if you don’t relocate after taking out a few of their buddies; know how to use their numbers against you; and are very proficient with their weapons. One aspect of the gameplay that I wasn’t keen on was the multiplayer; which wasn’t accessible. On various occasions I tried to get into a game and would be kicked out once the game started. This fault seems confined to the PS4 (the platform I reviewed the game for); and hasn’t been reported on any other platform. I’m sure that Rebellion will eventually release a firmware update that will patch in more reliable multiplayer accessibility later on down the road, but I still feel slightly ripped off.
Sniper Elite 3 is a rough beauty. The 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second takes an average looking current generation game and turns it into a somewhat stunning game. Environments and characters are nicely detailed. The in-game cutscenes which follows the bullet entering and exiting an enemy is done in amazing detail; and is both exhilarating to watch as well as horrifying. Some of the animations look a bit robotic and unnatural. Despite being on a Next-Gen platform, SE3 relies on storyboards cutscenes to get its story across. These storyboards look out of place when compared to the rest of the game; and leads one to question, why the cutscenes weren’t done using the in-game graphics engine? I encountered a few bugs: minor clipping, jaggy ragdoll physics, etc. but nothing game breaking. SE3’s art style is typical World War 2, nothing I haven’t seen a 1,000 times before. The gun sound appropriately powerful, especially the various sniper rifles. The voice acting is mediocre at best, the voice actor who plays The Sniper says every line in the same deep monotone delivery. Thankfully, most of the voice acting you will hear in SE3 is in German or Italian. As a non-native speaker of those languages ; I cannot adequately gauge the quality of the foreign voice acting; but I assume it to be a step above the mediocrity that is the English voice acting. The soundtrack is also unremarkable; it’s the same militaristic synthesize trite you’ve heard a dozen times over.
I enjoyed my time with Sniper Elite 3, but it’s far from perfect. The anemic story telling, inability to play the advertised multiplayer component, and minor production foibles may leave some users to be concern about purchasing this game at full price. I share these concerns, especially the inability to play a component of the game that I paid for. Thereby, I cannot recommend paying full price for this game. Still I think SE3 is a game worthy of being played due to its open level design, accessible snipping mechanics, and reliance on strategy and tactics over sheer brute force. So instead, I recommend waiting for the inevitable price drop; as well as waiting to see if Rebellion decides to patch accessibility to the multiplayer component, before purchasing .