Note: The online functionality of the game on PlayStation 4 did not seem to be up and running during the course of the last week. As we were not able to properly test that aspect of Sniper Elite III, we did not include it in our review of the game.
The Sniper Elite series is one that has eluded me in its first two installments. I usually find myself gravitating toward the role of a sniper in any shooter I play, so I don’t really know why I never gave Sniper Elite a chance. Well, scratch that: I do know why, and it’s because there were too many war games that came out over the last 15 years and I lost interest after playing like 10 Medal of Honor games when I was in high school. Nowadays, these games are the norm, and most are way too twitch-based for me, so I was excited to find out if Sniper Elite’s slower paced combat could reload my interest in the genre. It seems the developer of Sniper Elite III, Rebellion, wanted to do just that by fixing the miscues from the first two games to give us a more polished version of its stealthy sniping simulator, complete with x-ray bullet cam. Sniper Elite III doesn’t really add any new marks to the shooter or stealth genre, but I definitely enjoyed my time with it.
“Tenchu with guns” was my first thought after spending 60 crouched and crawling minutes with Sniper Elite III. Like Tenchu, you will find yourself sneaking around the game’s enormous levels and killing off guards that seem to have a knack for packing around and acting clueless. I played on the normal difficulty setting and although the guards are a bit robotic, the game is by no means a walk in the park. You’d be smart to plan our your route ahead of time to prevent being spotted by the guards, and the best way to do this is with binoculars. By default, enemies don’t appear on the map unless you mark them (R2 or RT), while looking through your binoculars, and although some might not even think to mention this feature, I found it very exciting. Forcing you to survey your surroundings adds an intriguing level of realism, and I appreciate how much it slows down the gameplay.
Sniper Elite III also tries to add to the realism with a Relocation System that forces you to move from one spot to another after your shots are noticed by the enemy. Relocation was fun at first because it made me feel even more like I was Jude Law from Enemy at the Gates, and I couldn’t just shoot forever from the same spot, which, like the binoculars, added to the realism. The keyword there is was, because the intrigue only lasted until the second level when I shot a guard from one spot and was forced to relocate to another 10 or so times back and forth. By the tenth time, relocating to the same spot over and over again really took me out of the moment and just felt like a boring, forced tactic I was exploiting instead of pure, stealthy sniping. Sniper Elite III succeeds and fails in its attempts at mimicking realism, much as it does with almost everything else.
Speaking of fails, let me just get this out of the way: the main character is possibly the most generic and boring protagonist I have ever seen in a video game. He seems to be in love with monotony, obsessed with boredom, and he’s an overall dull dude. Luckily, most of the dialogue and story sequences take place before each level and cutscenes are pretty rare. I know he was meant to embody the everyday man, but I really wish he was given the Link treatment and had no voice at all. Of course, I’m not playing this game for the story, and hopefully neither are you.
One thing a good stealth game needs to do well is create a interesting environment in which to sneak around. You need areas high and low, spaces light and dark, and plenty of things to hide behind. Fortunately, Sniper Elite III succeeds in its attempts to do so. Locations are vast and varied, draw distances are good, and the world is populated with a plethora of foliage and obstacles in which to hide behind. I also appreciated the fact that you never “snap” to something you are crouched behind. I never have found “snapping” helpful in video games and glad Rebellion chose to forgo this feature. Each location also has plenty of routes to chose from around the map, so tou can truly plan out your attack and kill the same person from a ton of different angles. Branching pathways and dark spaces are nothing new to modern-day stealth games — and without them you couldn’t really have a stealth — but it’s good to see that Sniper Elite III features them successfully.
One of Sniper Elite’s biggest draws is the x-ray kill cam, but I honestly found it pretty lame. I was hoping it would be much more intricate than it is, and honestly turned it off the second time I booted up the game. Yes, it does show some pretty brutal kills and yes, you can shoot dudes in the nuts, but it gets old pretty fast.
Sniper Elite III has more similarities to Tenchu that one might think, and ultimately they are the reason why it fails to be a must-have game. The game seems like it will never tread into the “AAA franchise” territory, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to play. If you go in expecting to have a fun, yet challenging stealth-sniping experience, it can be very entertaining. If you go in wanting a superb story, flawless graphics, and all new game-play mechanics, you might be let down. I myself love a good stealth game, even though they rarely exceed my expectations, so I was excited to try out this series for the first time. Sniper Elite wont leave a bullet in my memory, but it was fun while it lasted and definitely something entertaining to play during the summertime lull in game releases. Give it a shot.
Invisible Gamer’s Sniper Elite III review is based on PlayStation 4 code provided to us by the publisher.