The Sniper Elite franchise has been around for quite some time now, with its first iteration arriving almost a decade ago. But even in that time, the appeal of its content hasn't diminished. While some shooters like to lavish praise on gamers for going in all-guns blazing while making the entire world know about it, Sniper Elite focuses on a much more tactful, stealthy approach. With Sniper Elite 3, this is still very much the case, as you will explore expansive levels as a lone sniper using the environment and your wit to get the job done.
Taking place during World War 2's North African conflict, Sniper Elite 3 sees you portray Karl Fairburne, an elite OSS sniper. As you would expect, a large chunk of the story focuses on Fairburne taking down targets to further the war effort, but not much is done to really flesh the story out beyond that.
Fairburne as a character is quite one-dimensional. Aside from informing players of the current situation in the cutscene mission-briefings and sporting witty one-liners throughout gameplay sequences, there isn't all that much in the way of development. But then again, when you're a lone wolf like he is, it's quite difficult to achieve that.
The plot does take a little while to surface, but even when it does, it feels a little bit lacklustre. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The missions themselves provide enough impetus to continue playing and the game takes more of an objective-based approach than one looking to win awards for its narrative.
Although you can attempt to go through the game as a one-man battle tank, the preferred route for a number of reasons is often to go or the stealthier option. Maps are on the rather large size and it means that if you plan correctly, you can even skip quite a lot of encounters. That's one of the beautiful elements of this game "“ a well executed plan can see the targets neutralised with minimal casualties.
Objectives do vary as you play through the game's eight story-based missions and depending on where you venture, optional objectives will also be thrown your way on the fly. One such example happens if you stumble upon a small convey in the second level. Should you wish, you are given the objective of destroying all of the vehicles, but doing so will of course create a lot of noise. Another involves trying to make an enemies death look like an accident.
As the game has quite a strong focus on stealth, it makes sense for there to be some kind of AI awareness system in place. In Sniper Elite 3, this takes shape in the relocation system, which is a little unorthodox at first, but does get the job done. Enemies have four stages of awareness, but once detected, a player must either defeat all enemies in a specific area or relocate to a new location. If you are within the specific area, the AI will know where you are, no matter where you hide, but if you move outside the area, they will almost instantly lose track of you. It's a very binary-orientated system and isn't perhaps as intuitive as other stealth systems available. However, it does force players to think more like a sniper, with relocation being the key element here.
Sniping is of course, the main gameplay mechanic on show. There are a lot of other weapons available, but they aren't anywhere near as effective for the job at hand. You will often find yourself relying on these if plan A fails, as opposed to using them as your plan A.
When sniping, you will need to take into consideration many different factors. Distance is a huge factor due to gravity and but shots can also be affected by the wind. Due to the era, shots will also often need to be obscured by environmental sounds to avoid suspicion and this adds an extra dimension that often isn't considered in other games. The breath meter is the final element to consider as this allows shots to be pinpoint accurate assuming you have enough lung capacity left. It has a minor slow-down mechanic and will also affect your heart rate, something which influences your stability when shooting.
Playing on the next-generation systems, Sniper Elite 3 looks good. There's a decent level of fidelity in the textures and the draw distance is very impressive "“ something which is pretty mandatory for a game of this nature. It helps to create just the right kind of atmosphere, especially when the sound comes into play. It's unfortunate, but the game does fall down on other areas of presentation, namely animations and abilities of enemies. Tanks are somehow able to turn on the spot in a rather small amount of time and stealth kills force enemies to snap into position.
One of the unique selling points has always been the kill cameras. These have been beefed up this time to incorporate more detailed vehicular kills, but the normal kills on enemies are as gruesome as ever. Sometimes the eyes look a little bit comical, but seeing the bullet deconstruct the human torso like this never seems to get that old.
As mentioned, the campaign is eight missions long and these can all be played single-player or multiplayer. Depending on how you play, these levels can take quite a while to complete if only because of the sheer size of maps. In addition, the game features a challenge mode based around survival as well as a full multiplayer component that has five pretty standard modes.
Sniper Elite 3 is definitely a game for all those lone wolf gamers out there. It offers some great atmospheric levels and of course, has a strong focus on achieving results through stealth and sniping. Some of the mechanics and presentation could have been better implemented but it's still a good game for next-generation gamers to sink their teeth into.
|Visuals are pleasing, particularly in the volumetric style deaths|
|Level design should be applauded|
|Co-op adds a lot to the gameplay|
|Animations can be quite wonky|
|Stealth relocation system can cause some strange AI behaviour|
|Focus can be easily relied upon too much|