The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Shooting someone in the face with a sniper rifle is
nasty business. The Sniper Elite series has made a name for itself by embracing
these skull-busting kills in all their gory detail. Developer Rebellion has
ratcheted up the brutality of these slow-motion X-ray sequences with detailed
musculature on every skeleton. Unfortunately, boring campaign missions and
frequent bugs hold back Sniper Elite III from its sharpshooting potential.
Rebellion swaps out the grim, bombed-out European
cities of the previous entry with the bright, rugged terrain of Africa. The
arid, sun-bleached environments look beautiful at first, but despite the exotic
surroundings, the mountainous terrain and dirt roads all start to feel the same
after a while. The illusion dissolves further thanks to the erratic, dim-witted
Nazis mucking up the scenery. The German soldiers have stiff, robotic patrol
routes and swivel in place unrealistically when they get a bead on you.
Sniper Elite III's linear campaign is all about
sneaking through Nazi encampments among the baking sands (but they're never
called Nazis and all the swastikas have inexplicably become palm trees on their
banners). Sometimes missions call for you to place explosive charges, offer supporting
fire, or assassinate top-ranking German officers. It's old hat for the military
shooter genre, and I eventually began mindlessly chasing down objective markers
without thinking much about it.
The campaign objectives all serve as a framework for
the solid long-range gunplay and mediocre stealth elements. Lining up shots
with your rifle adheres to the familiar routine of pressing a button to hold
your breath and dial in a shot. As in Sniper Elite V2, lining up a good shot
and pressing the trigger initiates a satisfying slow-motion kill sequence. The
camera follows your bullet's dramatic path from the rifle barrel all the way to
the doomed soldier. For headshots, the X-ray vision shows the projectile's
grisly path through the skull, complete with bone-splintering entrance and exit
wounds. Femurs split, eyeballs pop, and testicles explode in these gruesome
finishers. These macabre, unflinching executions are satisfying at first, but
the thrill wears off after seeing someone's teeth erupt from their mouths for
the umpteenth time.
For a game with the word "sniper" in the title, I
used my silenced pistol an awful lot. You crumple quickly when facing off with
too many enemies, so avoiding attention is important. This strategy is at odds
with using a loud sniper rifle, however, so you mask your noise using thunder
or backfiring generators. This mechanic is fun and novel, but I routinely avoided
sniping when these obscuring noises weren't available. You can't fire off more
than a couple shots without having to relocate so enemies don't find you. I
understand the logic, but you can still run away from your sniping perch and
then just head back when the enemies lose your trail. It comes off as an
annoying, half-baked attempt to keep players circulating around the map.
Speaking of annoyances, Sniper Elite III is filled
with considerably more bugs than its predecessor. The game has a weird habit of
resetting objects in the world when loading a save. Sometimes vehicles that
blew up 20 minutes ago explode again or corpses wiggle around sporadically.
Other times the effects are more troublesome, like one instance when an enemy
vehicle suddenly appeared near my location and gunned me down instantly with
each load. While most of the hiccups are aesthetic, they disrupt the mood of the
high stakes trek behind enemy lines.
Whether you beat or abandon single-player,
competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes are available. I enjoyed the
tense, long-distance free-for-all sniper battles that tested my patience and
perception. Laying down traps and relocating after taking a shot is more
gratifying when facing off against human players rather than the idiotic A.I. foes.
The entire campaign is also playable cooperatively, which helps spice up the
mundane missions. Synchronizing your shots and covering one another's back injects
excitement into the ho-hum mission structure. However, Rebellion has ditched
split-screen co-op and doesn't support matchmaking, so hopefully you know
someone with a copy of the game if you want to try it out.
I openly admit that I love gory kills and living the
hero sniper fantasy, but Sniper Elite III only partially delivers on the latter.
If you can't get enough of dramatic, transparent shots of enemies getting
shredded by sniper fire, Sniper Elite III has you covered in spades. If you're interested
in more motivation beyond the glory of the kill, look elsewhere.
This review only pertains to the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game. Sniper Elite 3 is also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.