Sniper Elite III
The tale of a sniper is one hardly seen in video games. Sure, we’ve had plenty of snipers in video games, but there’s hardly been a game specifically aimed at recreating the experience of a sniper, or even one that tells a story involving a sniper as the protagonist. One such game was Sniper Elite (also known as Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945) for the original Xbox, released in 2005. Its developer, Rebellion Developments, realised the potential in Sniper Elite and developed a remake/sequel in 2012 called Sniper Elite V2. Despite its few flaws, Sniper Elite V2 proved to be an enjoyable title, particularly when playing with a friend.
Now, Rebellion and 505 Games have released ‘Sniper Elite III’, a proper sequel to Sniper Elite and Sniper Elite V2. The gameplay is almost identical to V2, which will admittedly feel pretty tired to those who have experienced a Sniper Elite game before. Even though some fun still lingers within the dated gameplay, the bland graphics and environments, repetitive gameplay and frustratingly cliche grunt protagonist make me wish that Rebellion took the series in a bolder direction.
Sniper Elite III continues the story of Karl Fairburne, the elite OSS sniper from Sniper Elite/Sniper Elite V2. Now deployed in Africa, Fairburne must brave the sweltering heat and thwart the Nazis’ plans for the dark continent. There isn’t much more to the story than that; there are no surprises in store for the player (particularly if they’ve played military shooters before) and Fairburne does not grow as a character. I guess Rebellion felt as though the strength of the gameplay would be enough for the player, because in terms of a story and character, they have honestly offered the bare minimum. Fairburne is bland, with your standard shaved head, blank expression and face devoid of any particular features that stand out. He even has the gravelly Christian Bale-esque Batman voice that every game protagonist apparently must have nowadays (ugh). I know Rebellion aren’t the only developers committing the sin of lazy character design but nothing else in the game helps cast a figurative shadow over the cardboard character. This is laziness that is also hard to ignore, like a half-mowed lawn. It sits there in you rear vision and irks you for what it could have been, regardless of the amount of effort or intent already put into it.
Africa is a far cry from the streets and rubble of war-torn Europe, and one can tell that Rebellion have truly tried to shake up the Sniper Elite formula by offering an “open” world with many paths to explore and take advantage of. Buildings, flora and other features dot the landscape, as do the handful of Nazis in each area. While there are numerous aforementioned features in each level, the repetitive nature of the gameplay means that players won’t be exploring these environments, they will simply be lurking in any area where their shots can be disguised amongst faulty generators and engine misfires. It’s actually more fun to hang out in the one area and see if you can snipe every Nazi within 500 metres or so, instead of creeping from building to building.
Should the player be spotted (and attacked) by Nazis, the environment can quickly turn from being your best friend to your worst enemy, though not from a deliberate design point. There are no death traps or hazards, it’s simply a case of the game’s protagonist being unable to vault over most objects, which causes frustration in emergencies. Even waist-high brick walls can be an absolute pain if you aren’t meant to be able to traverse them, and nobody wants to experiment with what can and can’t be hopped over by Karl.
Now, here’s what Sniper Elite III does get right: the shooting. Yes, while Karl might not have any proper tools to sabotage Nazi equipments (he uses his elbows to loudly bludgeon generators and the like), he does have the right tools for amateur brain surgery and vasectomies (yes, you can shoot a Nazi through the testicles and be treated to a gruesomely cinematic X-ray camera of it). Depending on the difficulty, bullet physics are realistic or accessible and players will find themselves laughing manically as they shoot Nazi after Nazi in the head from a distance. Karl also has a number of traps and explosives to make use of, such as dynamite, grenades and even tripmines, which can be used to destroy supply trucks, kill enemies, create distractions or even a combination of all three. During the second mission, I managed to deliberately leave a body near two trucks. When it was discovered by two more Nazis, they searched the interior of the building I was hiding on for any intruders. I rigged a trip mine between the two trucks and a land mine on the stairs I used to gain roof access. Sure enough, the Nazis split up and eventually found their way into my traps.
Shortly after the second level though, I had an epiphany: Sniper Elite III relies on its one decent feature to carry the rest of the game. Sure, there are some brand new ideas not seen in a Sniper Elite game before, but these have been poorly-executed. The gameplay really does boil down to infiltrate and snap necks until you get to a sniper nest. Then you have to wait for a generator or engine to misfire and create a noice loud enough for you to snipe with undetected. There are also somehow less thrilling sniper sequences than in Sniper Elite V2. A few hours into Sniper Elite V2 and I had already assassinated high-level Nazis and completely destroyed truck convoys from shooting their fuel caps from over 300 metres away, whereas the “open” world approach in Sniper Elite IIi cheapens what should be the ultimate sniper fantasy.
- Sniping is fun, and almost flawless.
- Gory X-ray cams
- Multple paths and approaches to completing the game’s missions
- Bland graphics and textures (especially on current-gen consoles, which could handle a lot more)
- Bland character design
- Repetitive gameplay
I liked Sniper Elite V2 and I really had high hopes for Sniper Elite III. It’s a shame that the game relies on the slow-motion sniping to carry the rest of the game, as Sniper Elite III could have been amazing if done correctly. Hopefully if there’s another entry in the series Rebellion will take the game ouf ot WWII entirely, introduce a new protagonist and give us some new guns. This M1 Garand is getting rusty.
Score : 5/10