Format: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | X360 | XO |PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Sniper Elite III has opted for a change of scenery for its latest long-range melon buster and visits the sandy vistas of Africa during World War II. Unlike most WWII games, there’s a surprising lack of Nazis, instead you’re generally shooting Italians with ze Germans apparently not being fans of the searing heat.
Scenery change aside, it’s business as usual, shooting Axis soldiers from oh-so far away, with gruesome slow-mo detail accompanying most shots. The series’ stable gore looks more grisly than ever on the new consoles. Skulls explode, teeth smash from jaws, bones snap, insides are ripped through and of course testicle shots are back. On the default settings, I soon tired of these slow-motion killshots that follow the bullet from your gun right up to its messy destination. I’d advise dipping into the options to turn down the frequency of them as they lose their impact by the end of the first stage otherwise. They also make it difficult to keep track of nearby enemies between shots.
There’s a tagging feature that does allow you to mark enemies via use of your binoculars. Marked soldiers will then appear through any surface, in a similar way to Far Cry 3. It’s a shame you can’t tag them through your sniper scope as switching back and forth between the rifle and binoculars is a cumbersome experience.
Aside from the odd blatant missed shot that you know should have connected, the shooting is solid enough, with aiming and tracking enemies being a cinch. There are plenty of difficulty options available adding degrees of wind and bullet drop if you want that extra challenge. Once you’ve lowered your heartbeat after settling down, your rifle scope will aim more smoothly and you can also indulge in a bit of slow-motion aiming via careful breathing.
Compared to a game like Sniper Ghost Warrior (set in more modern times), it’s quite a change as you need to move around much more. None of the long-range rifles are silenced, so after a few shots, enemies are able to pinpoint your position and will hunt you down. This means you have to move to a quiet area of the map almost constantly. As a fan of silent sniping, I couldn’t gel with this for a while, but it does come together and it does make sense given the time setting.
Audio elements can be cleverly used to mask the ‘crack’ of your shots though. Faulty generators, artillery fire, thunder and so on provide a brief window to get away with a loud shot without worrying about being heard. A great idea, let down by the fact you have to wait ages between these noises, meaning I often just thought ‘screw it’ and went fast and loud.
You can perform silent melee takedowns and have a short-range bolt-action silenced pistol, which is handy for moving between sniping positions. You can also carry an assault rifle or occasionally a rocket launcher for getting out of trouble. The aiming for these backup weapons is terrible though, with guns like the MP40 comically spraying everywhere except an enemy’s chest from close range. The pistol also seems to be a bit buggy, missing at close range on way too many occasions. Don’t even get me started on the random non-damage hits I kept getting with the panzerschreck on vehicles either.
Sneaking around between positions is enjoyable tense though. There are lots of shadows to hide in and handy awareness icons above enemy heads indicate if they’ve seen you or have merely seen ‘something’, giving you time to scarper back into the shadows. Laying traps like trip mines at the top of stairs or mines to de-tread a tank are also fun to plan before heading back to your nest. If you’re short on mines, tank battles are a thrilling game of cat and mouse as you try to get into a position where you can shoot one of the tiny ventilated weak spots.
There isn’t much mission variety over the game’s 6-8 hour campaign, as you’re generally making your way from A-B, although the maps are expansive and often feature optional objectives if you fancy taking a detour. If you have the time, you can try to be as sneaky and ghost-like as possible, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had terrorising the enemy by constantly moving and shooting, giving the impression they’re being attacked by a much larger force.
Online options include the usual solo or team deathmatches. Another take on this includes a mode where points are awarded based on the cumulative distance of kills rather than kill count, meaning a few long-rangers can send you flying up that leaderboard. If you’re not a fan of getting stabbed in the back while settling in for a kill, you’ll enjoy the specialised maps that put teams on the opposite sides of an uncrossable ravine.
There have been a lot of issues with dropped connections and matchmaking since launch, meaning it’s been difficult to find matches a lot of the time, but Rebellion have acknowledged this and are working on a patch.
Co-op options are available during the campaign or over wave-based challenge modes, the latter of which seemed to go on forever with no indication of how many waves there were. I quit after 12 and was then told there were only three remaining. Not cool.
XP carries over between single-player and multiplayer, but as far as incentives to keep playing go, Rebellion have seriously screwed up. The rewards are stretched so far apart and the rifle attachments that trickle out rarely have a noticeable impact.
With such a short campaign, the multiplayer is going to be key in ensuring that gamers don’t trade this in after their first weekend. I’ll admit, it’s really satisfying racking up a few kills in the intense multiplayer matches where you have to pick your spot and really think about the dangers of moving around anywhere. You’re going to need a hell of a lot of patience though as the slow pace certainly isn’t for everyone. Chances are you already know if this is going to interest you, fingers crossed Rebellion can sort that patch out soon though.
- Sniping handles smoothly
- Shoot and move gameplay keeps you on your toes
- Realistic physics options for the hardened player
- A few frustrating glitches screw you out of kills
- Lack of interesting multiplayer unlocks
- Multiplayer needs patching
The Short Version: A surprisingly active take on the sniper genre means you can’t camp in one spot for long, but that turns out to be a good thing as you’re forced to rethink your positions throughout a stage. Some dodgy mechanics for the close range weapons and online issues should have been fixed before launch, but the MP is being patched. Worth a shot for any sniping fans out there.