Who knew shooting Nazis in the nuts would be so much fun? You would think that, regardless of the game, shooting anyone in anything repeatedly would eventually lose its lustre, but Rebellion seem intent on proving us wrong. Case in point: the somewhat bonkers slow-motion Nazi kill-cam in Sniper Elite V2 might well be the best thing to happen to games since random loot, adding a level of gratuitous self-satisfaction that had never been seen before in a shooter. Sure, the bits in between the actual sniping were utter pants and the AI was slightly less intelligent than a boiled egg, but the joy of executing a perfect shot and watching your bullet travel a hundred metres to punch, in slow motion and Mortal Kombat-style X-Ray vision, into your hapless target’s left eye was just wonderful.
So it’s not much of a surprise that all anyone cared about when a sequel was announced (apart from the dropping of the V in the title), was whether or not Rebellion had improved on the kill-cam. And thankfully, they have. Big time. The XP system rewards you for hitting certain organs such as the heart, kidneys and gonads, and the sheer grotesque beauty of a super slow-mo X-Ray headshot has to be experienced to be believed. This is not a game for the kids. It’s ridiculously OTT at times and, quite possibly, a wee bit childish. A new addition is the option to snipe vehicles and enjoy the same slow-mo X-Ray display, which is a real treat when you watch a bullet tear into an engine and ignite it in a fiery ball of righteous fascist death.
The plot follows veteran sharpshooter Karl Fairburne as he guns his way through the North Africa Campaign of World War 2. The change of setting is refreshing, especially as very few WW2 games spend any time in Africa at all. The desert aesthetics are great on new-gen consoles, whether you’re squinting in the scorching sunshine, or lining up shots under the clear night sky. It’s a massive improvement over the all-pervading blandness of V2, despite occasional glitches ruining the experience now and then, with hyperactive corpses and some extreme clipping being prime examples.
The campaign isn’t as long as the last game, but it’s of considerably higher quality. Karl has a much more balanced repertoire now, and is able to employ stealth effectively while holding his own in a firefight. Movement is smoother and the animations more realistic, while the cover mechanic is better implemented. There are odd moments where you’ll bounce out of cover for no apparent reason, but it’s a minor complaint. Rebellion have taken pains to make the whole experience more even, but the real meat of the game is still the sniping. On your belly, sighting down the scope and holding your breath – that’s where Sniper Elite 3 wants you to be, and when it gets you there it’s the best example of its genre currently available.
Finding a crow’s nest or a shady little spot and setting up your one-man game of death dominoes is hugely entertaining – as is using mines and tripwires to booby trap your hiding place. As always though, Sniper Elite 3 is often better when it all goes wrong and you’re forced to relocate, leaving a last known location ghost behind and finding a new place to perch.
Holding the bumper slows time and causes Karl to hold his breath, allowing you to line up a shot using a red dot that tells you where the bullet will go in relation to the crosshair. Timing is important, as holding it too long or going too soon will cause you to miss. Often you’ll have to use environmental sounds to mask your shots or risk being rumbled and set upon by scores of angry Nazis – which no one wants. There’s still a slight problem with the AI possessing almost psychic powers, as sometimes you can pick off an entire plaza of bad guys with no trouble, and other times they’ll seem to sense your eyes on the back of their heads. Luckily, this only happened twice, and may even have been caused by a glitch.
If you do tire of the campaign (which you really shouldn’t as it only runs to around six or seven hours), you can hop into the challenges, which come in solo and co-op flavours. You can spend time just picking enemies off in a closed environment, work in tandem as a sniper and spotter team or go head-to-head with another shooter. They’re a great aside and work very well. Additionally, there’s the multiplayer. Team sniper games are always good fun, and while Sniper Elite 3 isn’t exactly brimming with modes, what’s on offer is solid and provides an enjoyable alternative to the campaign.
Customisable loadouts offer variety as you unlock new guns and upgrades, as you increase in level. Going back and replaying earlier missions with more advanced loadouts can yield interesting results, and gives the solo game a lot more longevity. It can take a while to really unlock the more impressive weapons and mods, but it’s worth the wait.
VERDICT: Sniper Elite 3 is the best example of its genre, full stop. A fantastic sharpshooting experience is interspersed with more considered, more competent stealth and action, and the array of tools and tricks available to Karl Fairburne is impressive indeed. While you’re not often able to go for broke and “play your own way”, there are enough routes through missions and enough open ground to really use the environment to your advantage. Overall, Sniper Elite 3 is a solid shooter that improves on everything that was good about Sniper Elite V2 and ditches most – though perhaps not all – of the bad. This should go down as a genuine triumph for Rebellion.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.