Sniper Elite III is the latest in a series of WWII games that put you in the role of a sniper for the allied forces. While previous instalments had their problems, this time around the developers have listened to the fans and created a more fluid and fun experience. Open level design, great new mechanics and a sense of freedom and power really underlie this game and make it worth picking up.
Set during 1942 (prior to the events of Sniper Elite and v2) in Africa, our hero, Karl Fairburne must fight against the infamous Afrika Korps and their incredible Tiger Tanks to put a stop to Hitler’s war machine before it can build the Wunderwaffe (Wonder Weapon) which will decimate the allied forces and quite possibly wipe them off the map.
The story is well-rooted in history while still maintaining enough elements to be accessible to gamers everywhere. The protagonist is your standard action-hero; quiet, stoic and driven, which really makes the whole game feel like a massive action hero power fantasy. The story itself is fairly thin and incidental to the whole gameplay experience. Although that being said, it would make a pretty cool movie if they were ever inclined to go that way.
By the time you get to a third game in a franchise, you usually have all the bugs and kinks worked out. It seems that Sniper Elite III has definitely done this, managing to improve on Sniper Elite V2, by eliminating a lot of the problems that players had like the linearity of levels.
Sniper Elite III doesn’t have all that many levels, but each of them will take you a considerable amount of time. Finding the perfect vantage points and taking out enemies without being spotted is a slow and purposeful process but even taking the “I’m just going to run and gun,” option will have you spending upwards of an hour on some stages.
There is not a whole lot of mission variety in Sniper Elite III, which is expected since snipers in the real world never have all that much variety in their day-to-day jobs. While it is authentic, it provides a gameplay experience that can get a little waning and repetitive after several missions.
One of the coolest gameplay mechanics of Sniper Elite III is definitely the ability to mask your shots with ambient sounds. An enemy may hear where your rifle shot came from in the open air, but wait till a plane passes overhead or a nearby machine malfunctions and you can pick off the krauts in near silence. Should your rifle be heard by the enemy however, they will have an idea as to where you are (as indicated by a ghostly silhouette of yourself at the position) meaning you can either try and pick them off before they circle in on you, or relocate to another spot and set up once again. This little thing keeps players on their toes and never resting on their laurels.
Previous Sniper Elite games suffered from incredibly linear level design. For the most part this has been done away with, giving the player a more open field to play in, as well as providing a tonne of different options and approaches to each of the missions. While some areas of the game still feel like a bottle-neck, they are fewer and further between than before.
The core focus of Sniper Elite III is without a doubt the freedom. You are free to approach missions however you choose, you are free to tackle optional objectives or leave them by the wayside, you are free to pick your weapons loadout and most of all you are free to make the game as easy or difficult as you would like.
Aside from the industry standard difficulty settings, you can customise each individual facet of the gameplay experience. Want useless enemy AI but super realistic bullet physics? You can have that… Or the inverse if that is your more your style. The world is your oyster here in Sniper Elite III.
Visually, Sniper Elite III is an impressive game. While it may not be the best looking game on the market, it still has a lot of detail, a wide field of view and most importantly – colour. Being set in the desert gives Sniper Elite III bright blue skies, interesting landmarks and just a general change from the washed-out brown that many modern games have.
The Sniper Elite games have become infamous due to their graphic and stylish x-ray kill shots. When you fire at an enemy with your sniper rifle, a bullet-time cinematic will play that follows the bullet’s trajectory out of the gun, through the air and into the enemy. When it hits the enemy, you will get an internal shot of their muscles and bones, and you will see in gory detail as their eyes explode from having a bullet pass through them, or the back of their spine shatter outwards.
The effect is impactful and really draws you to the damage that these firearms can do without making it seem outlandish. The effect is great the first few times, but eventually players may turn it off because you can only see the back of somebody’s skull shatter so many times before it impedes on the actual gameplay experience.
There isn’t much to say about the audio here. It is really low-key and unobtrusive which helps players to focus in on what they are doing, in order to make the perfect kill. Since the game relies on abient noise as a gameplay mechanic, it is definitely a pleasure that this noise sounds authentic and realistic.
All of the game’s cinematics are narrated by the protagonist, who’s hardened gravelly voice really sets the tone. His voice allows for the opening of each level to feel less like a video game and more like a real military briefing, and gets you in the zone for the action that is about to unfold.
The sound of your gun firing is probably the most important sound in the game, and even without being super knowledgeable on guns I can say that they all sound great. The way that they sound, combined with the controller vibration as I pulled the trigger really did sucker me into the experience and made it a whole lot more enjoyable.
Sniper Elite III really stands out from other shooters. Its down to earth, almost realistic approach to war really makes the player feel like they are experience combat first hand, but that they are also in total control. This is definitely helped by the level design and freedom of choice that allow you to approach a mission exactly how you would like. While it gets a little repetitive at times, it is a fun experience without being over the top.
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