'Sniper Elite 3' is simple, gruesome and effective - review

Wednesday, 09 July 2014 11:00 AM Written by 

 

SniperElite3coverI picked up “Sniper Elite 3” as a review assignment without knowing much about the series. I knew it started as an original Xbox title and has since grown to a third installment on next-gen platforms. Based on the generic name and appearance, I assumed I was in for a typical WWII-era shoot ‘em up. My eyebrows quickly raised after my first pull of the trigger.

The setting is a new spin on the all too familiar era of WWII. The game is set in Northern Africa, which creates the opportunity for lush foliage and waterways. But when you boil it down to the basics, it’s still just nonstop Nazi killing. There isn’t a semblance of a story. The sniper is targeting bad guys in an attempt to dismantle the German forces. It’s basically every WWII story ever told.

“Sniper Elite 3’s” hook is the glorification of the sniper rifle. Nearly every shot (probably four out of every five) is slowed down into bullet time, which shows the trajectory of the bullet right before it enters a target. It slows to a crawl upon arrival, as an x-ray is shown of the unaware enemy just before the bullet makes contact to splinter bones, spew blood, and perforate internal organs in a brutally violent finale. You get to see this show repeat itself with nearly every pull of the trigger.

The first display shocked me because it was unexpected. After a couple levels of trying out different body parts and scoring bonus points for puncturing kidneys, lungs, hearts and even testicles, the gag wore off. How many skeletal structures can you see reduced to shards of bone in slow motion before it gets old? In my experience, it hits the wall after about kill 10-15.

While this is the attention grabber of “Sniper Elite 3” the game has slightly more to offer in terms of gameplay. You play as a trained sniper and you have to stick to that part. Rushing in will alert every enemy on patrol, getting you killed in a hurry. You have to play it safe and smart. That means staying quiet and hidden are two musts.

Each level is a sprawling outdoor area with multiple objectives. Enemies can be tagged with binoculars, which make it easy to keep tabs on them. Sniper fire is the easiest way to eliminate them, but the sound of the rifle draws attention. Firing has to be masked by other noise, whether it’s a plane flying overhead or racket caused by a sabotaged generator. Each level has objects that can be tampered with to mask the sound of your rifle. These have to be used to your advantage if you want to stay silent and deadly.

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Sniping isn’t as easy as looking down the scope and pulling the trigger at will. The scope sways, and the gun has a mighty kick after firing a round. Pressing the right shoulder button enters focus mode. Focus mode slightly slows time and steadies the scope, allowing you to perform a more precise shot.

“Sniper Elite 3’s” focus is misguided. While the gruesome kills are the main talking point, it’s the complete freedom that makes the game fun. Primary and optional objectives have to be carried out in each stage. How a player goes about accomplishing these objectives will vary from person to person. The stages are so open-ended that it would be difficult to find two players who played the game identically.

You have the option to take an aggressive approach and take out as many enemies as possible, or go a total stealth route and try not to harm anyone. You can weave your way through guards on patrol and set mine traps along their patrol routes. You can rely on close-quarters stealth kills, or make a ton of noise with your sidearm. There are nearly countless ways to play “Sniper Elite 3,” and many of these ways will bring success. It’s enjoyable for a lot of different play styles.

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Once the campaign missions are carried out, there’s two-player multiplayer and a single-player horde -style mode. In this mode, one or two players take on waves of enemies. While it’s not very enjoyable for solo play, using teamwork to quell the Nazi horde is dumb fun. The entire campaign can also be played via co-op.

“Sniper Elite 3” isn’t trying to be a groundbreaking display of social commentary. It’s not begging to be analyzed. It’s shooting Nazis in the most violent way possible. That’s what it set out to do, and that’s what it accomplished. It’s not the most polished experience, but it should be a bullseye for fans of the stealth and sniping genre.

8 out of 10

Pros:
Open-ended gameplay
Bullet time kill-cam will appeal to some

Cons:
Novelty wears off quickly
Nonexistent story

 Platform   PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC 
 Price   $40
 Rated   M for Mature
 Release Date   7/1/2014
 

 

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