Review: Sniper Elite III Hits Its Mark, But Runs Out Of Ammo Quickly
Rebellion is back with Sniper Elite III, which is a debut for the series on the latest hardware. They've put a lot of effort in to make improvements from V2, and it's time to see f it all paid off.
- Worth The Time?Yes, it gives fans a lot of content and entertains.
- Things LovedThe effort Rebellion put in to make improvements, the large and open environments, the addition of vehicle kill cams, sniping is fun, local co-op play for the campaign is welcome, the game looks good, it runs extremely smooth on PS4, there's a decent amount of content.
- Things HatedThe story is extremely dull, the lack of weapons, it gets very repetitive, the main campaign isn't very long but gets old before you reach the end, the kill cams haven't been updated since the last game, the cover system isn't very fluid, enemy AI is strange, competitive multiplayer can be buggy and not as enjoyable as co-op, it can feel like quantity over quality.
- RecommendationSniper Elite fans will be pleased by what is probably the best entry in the series, so for them this is worth it. For anyone else, unless you're starved for games or looking for a fun co-op game to play, you can wait to get this for a bit cheaper or pass it up. But it's definitely entertaining.
- Name: Sniper Elite III
- Genre: Tactical Shooter
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online competitive
- Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Developer: Rebellion Oxford
- Publisher: 505 Games, Rebellion Developments (PC)
- Price: $49.99 (PC), R740 (PS4, Xbox One), R570 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PS4
I didn’t have many words of praise for Sniper Elite V2 when I reviewed it, so I couldn’t tell you whether my interest in Sniper Elite III is because I’m a masochist or because I was genuinely curious to see whether improvements had been made. Jokes aside, nutshots return with Rebellion’s next entry in the series, which also marks the debut of it for the new consoles. Fans of this series need little excuse to pick it up and snipe Nazi’s in the nut sack, but it would appear that this time around Rebellion put quite a lot of effort in to raise the bar with Sniper Elite III, especially with regards to the amount of content on the disc. And that’s something that I admire, because I can say with confidence that Sniper Elite III is a much better game than Sniper Elite V2, although despite taking a number of important steps forward the series hasn’t quite reached greatness yet. Perhaps a fourth entry might.
The game is a sequel to V2, and once again puts players behind the scope of elite OSS sniper Karl Fairburne during World War II. This time around the series opted for a more interesting setting, as you’ll explore the World War II conflict in North Africa as you strive to kill as many Nazis as is humanly possible. While I doubt that there are many gamers out there who will care about the story, I’m going to come right out and say that it’s extremely dull in this game. There’s something about a super tank being created by the Nazis, and stuff happens and Nazis die. Sniper Elite III barely seems to care about its own story, as it hardly tells it and I remember like three characters and a couple of lines of dialogue. And then you factor in its uninterested delivery and the constant feeling you’ll get that the story is somewhere in the background, but not the main attraction. The reason I criticise it is because the game still for some reason takes itself seriously with its story, but while playing it I couldn’t help but wonder why Sniper Elite didn’t take a Hitman-esque approach, and make you pretty much a mercenary with hits to carry out. That would have made for something more cohesive than this story.
I feel that it’s got to the point where I can’t take Nazis seriously anymore. I’m not alone with this sentiment, and it first occurred when playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. That game also tried to take itself very seriously with its story, but I think after the many years of World War II shooters, zombie Nazis and all the rest of it, it’s pretty much difficult to get invested in a World War II story unless there’s something unique or funny about it. Sniper Elite III is neither of those, and you’ll most likely just ignore or skip the story because it’s forgettable and you’ll just want to get back to your nut shots. Perhaps what is worse is that the setting doesn’t really make the game feel unique, because there are just Nazis everywhere and it’s difficult to tell that the game is even set in Africa, with not much emphasis being put on the environment. But enough about story and setting, and let’s get to what you naturally came here for, which is the ball-busting gameplay. Yes, I do need to stop with the testicle references.
Sniper Elite III retains the core experience of V2, with the main highlight being the much larger and more open level design. The previous game felt rather linear, thus limting your ability to find vantage points and really feel like a sniper, but Sniper Elite III boasts big levels that give you optional side objectives and the freedom to explore, determine your approach and find collectibles. Rebellion definitely put in a lot of effort into making the game feel more organic and offer more options to players, with optional objectives, collectibles and exploration encouraging completionists. The game also retains the tactical equipment from V2, with your trip mines, land mines and dynamite available as traps, and the nice part is that you get to customise your loadout before embarking on a mission. However my criticism is that while the idea is good, it feels very limited because there are so few weapons in the game – only a handful – and on top of that there are tiers, where some guns are blatantly better than others in nearly every respect, which means you’ll struggle to count your options on one hand.
The main attraction of the game, which is obviously the sniping, is fun and made better by the larger levels. The kill cams are back in there, and what’s worthy of a thumbs up is that there are now vehicle kill cams as well, for when you’re up against something like a tank or trying to blow stuff up by taking out trucks. It’s visually pleasing to see your well-placed shots as always, and this is what will give you the most satisfaction in Sniper Elite III. The game is entertaining both alone and with a co-op partner, which you can get to join you in the campaign. What disappointed me though is that the kill cam for sniping humans hasn’t been updated or improved, so if you sniped a couple hundred Nazis in V2, there’s nothing really fresh about executing them in Sniper Elite III. It would have been nice to have seen a more extensive and detailed damage system, rather than only getting acknowledged when shooting the head, lungs, heart, intestines or testicles. When you’re killing dozens of Nazis each level, in the absence of high profile targets or really long-distance shots, it can start to get repetitive quickly.
That essentially outlines the biggest problem with Sniper Elite III. The game just gets very repetitive, and as such the main campaign runs out of steam before you reach the end. What’s disheartening about that is that it’s not very long to begin with, so perhaps the way to get the most out of it is to play with a buddy and try out the harder difficulty levels. There’s little else to do apart from killing dozens of zombies with the occasional vehicle battle, and I was hoping for a moment to assassinate a really important target or make an extremely long distance shot. But there are no memorable moments really, and most levels feel quite identical. Don’t get me wrong. It’s easy to enjoy the game, especially with a friend, and you can always up the challenge with the higher difficulties, more realistic sniper settings and by trying to take it slowly and professionally. But more so if you’ve played Sniper Elite V2, the third entry can get quite old before its expiration date, which ends up being a real pity.
Sniper Elite III is at its best when you find a great spot and can pull off long distance hits with pinpoint accuracy, masking your shots with loud sounds in the environment or making yourself relocate to new positions after each kill to avoid detection. It can also be fun to go stealthy. It’s at its worst though when you experience extreme repetitiveness or become exposed to the AI’s more strange behaviour. Sometimes they can be lethal and kill you in seconds, but other times they can stand around and do nothing, basically being your canon fodder, or line up so comically that a double or trouble kill ends up being immersion-breaking rather than skillful. Sometimes they can hit you through cover or with machine gun spraying from large distances, because reasons, and other times they can even lob grenades with inhuman accuracy even if you’re tucked away in a sniper’s nest high above ground. Their basic behaviour with regards to hearing noise can be decent, as one shot forces them into cover, another draws them over to investigate and the third alerts them to your position. Apart from that, unless you’re on the harder difficulties where they’re more lethal than they’re best served as bodies.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about the gameplay. I imagine you’ll play it, enjoy it and after about the hundredth slow-motion nut shot you’ll probably be over it and will look at the harder difficulties or co-op for something more lasting. With that said, the game has a decent amount of content. Apart from the main campaign, there are also two additional co-op modes as well as online multiplayer. The local co-op, called challenge mode, gives you Survival and Overwatch. The former is a rather dull affair that has you fight waves of enemies with not much to be excited by, and it can also be played solo. The latter is a bit more interesting as it makes one player the spotter and the other the sniper. These can be fun distractions when you have a friend over, but they’re unlikely to entice players for all that long. Sniper Elite III can start to feel a little like quantity over quality here, as it tries to give you a bit of everything but doesn’t really excel. I doubt you’ll stick with this game for very long.
The competitive multiplayer provides a couple of modes, with some sounding like good fun on paper. There’s the usual Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch, and the more interesting Distance King, Team Distance King and No Cross. Distance king is where you’re meant to kill your opponents from as far away as possible, and the player with the most total distance wins. Of course if it’s the team version, then the team with the highest total distance wins. Finally No Cross separates both teams with no risk of close quarters combat, and it’s all about sniping. One would imagine that with the more open and larger levels in Sniper Elite III, as well as the nature of how these modes sound on paper, that the multiplayer of the game is a real blast. Unfortunately it was where I had the least fun with the game.
However I’m very hesitant with these criticisms since it could have just been bad luck for me. I have a fast internet connection, at least as far as South Africa is concerned, and I frequently timed out or lost connection to games when trying to join. When in game, I couldn’t fathom how lobbies seemed to be full only for like three players to be in the game when it starts. Players constantly connected and disconnected, and it often happened that my games would have three against one, which ended up being extremely dull as the lone player had the advantage and after getting in a winning position could just hide away and run down the clock. Sadly this part is subjective as another player could have a smooth experience, and it also depends somewhat on the times the game is being played. But for me I didn’t get to play that much of the multiplayer, and what I did play wasn’t very enjoyable due to games containing very few players and it taking a while to get a game to begin with.
The game looked pretty good on PS4 though, and the nicest part was how it ran extremely smoothly, definitely spending most of the time well above 30fps. I can’t speak for how it performs on other platforms, but I do know that the Xbox One version could be at a slightly lower rate according to the developers. Facial animation, cutscene animations and voice acting was far from the best, but the environmental detail and aesthetics were of a good level. The African setting may not have added anything to the experience or done enough to set the game apart, but it at least looked pretty throughout. The game has a very clean appearance, which sometimes makes it seem stylised, but it’s also easy on the eyes. On the plus side I didn’t encounter any serious glitches or performance hiccups and Sniper Elite III was a pleasure to play in that regard. With regards to the audio, apart from the fantastic work done with sniping, especially during the kill cams where you can hear the rush of wind as the bullet travels to its target, a lot of the game is quite flat. Explosions and other weapons don’t really make an impact, and as the name implies it’s the sniping that was given all the love.
In closing I was not very kind to Sniper Elite V2 at all, but I’m very appreciative of the fact that even though Sniper Elite III doesn’t reach greatness, it is a definite improvement over its predecessor and I can see the amount of effort Rebellion put in to create a bigger game. Sniper Elite III is probably the best entry in the series to date, but unfortunately it’s severely brought down by immense repetition, strange AI and a strong lack of variety. I’m sure that fans of the series will be pleased. However it’s also often a case of quantity over quality here, and while fun the game does run out of steam before it should. It’s absolutely worth playing if you’re keen to give it a shot – no pun intended – and it’s pretty entertaining for a day or two, but it can be missed or acquired for cheaper if you’re hesitant.