Shot through the pancreas.
Very few games that rely on a single gimmick manage to enthrall their audience beyond the first hour or two. The Sniper Elite series lives and dies by its signature mechanic, and yet somehow managed to keep me invested throughout its campaign. The idea is simple; let players eliminate enemies with sniper fire, but the caveat is that most of these kills are represented by a gruesome x-ray shot of my foes being decimated by a well-placed bullet. Skulls are shattered, eyes explode, and even male appendages are not safe from the devastation of one quick trigger pull.
Remove this gimmick and Sniper Elite III is a pretty run-of-the-mill shooter. The actual mechanics are serviceable at best, and the mission structure is nothing more than completing main and side objectives that require little thought or planning, at least on easier difficulties. The idea of remaining silent is never necessary, causing the game to tiptoe on the line between a stealth action title, and an all-out shooter. The core shooting is never as satisfying as finding a hidden perch, and picking off foes from a distance.
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC, 360, PS3
Multiplayer: Cooperative and competitive.
Demo Availability: N/A
Length: 8-10 hours.
The biggest change to this iteration of the series is its locale. Instead of drab, war-torn streets, our protagonist is traversing bright, sand-infused areas in Africa. This makes for a much more interesting setting, and with broad daylight engulfing most areas, it makes sneaking around much more challenging. The mechanic of masking sound returns with generators and planes flying overhead that made timing my shots satisfying when I didn’t alert the guards. Of course, even when I was discovered, it took very little to relocate myself, or simply gun everyone down with my arsenal of weapons.
Of course, none of this is what makes Sniper Elite III worth playing. This is legitimate gore-porn at its most basic level; and I am OK with that. With PS4 and XB1 this new title also raises the bar for detail. As I mentioned earlier the x-ray kills are absolutely painful to witness. They generate those cringing moments where everyone in the room folds up into a ball and screams in terror at the screen. Yes, this game is as much fun to watch as it is to play. Go ahead and Google any videos of the game and I guarantee they are chock full of exploding eyeballs and of course shots below the waist.
Somehow this works, and kept me entertained throughout the linear campaign. Sure, there are highlights. Perching atop a castle during a thunderstorm, picking off Nazis while an escaped prisoner tries to escape is just one example, but most of the levels consist of boring objectives and repetitive game play.
One of the best things about the campaign though is the ability to play through it, in its entirety, with a buddy. The experience is definitely more satisfying when you have a partner that can perch on an adjacent ledge and take out enemies that are alerted to my gunfire. Every single mission can be played with a friend, and it truly is the best way to play the game.
There is also a competitive online mode that pits snipers up against each other in sprawling maps. While the tension is fun for a while, the lack of consistent population really drags it down. Plus I could only handle the slower pace of matches for a while before it became tedious. I hate snipers in most online shooters, so imagine a game full of nothing but patient campers. Yeah, it can definitely wear thin.
The visuals are also a treat. Not only do the x-ray kills cause a cringe every time they occur, but the levels are lush with vibrant detail. The lighting definitely feels like a last-generation game ported up, but the silky smooth frame rate and massive landscapes more than make up for it. There are some weird glitches with animations that are oftentimes hilarious, and some weird bugs when reloading checkpoints, but for the most part, I had very few issues with the way the game looks.
Sniper Elite III is a mediocre game with a gimmick that escalates it to be more enjoyable than it should be. Remove that particular mechanic though and we are left with a pretty bland shooter. Still, those that play games like Mortal Kombat just for the gore will be pleased, making this a fun summer diversion for new console owners starving for something new to play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.