Being the guy to review Sniper Elite III for the Xbox One, I will admit that I have never played any of the previous games, so as I started on my virtual adventure I was going in with zero expectations. Sure, I know that past games featured one heck of a kill-cam, and Sniper Elite III offers the same, but that was about it for my knowledge of what I was about to get into. Well, I have to say that after playing this game I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
In a nutshell you are an American OSS sniper by the name of Karl Fairburn and you are tasked with going deep into the German line to stop an evil plot. It takes place during WWII in North Africa. I have played various WWII games in the past and I can honestly say that North Africa is not a campaign that has been exposed too much, so this was definitely a nice change. The actual narrative is not particularly original, and even has a cliché moment or two, but that doesn’t make it overly horrible. Most of the story is told through stills with Karl narrating each stage of the game you’re about to go into, and there is usually an intro cutscene as you enter each level. Overall the story isn’t bad, but let’s get real, you’re not playing this game for an academy award-winning tale are you?
Sniper Elite III is a third person shooter that has a lot of stealth elements to it. Sure, there are times that you can switch to an automatic rifle (e.g. Thompson or MP40) for a little action, but as the title of the game suggests, you are a sniper and this results in more stealth rather then ‘run-and-gun’ action. I generally stay away from stealth games as they usually aren’t my ‘cup-of-tea’, but alas I found myself strangely addicted to this game. I think this is due to the amount of elements that are mixed throughout the gameplay itself, let me explain.
One of the first things that is noticeable is that each of the 8 missions have extremely LARGE levels. Yes, large is in caps to emphasize what I am saying. There are also a fair number of tasks you can complete in each level too. These range from the main mission (e.g. kill all the officers) to optional missions (e.g. destroy the motor pool). Plus we can’t forget that you can search for collectibles and find various sniper nests throughout each mission level too. Although 8 mission levels sounds small you’ll find that each mission, depending on how much you actually do, can take up to 2 hours or so each. You do the math.
Each level is not particularly linear as there are multiple paths for you to take. How you tackle the various objectives are left to your own choice. Sure, you have the main objective that you have to complete, but again, you are the author of your own destiny so to speak. For example, I was playing the first major level (not the tutorial) and I ended up tackling the last sniper nest on the map, killing all those along my path. Unbeknownst to me the level’s last objective was to take place along this same area I just cleared while accessing the sniper nest, so my final steps were much easier then I had expected to complete the level. To have some sort of flexibility in the approach to the game’s levels is great.
Sniper Elite III continues the deadly and graphic kill-cam that the series is known for when sniping, and now it is in glorious 1080p. I have to say that the various shots that I pulled off during my gameplay sessions had me uttering those words “Xbox Record That” and then going into “my clips” and picking the best kill-cam replays. Watching a skull explode, a leg shatter in half, or even a testicle meet its doom is rewarding in its own way, and definitely not for the squeamish. I actually thought that I might get tired of this aspect, but given how I played the game, sneaking up on foes for silent kills with my knife or silenced pistol, only making those long shots when I wanted too, the kill-cam proved to be quite enjoyable.
You get to use other tools as you play too, and some are tied to leveling up. You do have binoculars from the get-go to ‘tag’ up to seven enemies from afar, but as you progress you get such things as trip mines, land mines, better ammo or guns, grenades, as well as flint and stone. The latter can be used to distract your enemy to go look at a certain area allowing you to sneak up and silently place a blade into their throat. There are a lot of options for killing your foes and that is a good thing.
Much to my surprise the game offers up a nice suite of multiplayer options. You can play through the game’s campaign with a friend cooperatively, which can be fun as you chat up new strategies with your partner for some great silent carnage. You and your co-op partner can also take on the “horde” like mode called Survival where you battle wave after wave of Nazi enemies, or you can play Overwatch where one player is assigned sighting duties with binoculars while the other player is the shooter. There is also an adversarial component for the multiplayer as up to 12 players can battle it out. These levels and modes are more designed for sniper action, as killing from a distance is the goal. Unfortunately there were very few people playing this game online for the Xbox One, so my time online was quite limited.
Visually Sniper Elite III isn’t that bad. The character models are fairly solid, the games environments are varied and well designed, and the lighting and special effects are pretty good. What is noticeable is that this is a game that looks like it was designed with multiple consoles in mind, last-gen and next-gen being the bottleneck. I noticed some texture pop-in, and some strange things happened now and then, such as a disposed enemy hovering a few virtual inches above the ground floating in the air. Overall people won’t be disappointed as long as they realize this isn’t a true next-gen game.
As for the game’s sound, it’s not bad but not without some fault. The voice acting during gameplay when enemies spot you or become suspicious of what is around them was pretty cool but I found that the voice acting for the narrative itself could be laughable at times and kind of took me out of the story. Sound effects as a whole are solid, from killing an enemy with your silenced pistol to the crack in the silent night air as you fire your sniper rifle from afar and it smashes through the skull of your intended target. There is music during gameplay too and it really becomes evident during those times when your enemy spots you or you give up your position by firing your sniper rifle. It adds a bit of intensity as you seen a hiding place until such a time that the area is clear and you can make your way back.
At the end of the day Sniper Elite III is a pretty good game. From large game levels and lots of extra tasks to that non-linear approach to how you can complete said tasks and the ability to play the whole campaign cooperatively, there really is a lot to like. Let’s not forget that the gruesome, but cool kill-cam is back too! Sure, the AI can be unpredictable and a bit wonky at times, the competitive online is not that busy, the story can be cliché and there is the odd visual glitch, but in the end it’s not enough to overtake all the good. Many people should find a lot to like here, and fans of the previous two games can come back knowing there is still a lot to enjoy.