Sniper Elite III (PlayStation 3) Review

By Kyle Henderson 12.07.2014

Review for Sniper Elite III on PlayStation 3

Sniper Elite III, the third game in Rebellion Developments' sneak 'n' snipe series moves the World War II action to South Africa and opens up the gameplay but doesn't change a whole lot else. There will be a whole lot of sneaking and a generous dose of sniping, so get ready.

So many shooters in the last decade or so have become unnecessarily concerned with stories and characters and big set-pieces. Before, during the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, games were happy to line up a series of toys, provide a handful of playgrounds and let the player loose. Technical limitations leave those games pretty unplayable these days but those guys had it figured out. Then it all went wrong and consumers ended up with a dozen identical Call of Duty games.

Sniper Elite III isn't exactly brimming with new ideas, with everything it offers almost certainly having been done competently in dozens of other games, but it returns to that design ethos. Rebellion doesn't want to hold the player's hand through a batch of heavily-scripted series of explosions, it wants people to create their own fun and has set out to make it easy for that to happen. It sets up the playground and litters it with tools, leaving it up to the player to enjoy it.

Those playgrounds are probably the biggest improvement that Sniper Elite III brings over its predecessors. While previous games offered enemy bases and treacherous territories to navigate, it was all presented in a wholly linear fashion. Here, though, almost everything is wide open. The game's best levels bring to mind Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes with the liberty and variety offered: multiple pathways, branching objectives, and copious opportunities to create extra-curricular fun.

Screenshot for Sniper Elite III on PlayStation 3

It's liberating to be left to figure things out independently. Most levels start off, not by accident, on a high point at the edge of the map, with a view of the whole thing. Rebellion has poured a lot of love into the design of these areas and wants to make sure the player experiences the full breadth on offer, and it is encouraging to see a developer put such effort into this side of a shooter's design.

Any approach is physically possible as there's a machine gun as well as a silenced pistol and sniper rifle in the inventory, although going in guns blazing will be significantly more likely to end in death. The best and most satisfying approach is, unsurprisingly, to take it slow, plan the approach and deal with enemies from a distance. Plotting a course through an area and then taking out enough Nazis to ease passage is very enjoyable, and feels realistic.

Surveying the land through a pair of binoculars allows the tagging of up to eight enemies so that they are visible all the time as a silhouette through walls or an indicator arrow when looking in another direction. Opening fire will alert any nearby men although they won't be able to nail down the exact location until they have heard a few shots. There are some options to mask the sound of shots, like generators can be sabotaged so they make a huge racket, planes flying overhead can provide noise cover and one level even provides a thunderstorm to allow for sniping in peace.

Screenshot for Sniper Elite III on PlayStation 3

Of course, it won't always be possible to go completely unnoticed. When inevitably found, the relocation system kicks in. As a nod to the game's expansive maps, getting a certain distance away from the last place seen by the enemy results in the alert level dropping a lot quicker. It's a decent system that can feel a little bit too game-y at times, although this is hardly a game that strives for true realism. It also further supports the freedom of choice that Sniper Elite III aims for - being more overt is fine, as long as there's an escape plan. Sniping and relocating on a regular basis will earn the in-game Ghost title, which seems to do nothing but serve as a constant reminder of how much of a badass the player has been.

Rebellion does a decent job of keeping this all feeling fresh across the ten hour campaign although the last couple of missions do feel a tad half-baked. Aside from simply sniping soldiers and sneaking past them, other objectives include taking down armoured vehicles and the occasional more full-on assault. The game never requires proper cover shooting though, preferring to provide a few vantage points from which to snipe and hide.

Unfortunately, the AI leaves a lot to be desired and it's never more apparent than when in a real fire-fight. Enemies make no attempt to flank (despite saying they will) or gain any kind of superior position over the player, instead happily just firing their MP 40s from 150 feet away while having their heads popped off. It could be argued that this is in service of the sniper power fantasy, that it would be too difficult to be the omnipotent sniper if the targets were constantly outfoxing the player, but it's far more likely that it simply comes down to lazy programming.

Screenshot for Sniper Elite III on PlayStation 3

Laziness is rampant elsewhere, too. This is a very buggy game. The standards are present: clipping through obstacles, frame-rate drops, and screen tearing are all constant issues. Many people have stated there are game-breaking problems with save games, too. The game reportedly erases progress at a whim, although this didn't happen during the course of this particular review. Hopefully there will be a sizeable patch to fix this stuff but, of course, it shouldn't be required. There's a lot to like in Sniper Elite III but Rebellion should perhaps have spent a bit more time on QA testing.

As every modern shooter must, there's a multiplayer component inelegantly bolted onto Sniper Elite 3's side. A few modes are included: standard death-matches and a couple of modes that decisively split players across large maps to encourage sniping. It's not the worst obligatory online offering but it's even more rife with bugs than the main game - lag is a huge issue and the netcode is ridiculously unstable, resulting in a lot of matches just breaking down midway through. It could serve as a decent diversion if it weren't such a mess.

Additionally, there are a few arcade type modes on offer. Survival offers exactly what one might expect with waves of enemies invading a map while the player - or players - uses any weapons available to fight them off. More interestingly, there's an asynchronous spotter mode where one player points out targets for the other player who's shooting. It's essentially just the marking mechanic from the main game, except it uses the sniper concept well and is something different. Ultimately, these modes are a decent extra, however, neither will hold anyone's interest for too long.

Screenshot for Sniper Elite III on PlayStation 3

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Sniper Elite III is a great stealth game that is, unfortunately, marred by bugs and an occasional lack of energy. The best levels are so good, though, that it's easy to forget the problems. Rebellion is slowly edging its way closer to a true classic, but this latest release still comes highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Developer

Rebellion

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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