Shooters. They come in all forms but as soon as you go online in one, you quickly find the snipers have set up camp and will happily ping shots at you all day long, which is why a shooter focussing primarily on the whole tactical long range war fighting should be something gamers flock to.
But for some reason or another, the previous Sniper Elite titles haven’t really taken off. The first Sniper Elite was an original Xbox affair but came off second best to the big tactical shooter of the time Ghost Recon. The second, Sniper Elite V2 was more a remake than a sequel but on the Xbox 360 it had to go up against the biggest of big guns; Call of Duty and Battlefield and struggled for no more than that reason alone.
And so here we are with the third Sniper Elite title, Sniper Elite 3. Out on Xbox One and Xbox 360, there’s always the worry that a cross-gen title will struggle to assert itself on either generation; neither pushing the older console to it’s full limits or making the most of the newer more powerful tech on the other side of the line.
Unfortunately for Sniper Elite 3, that seems to be the case.
Playing as Karl Fairburne, an OSS officer involved in World War II, you’ll find that Europe has been crushed, it’s supply lines crippled and that the tank is now king! Karl is all out to prove that not to be the case and so with his trusty sniper rifle by his side, he sets his sights, quite literally, on the enemy.
Now, I fully admit to not being the most gifted shooter fan in the world. I struggle massively with the fast paced run and gunners in both single player and multiplayer games, but that be said, I’m a massive fan of the slightly slower paced Splinter Cell series (especially the ‘proper’ stealthy ones!), and with that in mind, was quite looking forward to seeing what Sniper Elite 3 would bring to the table. First thoughts were that it should be a much more sedate affair than COD or Battlefield, with me having thoughts of sitting in a small cave somewhere, rifle propped up ready to fire.
And you know what….if you wish to play SE3 like a real sniper would, then you most certainly can. The campaign starts off well enough with many stealth and long range sniping intentions and you’ll be quite happy to crouch and crawl around as you outwit the enemy AI without being seen or heard. Obviously the full on sniper rifle you carry round with you is a noisy old bugger but if you plan your attacks correctly and use the on-going sounds of the battlefield to mask your shots, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be found from each kill. If you can’t keep quiet, then a stealthy approach with the silenced pistol or melee takedowns also work wonders.
For the most part though, you’ll try to stick to your rifle. Not only does it mean you don’t need to get up close and personal with anyone packing a sub-machine gun, but it also gives you the opportunity to experience the games main selling point…..the bloody and brutal killcams. Watch in awe as your bullet flies through the air in slow motion, smacking the enemy right where it hurts, so much so that he turns all skeletonly for a second or two so you can get to see the full impact of your actions. The killcams are excellent and well worth looking out for. At least at first and at least until they become a gimmick you really don’t need.
Because you see Sniper Elite 3 falls down on a number of key game components. Firstly, and most importantly, the fun factor very quickly wears off. The killcams slow things down too much and once you’ve seen five or six of them, you soon get fed up with watching any more. Secondly, the whole sneaking around approach gets tiresome, due mainly to the large areas you need to travel. Give it half an hour or so and only a couple of missions in to the campaign and you’ll be running and gunning with the best of em.
Thankfully you can totally play the game that way too and there is very little to stop you doing so, but even that gets tedious pretty quickly as the enemy AI are, without question, some of the worst enemy AI’s I have experienced for a long time. All hell will be breaking loose in camp with nades going off and SMG’s firing willy-nilly but still you’ll get a good number of them standing motionless staring at a wall, waiting patiently for that quick stab to the back. Even when they see you, they take so long to get a shot off, preferring to run around shouting first, that it doesn’t take a great deal for you to switch to your big shooter and pile a round or two into them. Even if you do decide to make a run for it to try and hide somewhere, the AI have a search around for a little while before swiftly giving up and pretending to their senior officers that no-one was ever there! “Must have been the wind sir!”.
Yes, things get trickier on the full authentic experience (no saving of game and some full-on realistic bullet ballistics), but on the whole, the vast majority of gamers aren’t going to want to go for such a challenge.
Another massive annoyance comes in the form of the level design. Not that it hasn’t been thought out well, it has and the numerous ways to sneak around and get to the objectives are good to see, but the sheer number of invisible walls/barriers that are present is alarming. An example being that after clearing out a camp, I thought I’d go for a little wander round to see what was what. A barrier (you know, like that you find in a car park) was down, so I happily crawled underneath it as there was a massive expanse of space behind it. I promptly found an invisible wall barring my path, and could no longer crawl back under the barrier to safety. The game had put me in a position I couldn’t get out of and due to the rather crazy autosave points, meant I was basically having to start right back at the beginning of the mission again. Frustrating was not the word!
Away from the single player campaign and it’s great to see that the full story can seemingly be completed in a cooperative fashion. I say seemingly because after numerous attempts at finding a partner (across many days and at many times), it quickly dawned on me that gamers around the world either didn’t like me, or just weren’t bothering to play. If you’ve got a friend with the game on the same platform, then you’ll be in luck though.
The same goes for the other multiplayer aspect of Sniper Elite 3, that of the full Xbox Live experience. The full Xbox Live experience that I couldn’t take part in due to lack of numbers. I find it hard to believe that NO ONE is playing Sniper Elite 3 at the same time as me (the latest UK charts have it placing very high), and so it must go down to some dodgy matchmaking and servers. It’s a real shame because aside from the Team Deathmatch option, I was more than interested to see how the ‘Distance King’ and ‘No Cross’ game options played out.
Similarly, a number of challenges are available to play and whilst the Solo Survival experience can be taken on fully, if you’re looking to battle through waves of enemies with a partner, or take in the ‘Overwatch’ mode (one playing as sniper, the other an operative tagging targets), you’re going to end up being very disappointed.
Rebellion Developments and 505 Games have given us a game, that for all it’s early promise is ultimately let down by some poor AI and poor multiplayer decisions. If you’re happy enough to take on a single player campaign full of avenues and collectibles then by all means go ahead with a purchase. Just be aware that you’ll get nothing more than your typical average cross-generation shooter that will be aiming for the bargain bin in your local high street game store pretty soon.
Just as long as it doesn’t miss that too.
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