My first foray into the Sniper series was with the Nazi Zombie Army four player co-op titles released by Rebellion a few years back. These spin off games, while a lot of fun in their own right, didn't capture exactly what the Sniper Elite series was all about. While NZA still included the over the top slow motion kill cams that made the series famous, the game was more relentless in its action. Sniper Elite on the other hand is a stealth game that doesn't always require you to be stealthy. It's about patience, something you didn't have the luxury of in NZA.
Sniper Elite 3 is once again set during World War 2, this time during the West African campaign. This means instead of the cramped and crowded streets of the European campaign's city based missions from V2, you'll be out in the wide open and bright desert. It's a nice change of pace to play a bright and colorful shooter like Sniper Elite 3, in a campaign rarely explored from WWII. The maps themselves are a huge change, giving players the option to complete main and sub objectives in any order, instead of a linear progression through city streets and building. Graphically the environmental visuals stand out, with these vast desert landscapes brimming with plenty of foliage and brush to mask your sniper. The texture detail for the rock, sand and brick is top notch and really one of the game's standout features.
The most notable feature in Sniper Elite 3 is still the slow motion kill cams, which trigger in on brutal headshots and critical hits on enemy bodies. You'll get an X-Ray view of your bullet's damage as it shatters bones, pierces vital organs, and generally causes massive damage in the human body. It's completely over the top, brutally violent, and completely laughable. I also love it. New to the game is the ability to take out vehicles with well placed shots, and throughout the campaign there are plenty of trucks, carriers and even tanks you'll want to destroy to make your life easier. Even these objects have a new kill cam, giving you an inside look at an engine as your bullet causes an internal combustion explosion. Completely unrealistic, but once again, totally awesome.
We make it even more ridiculous in this video.
As I said, Sniper Elite 3 is a game about being stealthy, but it's not completely unforgiving in that department. Should you alert some guards by being spotted, or give away your position by firing off too many rounds at the wrong time, Sniper Elite 3 won't completely punish you. The game utilizes a relocation element allowing you to sneak away unnoticed. Your last “known” position to the AI will always feature a ghost on the screen of your character and a marker on your radar. Once successfully relocated, you'll know the enemies alert level will cool down shortly and you can resume your normal headshots.
The biggest mechanic in the game to staying hidden is utilizing sound to mask your sniper rifle shots. Your shots should be timed with generators, engine backfires, thunder, and artillery guns to camouflage your position. Of course you can't just shoot an enemy standing next to another, so you'll also want to try to isolate each soldier. Sniper Elite 3 has a few tools in your bag including the standard rock, which can be tossed to send a guard investigating, to a new tool called the flint and steel which allows you to start small fires (or explosions when place next to a convenient explosive device).
Of course luring enemies is only part of the puzzle, you'll need to protect yourself while sniping. Once again your tool bag becomes a necessity with explosive items like trip mines, land mines, and dynamite. Covering your back with a tripmine not only alerts you of incoming enemy, but gives the other enemies another focal point other than yourself.
Through the campaign, Sniper Elite 3 does a good job of mixing up the pacing of the missions. While some have you hanging back and eliminating enemies one by one, others have you sneaking into areas and finding the best position available to do the same. You'll rescue prisoners and cover their escape, and blow up convoys filled with enemy soldiers, and blow up plenty of artillery guns.
While the single player campaign is fun enough, it's when you bring a friend into the foray that the strategy of the game takes a whole new turn. The entire campaign can be played in co-op, with both friends taking the role of a sniper. Using the binoculars you can tag enemies that both you and your partner will see; this aids in setting up attack routes and covering fire as you progress through the maps. From what we saw the game doesn't necessarily change up the enemy patterns or numbers when another player is present, but we didn't find the missions overly easy - just more easily paced. Of course with twice as many snipers it's twice as easy to alert the enemy, so that is something both players need to contend with.
Numerous times while playing our partner and I would fall into natural roles of spotter and sniper, splitting up so we could always cover each other from the high ground. The downside of course to this is when one player goes down, the other has a long trek to revive him, but in the end the strategy is a sound one.
This is exemplified in one of the game's special co-op modes called Overwatch. Co-op players take on two missions that are designed for this setup, stripping one player of his sniper rifle and the other of his automatic weapon. The carefully laid out maps and objectives force players to communicate and work together to complete their mission. It's so immensely satisfying to tag enemies from the ground, have my partner tell me to go from cover to cover and watch the enemies drop from his sniper fire as I move. It's a total adrenaline rush. Sadly, right now there are only two maps for this which take about 45 minutes each to complete, so it's a bit content light.
Finally Sniper Elite 3 features a survival co-op mode where you'll take on waves of enemies, trying to garner for a high score. It's a pretty standard affair and feels a bit more like the Nazi Zombie games in pacing, especially in the later waves, but it's a nice distraction if you just want to see some slow motion headshots.
Sniper Elite 3 is another solid entry into the series, it refines its own formula with new tools and more open maps for you to play in. The co-op is enhanced with new modes of play that work extremely well, we just wish there was more there to enjoy. All of the content throughout the game is enhanced with collectibles and unlocks to customize your character, further adding to the replayability of the title. If you're looking for a shooter that's a little bit slower paced, offers satisfying enemy kills, and interesting co-op play - Sniper Elite 3 will scratch any or all of those itches.
The Co-Optimus review of Sniper Elite 3 is based on the PC version of the game. A code was supplied by the publisher for review purposes.