Sniper-Elite-3-Xbox-One-Review Sniper Elite 3 Xbox One Review

   17/07/2014 at 20:11       Richard Horne       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Sniper Elite 3, Rebellion, 505 Games, Bullet Time, Third Person Action Shooter

Developed by Rebellion and published by 505 Games, Sniper Elite 3 is something of a rough diamond. What at first appears to be a by-the-numbers, generic, World War II, third-person shooter slowly reveals itself to be a deep and rewarding experience that makes a refreshing change from the typical run-and-gun shooters that currently dominate the online multiplayer landscape.

The first thing you’ll notice about Sniper Elite 3 is its brilliant slow-motion x-ray bullet cam. Line up an enemy, take first pressure on your trigger, fill your lungs with oxygen, exhale slowly and squeeze the trigger fully. Then watch on in sickening delight as your bullet travels tens, sometimes hundreds, of meters across the level in delicious slow motion with the camera tracking around it to focus on your victim. His internal organs suddenly revealed in all their gory glory as the bullet obliterates his skull, eviscerates his brain and exits out the other side leaving you in no doubt as to his demise. His face momentarily expressionless, he had no idea it was coming. It’s the perfect reward to the patient scoping and tracking you performed for 3 minutes previously as you waited in silence, hidden under cover for the perfect moment to so dramatically end his life.

The bullet-cam is a marvel. There’s something oddly and disturbingly rewarding about the myriad ways in which it’s possible to maim, cripple and destroy your enemies. Watching a jaw shatter into a thousand pieces, a lung get ripped apart from the inside out, or a pair of testicles get brutally demolished is not something in which you would ordinarily find such satisfaction, but in Sniper Elite it’s a fulfilling reward for your patience and skill.

It’s also possible to incapacitate your enemies thanks to shots to non-critical body parts, which leaves them lying wounded on the ground. You can then either finish them off or let them bleed out. The latter of which is actually an extremely useful strategy as it’ll often tempt their comrades out from behind cover thus allowing you to skillfully line up a double headshot or just take advantage of their newfound vulnerability.

Sniper Elite 3 encourages, nay requires, a more stealthy approach than you’re perhaps used to from shooters. Taking what I like to call ‘the John Rambo approach’ of steaming in all guns blazing just doesn’t cut it. Instead, you’ll have to hide in cover, tag all visible enemies with your binoculars, then either pick them off one at a time hoping you clear them all before they hone in your position, or wait until the noise of a sabotaged generator or overhead plane masks the sound of your bullet. This sound-masking mechanic of using deliberately sabotaged in-game objects, or using ambient background effects is a well-implemented system, but there are unfortunately too few objects which you can utilise to your advantage and it becomes somewhat repetitive and rote over time. 

Typically, with what you would assume to be a mid-tier shooter like this, the multiplayer tends to be a tacked on sub-par experience, and online, the impression Sniper Elite 3 initially makes is not great at all. Online multiplayer, in terms of joining a lobby or just even setting up a basic game, on Xbox One at least, seems bewildering and confusing. Instead of presenting you with a list of servers or automatically searching for and then joining a lobby, Sniper Elite will tell you it’s searching for a game then very often stop searching, requiring you to try again. And then when it does actually find a game to join, instead of automatically joining it for you, a system-level popup appears telling you the game is ready to play and you then have to press to X to join. Trying to play a match with friends is similarly mind-boggling. The only way I managed was for one person to join a game, then for additional players try and join the player’s game through the Xbox One dashboard rather than through the game. And this only works if there are available slots within the game lobby.

But once you manage to actually get in a game and get started, Sniper Elite 3, much to my surprise, proves itself to be a marvelous online experience. There are various game modes including the eponymous Team Deatchmatch, but one particular mode, Distance King quickly jumped out and has fast become my go-to multiplayer game at the moment. Instead of measuring your success by how many kills you manage to achieve, Distance King instead gives you a score based on the cumulative distance of your kills. This means that one kill at 200m is worth the same as 10 kills at 20 metres.

What’s interesting is that sniper-centric rounds in Call of Duty of Battlefield quickly degenerate into snore-fests as you’re picked off silently from the other side of the map with no idea who or where. Yet when this happens in Sniper Elite 3, you’ll grin and nod knowingly out of respect for the skill of your opponent. 

With large wide-open maps featuring many vantage points, Distance King is an eerily silent and still game mode. But it’s never dull. It’s a cat and mouse mode that demands patience. You’ll lay low inspecting the distant horizon through your binoculars, hoping to glimpse a head or catch someone on the run out of the corner of your eye. When you do eventually spot an enemy, the few seconds as you line up and successfully pull the trigger and find out your kill was from over 200m away is exhilarating and gratifying. 

There’s also a delicious balance between jockeying for a good position while simultaneously trying not to give yourself away. And when you do eventually spot an enemy, that instinct to immediately unload every weapon you’ve got is hard to resist. Instead, a better tactic is to first tag them, so you can track their location for a good few seconds if they happen to move, then steady yourself, line up a headshot, hold your breath, focus and squeeze the trigger hoping that your first bullet drops them immediately otherwise they’ll scurry off out of sight, maybe even for good.

What’s also great is how little things give you away. For instance you’ll occasionally see a glint from an enemy’s scope as it reflects in the sun. Or you’ll hear footsteps as an enemy walks close by or underneath you. The game is full of these delicate balancing acts. Do you run quickly across the map knowing that it’s extremely difficult to be sniped on the run but at the same time knowing that this is likely to draw attention to you position? Or do you slowly crouch and tip-toe your way across the level knowing that you’re less likely to be spotted but at the same time a much more vulnerable target?

Sniper Elite 3 comes so close to greatness. Its single-player/co-operative campaign is compelling and rewarding. It’s fundamentals are solid and well designed and its central gimmick rarely gets old. It’s many varied modes offer good value for money and its achievements encourage you to play in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily. My favourite, which incidentally I’ve still to do, is rewarded for a testicle shot from over 100m. But yet for all its greatness it’s simultaneously let down by its clunky multiplayer lobby system, its occasionally broken and yet unintentionally hilarious ragdoll physics and its relatively mediocre graphics. This doesn’t feel like a next generation game and I don’t feel I’d have missed out on anything if I’d played it on 360. There’s tons of texture pop-in, especially when zooming in using your binoculars, there are little annoying visual glitches left, right and centre, and if you don’t enable V-Sync which is hidden in the options, it’s one of the worst games for screen tearing I’ve ever seen.

But for all its rough edges and imperfections my overall feelings are extremely positive. My usual Call of Duty cohorts have all switched over to Sniper Elite 3. For how long, remains to be seen. But the aching in my left hand from 4 days of doing nothing but playing Sniper Elite 3 illustrate exactly how much fun I’ve had with it this week. In fact as soon as I’ve finished this review I’m going back to complete some single player optional objectives and try my hand at the Authentic difficulty level. And let me tell you, it’s not often I do that in a game. 

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