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Sniper Elite 3 review (PS4)

Sniper Elite 3 review (PS4)

Crunchy; that’s probably the best word for Sniper Elite III. There’s a crude satisfaction to the sound of spinal cords being split in half by a 54mm round fired from a high-powered Lee-Enfield sniper rifle, and it’s one that fans of the previous Sniper Elite on PS3 will know all too well. It seems every part of the human anatomy – when struck by such a hefty bullet – simply crunches out of existence, shattering into hundreds of tiny little pieces. And that makes for one hell of a game.

The latest in the series from Rebellion is something of a revelation, though. It’s clear this is a developer paying attention to its naysayers, and while the title still suffers from the unavoidable problems of a game so clearly produced on a budget it is – at the very least – forward-looking. Improved, enhanced and all the better for it. Of course the slow-mo killcam the franchise is renowned for returns – testicle kills and all – but what impresses the most is the way it handles level design. Gone are the strictly linear missions of Sniper Elite V2, replaced with wider, more open environments. A bevy of hidden corridors and sniper spots litter the landscape, and though your objectives are rarely more than ‘go here and kill some dudes’, the freedom to improvise your own strategy is something the series has been sorely lacking.

It’s all helped by a new ‘relocation’ mechanic, which halts the frustrating insta-spot of previous entries – whereby enemies would know exactly where you are after every single shot is fired – in favour of something much more realistic, though ‘realistic’ is perhaps an overstatement. Ultimately the concept focuses on moving about the terrain after each kill as enemies attempt to track down your last known location, earning you extra XP rewards but, moreover, confusing the enemy. Sadly it’s a little too easy to abuse; dash back the way you came to cover the 50 meters or so required to go ‘ghost’ again and it’s like you were never there. The AI is as daft as it has ever been, and that can make it a little too easy to fall into a comfortable – and perhaps even exploitative – game of back and forth.
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And the thing is, stealth is primarily the way you’re going to want to play Sniper Elite III. Mechanically the gun control of the secondary weapons is better, but direct confrontation will likely have you restarting over and over. It’s not an easy game, in that regard. All the same, the emphasis on constant movement means you’ll be sticking with the crappy silenced pistol in the Welrod or shivving Nazis from behind – therefore losing a lot of the initial appeal of the game.

In truth the open levels – however great they are – do sometimes feel like they could do with a little bit of direction. The odd appearance of a tank (easily dispatched with land mines, unsurprisingly) doesn’t provide the same tension, and there isn’t really anything beyond that to draw you out of the formula you’ll find yourself repeating. It’s more of a shooting gallery than a sniper simulation and, frankly, that’s a shame. By the end of its eight hours you’ll have settled into a routine, and the game doesn’t really attempt to do anything to mix things up at all. It’s not that there ought to be a turret section or something – please, anything but that – to affect the pacing, just that there’s no real sense of urgency about proceedings.

But this is progress, all the same. Sure, Sniper Elite III is rough around the edges, but it offers just enough that it makes up for all that. It succeeds as a shooter thanks in large part to that crunchiness, yet as a sequel it is improved in clearly defined, tangible ways. It’s still a fair distance away from providing the ultimate sniping experience – we’d like for there to be more high-profile assassinations, and all the planning that goes with it – but while there is work yet to be done on the series there are, if nothing else, very few games out there quite like Sniper Elite.

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