Sniper Elite 3 Review: Not Quite on Target

Sniper Elite 3 gets its sniping pretty right, but all the things it gets wrong keep it from reaching its potential.

The Sniper Elite series has a somewhat blemished history. Though its sniping mechanics have always been pretty good, problems have held back the franchise in every game, from bad AI to bugs. With the third installment, developer Rebellion looks to fix all that.

Sniper Elite 3
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Rebellion
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: June 27, 2014
MSRP: $49.99
Available: Steam

You’re back in the well-worn combat boots of World War II OSS sniper Karl Fairburne, but you’re no longer in Europe. Instead, it’s off to North Africa, which actually provides one of the game’s best non-sniping features — extremely open levels.

Where previous Sniper Elite titles have felt very linear, SE3 changes that by giving you wide-open expanses of desert terrain to navigate. You choose how you move through these areas and in what order to accomplish your objectives. It’s a nice bit of freedom, and the game is much better than its predecessors because of it.

How you approach the enemies is up to you as well. In addition to your sniper rifle, you’ll be armed with a silenced pistol, a sub-machine gun, and a variety of other gadgets, including mines and grenades. You can setup in a perch and snipe your enemies, or creep among them using your silenced pistol to winnow their numbers. Just remember that your rifle is loud, and if your enemies hear it, they’re going to come looking for you.

You can mitigate this somewhat by using the all-too-prevalent environmental objects to mask the sounds of your gunfire. Around nearly every decent sniping spot, the Nazis have conveniently placed generators that you can sabotage, and then use the noise to get off a few well-placed rounds. On some missions, it’ll be a storm’s thunder, or the roar of airplanes.

Whatever the cover, if you don’t use it to disguise your gunfire, the Nazis will hear it and be alerted. Fire one shot, and the Nazis duck into cover. A second shot allows them to pinpoint your location, and then you’ll be hunted.

Unfortunately, the AI hunting you leaves quite a bit to be desired. On the easiest difficulty setting, the AI is flat-out stupid, and turning up the difficulty doesn’t make them any smarter, although they do get more aggressive. It’s not unusual to snipe a soldier, duck into cover, and watch as his buddy simply gives up looking and goes back to patrolling around the fallen body of his comrade. Enemies even have an alert meter over their head, so as long as you don’t fill that up, you can basically move with impunity. To give you even more of an advantage, you can tag enemies using your binoculars, allowing you to see their silhouettes through walls (this can also be toggled off). It’s all a little too easy, honestly.

However, the sniping is top-notch. At the hardest difficulty, you’ll find yourself adjusting for windage, figuring bullet drop, and hoping that you’re not too winded to hold the rifle steady. If that’s too much for you, Rebellion has also included an aim assist for the lower difficulties. Zoom in and press a button, and a red crosshair tells you where the bullet will land. If you can avoid using this, you should, as the thrill of landing that perfect long-range shot is one of the best parts of the game, and this feature robs you of it.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sniper Elite game without the obligatory slo-mo x-ray death cam, and that’s here as well. It’s somewhat amusing, but quickly becomes annoying. Not only is it a bit juvenile, it also breaks you out of the game world in a really odd way. Luckily, Rebellion included the option to turn this off. You’ll want to do that after the first level ends, if not before.

In addition to its campaign, Sniper Elite 3 includes both online multiplayer and co-op modes. Co-op allows you to play through the campaign with a friend, while multiplayer takes the experience online. The online portion of the game feels a bit out of place in today’s world, as it incorporates both dedicated servers and a server browser, making it simple to select a server that’s running the options you like.

Multiplayer is actually enjoyable. One of my favorite additions is the ability to tag an enemy, which alerts everyone on your team to their location. If you want, you could almost play the whole time without firing a shot, which is an interesting thing to say about a multiplayer shooter. Everything from the campaign is available in the multiplayer, so you can toggle tagging, aim assist and more. But there are only five maps included, so it gets repetitive fairly quickly.

It bears repeating that the sniping is great, even though it will take you some time to learn. I’m a bit perplexed at Rebellion’s failure to include a training area, or a rifle range for you to hone your skills on. Learning the mechanics of landing a bullet on target at range can be a long process, and if you have to do it in the campaign, you can have a frustrating time. Still, it’s really rewarding once you get the hang of it.

Sniper Elite 3 has plenty of other problems, like a locked field of view that’s set far too low, and a third person camera that’s mediocre at best, always seeming to expose you to enemy fire even though all you can see is the wall you’re hiding behind. But despite these hangups, the game is still fun to play. There’s great satisfaction in creeping through the war-torn desert, avoiding or quietly dispatching the Nazi enemies. Nailing a perfect sniper shot from hundreds of meters away never gets old, and even though the campaign is somewhat lackluster, you’ll enjoy seeing it through to the end. Sniper Elite 3 improves on its predecessors, but it’s still got a few too many blemishes to be a truly great game.

Pros:

  • Sniping is an absolute blast
  • Maps are surprisingly open, allowing you to complete objectives in any order
  • North African setting is a nice change of pace from the same-old European WWII game
  • Plenty of options to help new players that can be turned off to increase the challenge
  • You can toggle off many of the options, including the slow-mo x-ray death cam
  • Enjoyable multiplayer…

Cons:

  • …that can get repetitive really quickly due to lack of maps
  • A locked field of view that’s far too low
  • Third-person camera isn’t the best option for a sniping game
  • Slow-mo x-ray death cam is far too prevalent by default

Final Score: 70/100


Sniper Elite 3 was reviewed using a digital code provided by 505 Games. GameFront employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Ron Whitaker is the managing editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @ffronw and @gamefrontcom.

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7 Comments on Sniper Elite 3 Review: Not Quite on Target

Mike

On July 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

You say its boring, I say the X-Ray cam is awesome. Seeing the realistic damage a well placed sniper round does to the human body is enlightening.

bob

On July 4, 2014 at 12:12 am

the review kind of sucks and forgets the that the game is just supposed to be fun not cod.
at least the review was not done by ross

Chris

On July 4, 2014 at 3:47 am

“The online portion of the game feels a bit out of place in today’s world, as it incorporates both dedicated servers and a server browser, making it simple to select a server that’s running the options you like.”

Wat.

Ron Whitaker

On July 4, 2014 at 6:08 am

@Chris – I meant that no one seems to be making dedicated servers (or server browsers) anymore. I’m certainly glad they did. I’ve been screaming to the heavens for games like Titanfall to give us one since it launched!

Pat

On July 12, 2014 at 3:58 am

“It’s somewhat amusing, but quickly becomes annoying. – Luckily, Rebellion included the option to turn this off. You’ll want to do that after the first level ends, if not before.”

Nonsense. Half the fun of Sniper Elite 2 and 3 is the x-ray cam. Turning it off actually makes the game more boring. Having it on allows you to partially ignore the limitations of the AI since you’re enjoying the effects of your shots in an enjoyable slo-mo orgy of bone and blood exploding.

As for the assists, either don’t use them or use the custom setting to turn them off if you want the authentic mode with save abilities.

Arek

On July 13, 2014 at 4:57 am

“It’s a nice bit of freedom, and the game is much better than its predecessors because of it.” old sniper elite have big open areas too

after reading this review it look like this sniper elite is far better than V2 and maybe that good like old sniper elite

Cult O'Clock

On July 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm

It’s hard to imagine what could be more irritating about a game review than having someone tell you how to play the game to meet their standards.

So what is it the reviewer wants? Is it too easy? Did Rebellion not give enough training, making it too difficult? Thankfully, you really can have it both ways. It would be nice if he could make up his mind about something other than telling people that the death cam is “a bit juvenile”. Who does he think is playing the game, WWII Vets?

On the bright side, he does give credit where credit is due, apart from his value judgments about how people play the game. Bottom line? Have fun. Enjoy the gameplay and stop whining about the things you’d do differently if you did something besides criticizes the efforts of others.