GAME NAME: Sniper Elite 3: Afrika
DEVELOPER(S): Rebellion Oxford
PUBLISHER(S): 505 Games
PLATFORM(S): PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
GENRE(S): Tactical shooter, Stealth
RELEASE DATE(S): June 27th, 2014
I used to think that any game with a sniper rifle is a good game. Unfortunately, I’ve been proven wrong many times before, but still, nothing beats the excitement of a well-planned and executed shot from an unknown location. Combine this with some gratuitous violence and you end up with Sniper Elite 3: Afrika.
Sniper Elite 3 is set several years prior to the events of Sniper Elite V2. Again, we follow the exploits of an Office of Strategic Services (OSC) officer, Karl Fairburne, as he participates in the North African conflict during World War II, in which he learns of a secret wonder weapon programme by the Nazi forces. Karl is a generic male, sounds like the Christian Bale, who voiced Batman, and has an affection for killing Nazis – something he does pretty well. So he’s our sort of character.
Okay, I’ll come clean. I had to Google most of the story. When it comes to story and character development, Sniper Elite 3 leaves much to be desired. The story is told through stationary images during load screens, while Karl yaps away in his grunted voice. I found this particularly boring, but the game’s saving grace comes from the humoristic instructionals displayed during loading. One thing is clear, the story is not meant to be taken seriously and only exists for one reason: It’s there to move you forward to the next vast, open, Nazi-filled area. Your mission? To clear the area of Nazis using a variety of different weapons and tactics made available to you.
This is where Sniper Elite 3 really comes to its own. Whereas its predecessor, Sniper Elite V2, was a stiff linear shooter, forcing you to move from sniper nest to sniper nest, Sniper Elite 3 opted for a more open-ended approach. Each map is beautifully designed and takes you to interesting settings within the theatre of World War II, not commonly explored in games. The campaign consists of eight huge maps, each offering multiple objectives. How you tackle an objective is completely up to you and each objective has multiple paths and approaches. Depending on your strategy, each map can take a couple of hours to complete. Even though you can rush through a map guns blazing, Sniper Elite 3 encourages you to rather take the stealthy approach, using your binoculars to spot and tag enemy guards before taking them down. This forces you to be a bit more tactful when taking a shot with anything other than your silenced pistol. Nazis will descend on your last known position, forcing you to relocate after each shot. In fact, this is the general theme of the game: snipe – sneak – relocate.
This constant need to relocate provides a welcome cat-and-mouse feel, but it is not without issues. All you need to do to relocate is to run away a set distance from your previously known position and the guards will completely forget about your existence – even if they have to walk over piles of their comrade’s bodies. Enemy AI is inconsistent at best and guards aware of your position would go to the ends of the earth to hunt you down, providing a fun game of lining Nazis up and seeing how many head shots you rack up in a row. Unfortunately, this also means there is no real penalty for breaking stealth. The AI seem to improve at higher difficulties and for the best experience, we recommend playing on one of these. Four difficulties are available, each with different bullet ballistics and enemy deadliness. Also included within Sniper Elite 3 is a CUSTOM-difficulty setting that allows you to tailor your experience.
The next most obvious topic, then, is the presentation of the game. The game’s soundtrack is adequate, but it’s not without issues. While the sounds from the guns and environment are enough to make you believe you are shooting Nazis in Africa, the sounds from trucks and tanks are indistinguishable. Also, the sound mixing is a bit confusing. At times, things very close to me sounded like they were miles away and vice-versa. This makes it impossible to determine enemy positions based on their sounds. That said, the realistic sound effects of the rifles, combined with the grunts from enemy soldiers as they are filled filled with lead provides an entertaining experience.
Graphically, the game doesn’t look bad, but it’s not perfect either. All in all, the lighting is realistic and the draw distance is impressive – a must for a sniping game. Sniper Elite 3 attempts to run at 1080p/60fps on the PS4, but, unfortunately, fails to maintain the consistency. The frame rate constantly fluctuates between 40 to 60 frames per second and the game suffers from screen tearing. Rebellion has released a patch to solve these issues, but it was released after this review so we cannot comment on its effectiveness.
Luckily, Sniper Elite 3 has one more ace up its sleeve – I’ve intentionally ignored until now – making it easy to ignore all these issues. By far, the best part of Sniper Elite 3 is the slow-mo kill cam. Yes, the best feature from the previous games is back and this time it’s better than ever. Incorporating massively violent X-ray shots, reminiscent of Mortal Kombat 9, you can see the result of your perfectly placed shot on the enemy anatomy. Complete with muscle, bone and vital organs, these X-ray shots include a tremendous amount of detail. It really shows that Rebellion took their time perfecting these. During my entire play through, I never grew tired of seeing my bullets rip through enemies. In fact, I became obsessed with nailing extremely long killshots. However, if you find yourself growing tired of the kill cam, an option is provided to reduce the frequency or to turn it off altogether.
Sniper Elite 3 also includes a couple of multiplayer modes. Two of the standout modes are Distance King and No Cross. In the former, teams are rewarded for the range of their kills, while the latter forces teams to snipe by separating them with barriers. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the sniper face-off scene in Enemy at the Games, Sniper Elite 3’s multiplayer is the way to go.
What you’ll also find included within the game is a couple co-op modes that allow you and a buddy to tackle the single player campaign or take on waves of Nazis in a survival mode. The Overwatch mode provides the ultimate sniper experience and hands binoculars to one player and a rifle to the other, forcing you to work together as a sniper-spotter team.
This brings us to the age old question; should you buy Sniper Elite 3: Afrika? The short answer is yes. Despite the game’s issues, it makes up for it where it counts; the sniping. It is what the game advertises, and it is what it sells. Sniper Elite 3 does what it sets out to do, and that is to provide an entertaining sniping experience. The combination of well-balanced sniping and satisfaction of landing the perfect shot after minutes of planning is really satisfying and enjoyable. Whether this warrants a full price purchase is debatable, but since we are halfway through the (US) summer games drought, there aren’t any other games to buy. That is assuming you still have some money left after the Steam sale.