PAX East – Sniper Elite 3 Hands-On Impressions

In a world of run-and-gun military shooters, Sniper Elite 3 stands against them all and pushes back against the status quo. The latest game in Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series drops players into North Africa during WWII. Along with a new setting, the game comes packed with new and upgraded features sure to ensnare both past Sniper Elite fans and newbies to the series.

Even as someone who has little skill when it comes to shooters, I found myself enjoying what Sniper Elite 3 had to offer. From the beginning, Sniper Elite isn’t your typical military shooter. The game plays from a third-person point of view, though swaps to traditional first person aiming when looking through the scope. As to be expected, the game encourages you to complete objectives by sneaking around the level and strategically taking out (or avoiding) enemies. Though objectives are clearly defined, the game gives you free reign on how and in what order to complete them.

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I took to sneaking around immediately and got acquainted with the crouch button right off the bat. According to the developer who lead me through the demo, this was a rare approach. The game naturally encourages stealth, but many players abandoned their sniper rifle and silenced pistol for the machine gun. The game provides you with a pair of binoculars and a mechanic to tag enemies, which makes them visible even without a direct line of sight, so I really didn’t see a point to taking an aggressive approach. I did my absolute best to creep around the level and pick off enemies one by one, but eventually a Nazi discovered the body of a fallen comrade and I was discovered.

This introduced one of Sniper Elite 3’s new features to me: Relocate. Once an enemy catches sight of your position, they are on alert. If you manage to hide, a ghostly outline will appear of your last known position. Enemies will look for you around that point and will be easily alerted if they see you, but staying away from that point makes losing the heat easier. No more unreasonable aggro, no more “must have been the wind” moments. This mechanic really sold the stealth element of the game.

Even the best sniper finds him or herself trapped into close quarters combat every now and then. And while I’m far from the best sniper (I’m more of a shotgun girl myself), I ended up in this situation more than once. The developers have provided a silenced pistol for situations like this. The pistol could easily be abused, so rate of fire and ammo are both left low. This is a sniping game and Rebellion Developments doesn’t want you to forget it. Oh, and there’s also a machine gun. My stealthy self kept accidentally equipping it via the d-pad weapon hot swap. More than once I had to be reminded that, while creeping around corners and preparing to take out enemies, I was currently holding a loud and very unsneaky machine gun.

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The most distinguishable feature of Sniper Elite 3, and the one I was most familiar with before my time with the game, is the absolutely brutal kill cam. Nine times out of ten, the camera entered this special mode as I sniped an enemy from afar. The camera follows the bullet through the environment and watches it enter the enemy, showing an X-ray view of the carnage unleashed on the poor guy’s cranium. Sniper Elite 3 features upgrades to this system, most notably including more detail to the anatomy of the target. Both a in-depth muscle system and a circulatory system are now included in the killcam view. You can literally watch a bullet tear through layers of muscle, veins and arteries, before shattering through solid bone. Playing Sniper Elite 3 was probably the first time in my life I was actually excited to learn about anatomy.

Though I’m personally more of a run and gunner, I had a great time with the level demo of Sniper Elite 3. The stealth mechanics present both in objective completion and combat make sneaking an exciting and rewarding experience and the kill cam is literally mind-blowing. Sniper Elite 3 will be released on all major consoles, both current gen and last gen, and PC. Watch for it on PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One on July 1st and PC on June 27th.

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