“There are plenty of targets worthy of a bullet; men who need to die. Time for find more work.”
The final lines of Rebellion’s newest release resemble an apt view of the game as a whole. It is a power fantasy of the highest order; a hyper violent, marginally fun trek through orange and brown landscapes of Africa, looking for Nazis to kill. There are plenty of targets for you to shoot; plenty of men who die by your hand. But, Sniper Elite 3 is a one-note gimmick that will leave you longing for different work.
You play as Generic War Shooter Man whose name or face hardly matters. He’s a tool you will use to shoot, nothing more. His story takes a tour along the African theater of World War II, roaming behind enemy lines and mowing down hundreds of Nazis along the way. The story doesn’t matter, it barely exists. Nazis are doing evil Nazi things and experimenting with technologies that will make them even more evil than they already are, at least that’s what Generic War Shooter Man says. None of the story beats matter. The narrative doesn’t build to any kind of dramatic conclusion. Generic War Shooter Man doesn’t have a reason for fighting. The Nazis are hardly even Nazis: their insignia is nowhere to be found, making the enemies just Generic War Shooter Enemies for Generic War Shooter Man to kill.
Sniper Elite 3 has one gimmick and doesn’t do anything interesting with it. The slow motion, x-ray killcams only trigger on sniper shots. By the third mission you will have seen just about every shot type imaginable (lung, heart, head, kidney, testicle, intestine, etc.) a dozen times over. It gets boring to see the same killcams with the only variation being which side you shoot the Generic War Shooter Enemy from. Bones and organs break up in the same prefabricated ways, making everything about the killcams lose their luster incredibly early. At the start it seems like an interesting puzzle to solve: how can I shoot these Generic War Shooter Enemies in the most dynamic and clever ways? Is it possible to shoot two guys at the same time? Three? But Rebellion doesn’t bother trying to make Sniper Elite 3 anything more than a generic third person shooter with a killcam gimmick.
To its credit, Sniper Elite 3 offers wider and more open environments for you to explore than most generic war shooters. Each mission places you in an open environment where you can try to tackle the objective a few different ways (always involving shooting or blowing up something, of course). You’re able to sneak around enemy encampments and do some quick reconnaissance, marking enemies until you find a position to open fire. Usually your mission will be to blow up three artillery cannons or shoot three generals or find three notes (by shooting three generals and looting their bodies). Along the way you will find the same type of sniper nest where you can better shoot the same enemies in the same ways. Most of the time you will also have a generator you can use to mask the sounds of your gunfire.
With indistinguishably generic mission structures set inside interchangably generic environments, Sniper Elite 3 feels like you’re doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Sniper Elite 3 offers levels produced in paint by numbers design. None of it becomes interesting or dynamic. You’ll see the same orange rocks, the same tents, the same square structures. It isn’t fun.
Generic War Shooter Man has an arsenal you can outfit with whatever you’d like, including a sniper rifle (of course), a regular machine gun (why?), and a silenced pistol (which you’ll find more useful than a loud sniper rifle more often than not). You also have certain traps like landmines and trip mines you can set up so when you get spotted, if enemies decide to advance on your position, they will trigger these explosives and you will be safe to make your escape.
The Generic War Shooter Enemies are all ridiculously stupid. They patrol in exact patterns, never deviating from their post. Getting spotted will trigger the enemies to hide behind cover and shoot you, or sometimes they will advance on your position. If you stay hidden long enough, their short-term memory loss kicks in and they go back on their patrols, forgetting you ever existed. The enemies react with as much sense as a carnival whack-a-mole game, poking their heads up giving you just enough time to take them out. They also have a tendency to walk directly into fires or off cliffs, trying to escape the torment of Generic War Shooter Man and the video game they are in.
Sniper Elite 3 also offers you the ability to play the entirety of the campaign with a friend, but you’ll have to get them to buy a copy first. There is a multiplayer mode as well, but it isn’t very fun with most people either not trying at all to be a sniper, or people taking sniping way too seriously. It doesn’t mesh and isn’t very compelling.
Sniper Elite 3 doesn’t try. It gives you the bare minimum of what it takes to make a game, with a slow motion killcam that never goes beyond being a gimmick. It is as boring and generic a game can be in 2014. At about 10-12 hours, it runs out its welcome far before credits roll. You will get an immediate rush the first dozen times you shoot an enemy and trigger a killcam, but even the thing this game depends on runs out of steam. There are plenty of targets in Sniper Elite 3; men who you can kill. But it’s time to find new and better mechanics to make this style of game work again.