Sniper Elite III

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES -

You’d think a stealth game shouldn’t share much in com­mon with Mor­tal Kom­bat, but try telling Re­bel­lion that. Sniper Elite III sees the re­turn of its pre­de­ces­sor’s slow-mo, X-ray-vi­sion kill­cams, which lov­ingly fol­low a bul­let’s path from bar­rel to bol­lock. When a round hits home, skulls frac­ture and eye­balls ex­plode. Lungs, hearts, tes­ti­cles and the bones that sur­round them are torn asun­der by hot metal. It’s shock­ing at first, but that soon wears off. Vi­o­lence is a pow­er­ful thing, but so is the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns.

There is, thank­fully, a lot more to Sniper Elite III than frac­ture porn. This is a game of sur­pris­ing sys­temic com­plex­ity, one that ranks stealthy play far above run­ning and gun­ning, giv­ing you a spread of op­tions to achieve the for­mer and pun­ish­ing at­tempts at the lat­ter. Pro­tag­o­nist Karl Fair­burne can’t take much dam­age, while be­ing spotted means re­in­force­ments ar­rive and en­e­mies close on his po­si­tion. This is, in many ways, an old-fash­ioned game – you’ll need ban­dages and med­kits to re­fill your non-recharg­ing health bar, and given Re­bel­lion’s miserly check-point­ing, you’ll quickly come to rely on a man­ual save sys­tem. Yet there are a few new tricks be­neath the sur­face, too. The re­sult is a game that’s full of con­tra­dic­tions.

Take Sniper Elite III’s use of sound, for in­stance. Fair­burne can use am­bi­ent noise – rum­bling gen­er­a­tors, or air­craft over­head – to mask the crack of his ri­fle. It’s smart, yet the gen­eral sound mix is any­thing but: with sur­round-sound head­phones on, guards a hun­dred yards away and round a cou­ple of cor­ners speak so loudly that you’d think they were right on top of you. The AI is sim­i­larly un­even. When you’re spotted, en­emy troops close in at pace, flank­ing your po­si­tion in­tel­li­gently. If one stum­bles across a body and can’t find you, he’ll give up and re­turn to his nor­mal route af­ter a minute or so.

As you guide Fair­burne across WWII North Africa, you’ll bump up against in­vis­i­ble walls, fail to walk over an­kle-high scenery, see tu­to­rial text pop up 30 sec­onds late, have but­ton presses ig­nored, and come up against a slew of bugs. We failed one mis­sion for, ap­par­ently, shoot­ing a gen­eral be­fore he had re­trieved cru­cial in­tel; we’d winged a guard on the other side of the arena.

Cam­paign mis­sions are lengthy, packed full of op­tional ob­jec­tives that smooth your progress, such as tak­ing out searchlight oper­a­tors or dis­abling ve­hi­cles. A lev­el­ling sys­tem doles out new kit for your cus­tomis­able load­out, and there’s co-op and on­line mul­ti­player to con­tend with when Fair­burne’s mis­sion is com­plete. But con­tent is no sub­sti­tute for qual­ity, and while Sniper Elite III might have made for an en­gag­ing de­sign doc­u­ment, it isn’t much of a game.

Long-range kills in­volve ac­count­ing for wind di­rec­tion and bul­let drop, though the process is sim­pli­fied by Empty Lung mode. Tap R1 and the ac­tion slows down as a red di­a­mond shows where the bul­let will hit

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