In an industry ripe with ostentatious shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, Sniper Elite is something of a breath of fresh air. Unlike other set piece-heavy blasters - be it third-person or first-person - Rebellion Entertainment has set its crosshairs firmly on creating a differentiating experience, with a focus on methodical, stealth-based gameplay. Try to run-and-gun your way through Nazi-occupied Africa in World War II, and you’ll end up a bloody mess -- quite literally. No, this is a game very much about planning and patience, and it’s only by learning your surroundings and picking the right target that will you successfully navigate behind enemy lines.
In the depths of London’s ‘The Vault’ underneath Waterloo Station, PSU was lucky enough to go hands-on with three of Sniper Elite 3’s stages to get a feel for Rebellion’s latest stab at its WWII-based shoot-’em-up.
Well, I say three, but it was more like two-and-a-half, as the first level - ostensibly a tutorial to bring you up to speed with the core mechanics - was fairly brief. Stepping into the shoes of the gruff Karl Fairburne, Sniper Elite 3 introduces the series to the North African campaign in style, as you’re plonked into the middle of a heated battle with Nazi troops complemented by Stuka dive bombers. As my first experience with the series, I was struck by how user-friendly the mechanics and controls are. Of course, this is chief among Rebellion’s philosophy behind Sniper Elite 3, as the studio told the assembled journalists in a briefing prior to our hands-on -- accessibility is the name of the game here.
Slipping into sniper mode is a case of holding down L2 (we played on PlayStation 4, which was a treat visual-wise), and then hitting R2 to fire -- just as you’d expect. Zooming is selected via the D-pad, while L1 brings up your weapon wheel and R1 allows you to see exactly where your bullet will strike from a long distance; after all, the game employs some fairly realistic physics, so it’s not simply a case of lining up your crosshairs on the spot you want to hit. Sniping is your bread-and-butter attack method, and proves a visceral treat as the series’ famed ‘Kill Cam’ tracks your killing shot from your gun into the target, X-Ray style. Here, bones break, limbs spasm, and organs shatter as you dispatch your adversaries in grisly fashion. There’s a great sense of accomplishment to be had in tracking your target, using your scope to tag and keep track of them, before lining up that fabled one-hit kill.