Sniper Elite V2 marked something of a rift between old and new fans of the franchise. While newcomers praised the game for its brutal X-ray bullet path cams and overall sniping mechanics, fans who came from the original Sniper Elite were less enthused. V2 lacked a lot of the open-ended mechanics of the original game, such as the need to cover your back, the non-linear environments, and the need for some level of stealth. Sniper Elite 3 keeps the fancy graphics and smoother gameplay of the previous game but marries it to the soul of the original. It's a much more open shooter, and at E3 2014, I put in some hands-on time to check out the improvements.
Sniper Elite 3 takes place in the North African campaign of World War II and serves as a prequel to the previous game. You play as the same character, but the environment has traded the linear streets of Berlin for windswept deserts and low-lying oases. Enemies are scattered all over the map and in decent numbers, so it is more important than ever to use some tactics to approach combat rather than going in, rifles blazing. Properly scouting the area and moving after firing are not only pieces of good advice, but they're mechanics that are used and rewarded in the game.
With binoculars, you can tag seven enemies at a time at the beginning of the game, and that number increases as you upgrade the binoculars. By tagging an enemy, you can more easily keep track of their silhouette as they move around; it's important as you make your way through the series of objects that can impede your line of sight. Enemies have differing levels of alert, so getting spotted doesn't immediately end your sneaking around, but they will investigate if you linger too long. You can also use enemy curiosity to your advantage by throwing rocks to make a noise that enemies will investigate. Once away from prying eyes, you can then shoot them in the head with the silenced Welrod pistol or silently take them down from behind with your knife.
Using the sniper rifle is certainly an option that makes some noise, but it also has a stealth mechanic that's been incorporated into the gameplay. Firing one shot from a concealed position causes the enemy to react to the overall direction of the shot, but otherwise, they won't know exactly where you fired from. Firing a second shot usually causes them to send a token squad to investigate the overall position you fired from, with successive shots increasing the force that they use against your position. This makes shoot-and-scoot an important aspect of the game and allows you to continue using your rifle even though it is far from a silent option. The game also rewards this behavior by giving you points for escaping a detection area without being spotted and for reengaging the enemy from another location.
As you play, you gain unlocks, including new weapons and attachments. The sniper rifle has four different part categories that can be swapped out, though the parts usually increase one stat while reducing another. One attachment might reduce the recoil of the rifle but at the same time limit its muzzle velocity, which affects its ballistics and range. This progression system carries over between single-player and multiplayer, as the unlocks you gain in one are immediately available for use in the other, and vice versa.
For the first time, full campaign cooperative player is coming to the Sniper Elite series. The campaign levels were designed with co-op in mind, and given the breadth of the one we played, there will be plenty of opportunities to coordinate your actions with a friend. Players will also have the ability to revive their co-op partner if they fall, so it can make a more realistic playthrough of the game also slightly more manageable.
From my time with Sniper Elite 3, it's apparent that the developers have truly listened to their fans, both about what they loved and what they missed from the prior game. As disappointed as I was with Sniper Elite V2, SE3 seems to address nearly every criticism that I had. With the game coming out in early July, we should have a lot more information on Sniper Elite 3 and our final verdict on the game relatively soon.
More articles about Sniper Elite 3