Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Usual Spiel: Sniper Elite 3, slow motion bullet surgery

Release Date: June 27th 2014
Genre: Tactical Shooter, Stealth
Publisher: Rebellion, 505 Games
Developer: Rebellion, 505 Games
Platform: Windows, Playstation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One
Players: 1 and Multiplayer
Classification: PEGI 18

I had only heard of the name Sniper Elite before seeing my housemate playing Sniper Elite 3 with his friend. I had always liked shooter games that had a “class” system i.e. the Battlefield style soldier/sniper/engineer/medic etc and shunned any shooter that had any type of specialization which were most often based on the stealth/sniping side of combat but from watching them playing Sniper Elite 3, it actually looked pretty fun. I had only barely known about the Sniper Elite series and wasn’t familiar with it, but after some quick research I found that he original Sniper Elite came out in 2005 starring the same protagonist as the one in this current game. The original Sniper Elite saw the plight of Karl Fairburne, an American OSS secret agent disguised as a German Sniper inserted into the Battle of Berlin in 1945 at the end of World War II with the objective of obtaining German Nuclear Technology before the Soviet Union can get their hands on it. The second in the series Sniper Elite V2 is more of a 1.5 the a  true sequel though having a slightly different story it was mainly the graphical upgrade and improved sniper mechanics which now included the “kill-cam” which follows the bullet as we see in Sniper Elite 3.

The loud sounding icon (top middle) means that it's safe to shoot your rifle while the sound is being masked, very useful.
When I saw my housemate and his friend playing Co-op story mode it looked awesome, so the next time it was on Steam sale for about $20 I wasted no time in purchasing it. As you have probably heard this time around instead of the bombed out and broken city Berlin it was the harsh western desert in between the Mediterranean and the Sahara, you again play as OSS Agent and Sniper Karl Fairburne sent to Tobruk, Libya to assist the allied forces, it then leads him on a quest through several different locations in the desert including rocky desert passes, oasis, old castle ruins and airfields which give a sort of India Jones feel. I won’t reveal the full extent of the story but basically after losing Tobruk you remove yourself from the frontline and go covert to investigate the location of General Franz Vahlen (a protege of Hitler sent to oversee the campaign in North Africa) and the whereabouts of a British informant that has infiltrated Vahlen's staff who has gone dark. It’s a great story that is tense from the start and gets you wondering what will happen next or more important what your objectives are going to be) as they are not all listed at the start so you never know how long things are going to go on until something else happens most probably a tank bursting out of the wall which result in much sighing and “here we go again” late in the game, I swear sometimes I just wanted to finish the damn level but it was all in good fun just wondering what other shit was going to go down.

Cinematic's between levels were done with storyboard art.
Interestingly enough this time when I started up the story mode I didn’t play on easy, just the recommended level, I’m going to try this from now on, playing the game in normal to see how I go and I’ve got to say I went pretty well, I chose the default ‘Marksman’ setting which had simplified bullet ballistics and fairly unforgiving enemies. Right away the game was pretty damn fun, the first level gets you to grips with the sniping straight away as you get your first taste of the slow motion bullet time, with the bullet assist on you basically aim then click E to hold your breath and you zoom in more and a little red diamond appears to tell you where your bullet will actually land due to bullet drops, this is extremely useful and you watch as your bullet tears in slow motion right through the skull of the German artillery spotter then another goes through the gasoline tank of an artillery truck blowing them sky high the former being done in x-ray to see just where you hit. Most of the time you are being very stealthy throughout the missions, so the choice of equipment was paramount, you are able to upgrade your weapons and other accessories such as grenades, tripmines and your binoculars. My usual loadout included the “Welrod” silenced pistol, this thing was invaluable being the only silenced weapon in the game, the amount of times I headshot enemies from close range with this thing to keep quiet was huge, Basically if I couldn’t use my rifle I either snuck up and melee stealth killed them or used the welrod if they were too far away. I had a choice of semi-automatic machine guns which didn’t really matter except in rare circumstances where I was out of Welrod ammo or just needed to gun someone down at close range so most of the time I just took the best available, the same with the rifles though my favourite was the “Gewehr 43” a German rifle which was the weakest but had the least recoil and was better than the standard M1 Garand. I didn’t really care what else I took along but made sure I had plenty of grenades and medpacks.


My basic playstyle was being very stealthy and cautious and as I soon found going in “loud” with guns blazing did not work well at all, my friend and I once tried doing a single player mission together and quickly found that unless you meticulously worked together timing your movements and shots it was just too hard to keep things running smoothly. When starting missions you receive your initial objectives and are able to change your loadout in which you have multiple slots, which helps when you have multiple weapon setups for different situations. When I started I usually scanned the area with my binoculars looking for enemies, vehicles, objects etc anything that I could spot before moving out. Spotting enemies with your binoculars has distinct advantages like being able to see the spotted enemy through obstacles and hover over them to see their rank and alertness as officers are more cautious and can spot you quicker and from further away. One of the best things you could find was something that made noise but didn’t alert nearby enemies, for example on one of the first levels “Gaberoun” you start behind a guard you is trying to fix a faulty generator, you come across these at certain times and by sabotaging them they make periodical banging and popping sounds which can mask your shots. So finding one of these is great as all you need to do is time your shots for when the machine is making noise and you are able to fire your rifle without alerting anyone unless of course they find a body though you can move the bodies if needed. There are various types of noise-making things that you find on the mission and they are a great help because firing your rifle too much in the one spot will lead to enemies coming to investigate.

Spotting and tagging with binoculars is very helpful in both game modes, in singleplayer you can see their stats and alert state.
Most of the time I made it through ok, I used a combination of my rife and silenced pistol and often just sneaked past enemies to get through though in the later missions I saved a LOT, often before doing anything particularly risky and this helped immensely with trial and error. Some of the mission objectives are pretty spectacular, you have to blow up a lot of things and there a few tricks that make it very satisfying. Most of the main mission objectives require you to gather intel or assassinate a particular enemy, sometimes you get to find and release prisoners which is pretty cool, though in most of the later missions you can bet your bottom dollar  that a tank or armored vehicle of some kind is going to come crashing through a wall and start patrolling around. There are several ways to deal with tanks, you can shoot through a part of their armour to get to the fuel tank though this takes a few shots which armour piercing bullets help with, I either used this tactic or laid some mines and dynamite in its path then blew them up with a sniper shot both of which are immensely satisfying as trying to tank down a tank that can blow you up in a second is pretty damn scary but thrilling. When finishing a mission your points are tallied and you actually level up as your profile is tied to the multiplayer mode as well though you obviously gain a lot more points for killing players and winning matches then playing singleplayer, there is also many collectibles inc war diaries and collectible cards other things to find like sniper nests and long shots oh and lots and lots of achievements as usual. I only played through the singleplayer on marksman but that will be all as that’s enough I think for now after that it was on to the multiplayer mode.


Playing hide with the tank
Multiplayer is pretty much level with the singleplayer by my view, you may not have the slow motion bullet time (well the lengthier ones anyway) but you have the terrific thrill of hunting each other alone or in teams. You can even customise which model you want to use in the game, after a while I opted for a German elite as I liked using the Gewehr rifle, so I gave myself all other German weapons too including the MP40 and Luger pistol, I’ve also got some mines and grenades but don’t use them as much as I should. When I started playing Sniper Elite multiplayer I wasn’t sure what to expect although I had seen it being played before, I wondered whether it was going to be lots of hiding and waiting around to spot someone, or was it going to be people running around all over the place taking pot shots at each other. Thankfully there’s an even mix, 

Having multiple gear loadouts helps a lot
I’ll admit that it’s at its best when there are lots of players in a server as you have lots more target to keep you from getting bored. My favourite mode is probably team deathmatch as there is a lot of comradery when playing with teammates, to win you need to either reach the target score of “what is usually” 1500 or have the highest score when the time runs out. Other game modes included deathmatch which wasn’t so good because you lost the “team player” aspect of it when you were only out for yourself and I often found myself just running through building to building playing cat and mouse with machine guns especially on one particular city level where everyone seemed to be hiding and no-one came out. Another interesting mode that I thought was pretty cool was the ‘no-cross’ mode which as you probably guessed keeps the teams on either side of the map and you are not able to cross, in this mode some existing maps are edited by adding in either natural chasms or rivers or made barricades to keep you from accessing the other side. It also introduces new maps one of which being this giant chasm based on the last singleplayer level with you shooting across cliffs on the opposite side through concrete bunkers which was really cool.

Me and my friend AllergictoExplosions on Blue, against a team of level 50's and one 47, hmmmm
There aren't many night maps, maybe because it's a lot easier to hide.
My housemate and I found it best to spot first rather than shoot first as if you spotted an enemy and then a teammate shot them your team would get much more points than if you just shot them yourself without spotting. My usual playstyle was to find a good non-obvious spot to stay for a bit, yes stay for a bit, I’d call it camping but technically it’s not unless you happen to stay in the one place the entire round. Technically though camping in a Sniper game is different from camping in a game such as Battlefield 4 where sitting in the same spot for longer than even 10 minutes is considered camping but tbh if you’re a Sniper and you’re using a long range sniper rifle and scope it’s impossible NOT to camp, that’s what snipers do, they find a good vantage point and sit there, until someone spots you of course then you have to move. This was one of the few games where people didn’t really complain about cheating (though still lag) and everyone was mostly friendly and cooperative, sure makes a difference then playing a games like CS, playing in teams is great fun with the spotting and the teamwork it all works really well. There is little to no assists in multiplayer as you’d expect, there are many parameter when making a server, things like headshots only, one shot rifle kills, bullet drop, aim assist and even scope glint.

Short video of a multiplayer round I played, shows how spotting and scoring works basically.

I haven’t much to say about the graphics just that they were damn awesome, especially the lighting, during the night it’s very tense and espionage-esqe and during the afternoon goddamn that sun glare and shadows look amazing. There’s a huge amount of detail that goes into some of the things you see like for example the helmets have this realistic weathered beaten look and even the plants and palm trees look as detailed as they should be. I wasn’t running at full as I was getting pretty good fps (50-60) most of the time but things still looked awesome, the x-ray slow motion shots looked amazing and never got old, no matter where you hit them, the skull, the lungs the testicles it was all a pleasure to watch, the hard hitting and brutal sound effects accentuated this with the cracking of the skull or whatever else you had shot in their body. The sound effects were pretty awesome from the echoey explosion of your gun firing to the sound of a tank rolling around were all very well done, this was complimented by an excellent soundtrack of orchestral music coupled with tense battle and spy tracks and classic WW2 movie music which really added to the theme. I was glad there was at least some music when you were sneaking around but there seemed to also be triggered music that gets more intense if you happen to alert the guards or get into a battle in multiplayer.

The music in these opening scenes was terrific
Overall I enjoyed (and am enjoying) Sniper Elite 3, I never thought I’d get into a game based mostly on Sniping but it’s been pretty good and the multiplayer has too, I swear I could watch those slow motion x-ray testicles get shot through like ten times before it got old. It’s really the type of game I’d only play through once though. I must mention that there is an expansion called “Hunt the Grey Wolf” which is free to purchase as DLC and is basically an extra mission allowing you to kill Hitler in lots of different ways as I’ve seen in a video but I’ll leave that up to you if you’d like to purchase as the main game is enough for me. I can't really think of much I didn't like, apart from a few issues with multiplayer inc how it can be dull at times making you impatient and the small amount of australian servers but these can overlooked.

JD.

Score: 9/10

Things I liked:
  • Slow motion x-ray sniper kills of course!
  • Aim assistance
  • Main focus being on stealth
  • Tank battles! 
  • Multiplayer Sniper comradery
  •  Situational music, good mood setting
  •  Ability of have multiple loadouts
Things I didn’t like 
  • Multiplayer can get dull making you impatient, especially in deathmatch
  • Few Australian servers, max amount of player usually 12


This is my rifle this is my gun.

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