Price: £24.99-£39.99 Developer:Rebellion Publisher:Rebellion Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, X360, PS3 Version Reviewed: PC
The quality of Sniper Elite V2 was defined to a considerable degree by the difficulty it was played on. Waltz through the game on Easy and it was one step up from a torture simulator. You'd aim your rifle in the general direction of a Nazi, and watch with morbid fascination as a bullet slowly burrowed its way through skin, flesh, and bone, along with a side-dish of heart, kidney, lung, brain or testicle depending on the precision with which you'd pointed your death-stick.
Play it on hard, however, and a different game emerged. Now gravity and wind direction has a significant effect on your bullets. So pulling off a headshot from a mile away in stormy weather felt rewarding beyond the gratuitous presentation of its effects on said Nazi's braincase. At the core of V2 was a challenging and entertaining sniping game. Unfortunately, it was constrained by a traditional third-person action structure that fit about as well as a corset on the Honey Monster.
To an extent, Sniper Elite 3 has the same issue, but for very different reasons. It is, all told, a considerably better game, but one that is still held back from its full sharpshooting potential.
Sniper Elite 3 is set during the 1943 conflict in North Africa, and once again casts you as Karl Fairburne, a typical shooter protagonist with all the personality of a hospital waiting room.
The plot sees you chasing one General Valen across the arid landscape, aiding the British forces in multiple assassination and sabotage missions along the way.
It's barebones stuff, written purely to carry you from one mission to the next, and features just one other named character whose sole personality trait is being British. But you know what? That's fine. The story serves to make your objectives clear, and what little dialogue there is functions well enough. It's certainly preferable to the jingoistic try-hard nonsense dribbled out by Call of Duty.
Rebellion have obviously been working with a limited budget, and for the most part they've spent it where it counts, on eight enormous open-ended missions that see you infiltrating airfields, castles, ancient ruins, and desert canyons bristling with artillery. Each mission sports a string of central objectives, alongside optional goals and various other challenges and collectibles that encourage you to explore every nook and cranny of these generous environments.
The larger, squarer levels solve one of the biggest problems that V2 suffered from, which was that it was only a sniping game insofar as it let you shoot people with a sniper rifle. So much else about this peculiar brand of soldiering, like stealth, scouting a good sniping position and relocating after a shot, were rendered all but impossible by the strictly linear mission structures. Now there are far more opportunities to get around, above, and behind the enemy, and use your skills to decimate and terrify a force that massively outnumber you.
One mission sees Fairburne tasked with sneaking into a walled desert town to gather intel on Valen. You start in marshy rice fields a good half-kilometre from the city, and must either weave or slice your way through the patrols before choosing your entry point into the town. Inside those walls are twisting streets, looming towers and half-finished architectural digs, all swarming with the enemy. To get anywhere near your objective you'll have to thin their ranks, either through sneaking around using a silenced pistol or melee attacks, or by using of your trusty rifle.