Sponsored By: Bonus Eruptus
Time stalked: 3 Hours
A World War II shooter, with a twist. Four twists, in fact. At a rate of one twist per ten inches.
And now you know how the barrel on an M1 Garand is rifled.
In Sniper Elite 3, you take up the M1D of a sniper in the Allied armies during the Italian campaign of World War Two. Your missions are standard special-forces fare:sneak into an enemy stronghold, picking off guards here and there, collecting intelligence and taking out high-value targets. What makes Sniper Elite 3 unique in this genre is the fact that you can complete your objectives from a quarter-mile away.
Sniper Elite 3 pays a lot of attention to the details of shooting. Accounting for, for example, not only elevation, but both windage and bullet drop as well at the higher levels. And yes, "windage" is a word, and it is separate from "wind." As a lifelong target shooter who is proud of his groupings at 100 yards, it’s refreshing to see a game acknowledge the fact that your bullet drops more on humid days instead of just treating the sniper rifle like a magic boomstick.
They nail the mechanics of shooting, as well. Your character’s heart-rate influences how steadily he can hold the rifle, which is a major issue especially when you consider how the minute of angle can translate to yards of movement at long ranges. Holding your breath helps a lot on the range, and Sniper Elite 3 even makes a note that you’re holding an empty-lung instead of a full one, which is important in real life but not so much when you’re holding down the button that holds your muzzle still.
The fidelity to shooting mechanics is so good that the little inaccuracies on the actual technology bug me all the more. For example, your character starts with a Garand M1D rifle, which is fine, except it allows you to reload at any time. I have shot an M1 Garand, though not the D sniper variant, but I can tell you that none of the M1 family of rifles permits “topping off” the magazine. The Garand was loaded by inserting a clip of eight rounds into the magazine. After you spend eight rounds, the clip ejects (the more accurate movies about World War II will capture the metallic ping of the clip leaving the rifle) and the receiver locks open to permit another clip of eight rounds to be inserted. It’s a real thumb-buster to load if you’re not careful, let me tell you, because inserting the clip frees the bolt to slide forward, which it does with alacrity and purpose.
Yes, I’m being a nerd about it, because the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series both got that bit of World War II-era tech right, and this game which is arguably all about World War II shooting tech gets it wrong.
Also, the lack of the 1903 Springfield from the list of available rifles is something of a sore point. The 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle remained in active service as a sniper rifle until the Vietnam War. Omitting it is kind of like making a rally driving simulation about the 2000 season and failing to include anything made by Peugeot.
My grognardian grumbling (is that redundant?) [Ed. note: Yes.] aside, Sniper Elite 3 is a fantastic game. I’ve never been the biggest fan that the stealth genre ever had, but this one strikes the right difficulty balance for me. You don’t want to try and shoot your way out of a bad situation, but getting spotted doesn’t mean starting the level over either. The nature of the sort of special operative you are, the eponymous sniper, means you have to break cover and risk discovery eventually. The report of a rifle is a loud thing, and while the game gives you some tools to mask the sound (such as staging a level during a thunderstorm) you will necessarily be alerting people to your presence at least once in a while. Fortunately, it’s almost always possible to run and hide when the enemy is alerted to your position, and the way that the game gives you a “distance to safety” counter is an ingenious way to show the player exactly how far they have to go to lose the enemy. I’m also keen on the ghost of yourself that shows up to show you where the enemy thinks you are, which gives you an opportunity to sneak around and flank them as they chase after where you were. Or, better yet, you can just run away completely.
Even the boss fights are satisfying. The point where I left off came just after destroying a moving tank with four shots from my rifle.
I’m not so much of a realism grognard that I forget I’m playing a video game, after all.
I’ve put three hours into the game already; I may see through to finishing it. The loop of the game – scout, shoot, hide, repeat – is cathartic and fun. If you enjoy playing as a sniper class, but find that most single-player campaigns give you too few opportunities to ply that skill, the Sniper Elite series might just be for you.
Also, I heard somewhere there’s a fourth one out, so the third one is likely to be had on the cheap fairly soon.
Is it the Dark Souls of Tom Berenger movies?
The difficulty of Sniper Elite 3 depends entirely on the player’s tolerance for light stealth, and the difficulty slider the player sets. At maximum difficulty, it becomes a physics puzzle where you line up shots, compensate for the weather and pray as you prey. At minimum difficulty, you’re basically avoiding sight cones and clicking on things. Tailor it to your own tastes.
The game is constantly giving you reminders of how to do things, pointing you in the direction of where to go next, and throwing helpful hints at your heads-up display. It very much wants you to succeed. Dark Souls this ain’t.
Three out of eight dark shots.