The Average Gamer

Sniper Elite III Preview

Sniper Elite III - Prone vs Tent Guard
In Sniper Elite III you’ll play as Carl Fairburn, an Allied soldier stationed in North Africa during World War II. Being a sniper, Fairburn is cool as a cucumber with a steady walking heartrate of 65 bpm. Hearing a turret explode behind him? 65 bpm. Watching an Axis soldier get blown to smithereens by a landmine he’s just planted? 65bpm. Getting shot as he runs from a breached hiding position? 75bpm. You can see this all in my Sniper Elite III gameplay and interview video with Rebellion’s Head of Creative Tim Jones.

I went up to Rebellion’s London HQ last week to see the game in action, where a former British sniper known only as Andy spoke to us about the realities of being a sniper. “Key elements of being a sniper were stealth, not being seen, movement and above all, relocation. If you start firing more than two or three shots from your position, it’s not going to be long before your position’s located and you’re going to end your days as a sniper.”

Relocation will be a key part of your approach. Where the previous game’s environments were fairly linear, the new African locations are designed around “bowls”, large open areas connected by multiple corridors. There’s much more freedom to sneak past guards, going in close for a quiet kill or throwing rocks to draw them into a Bouncing Betty mine that you’ve placed in a strategically quiet corridor.

They’ve expanded on the audio tricks as well. You can sabotage machinery to create local noises that mask your shots, making it much harder for the enemy to find you. Your enemies will figure things out eventually though, so you’ll have to keep moving from place to place.

Before you start shooting, you’ll need to carefully survey the environment. Your binoculars can be used to tag enemies and track them through solid objects in that magical way that games do these days. When you spot a solider, you’ll learn their rank, weapon, distance from you and alert status – passive, suspicious or aggressive. Pay careful attention to this as soldiers are organised with squad-based AI.

Sniper Elite III - AfricaJones told me more about how this works. “The rank of any given enemy is important to the enemies around him. A high ranking officer will actually increase the abilities of the infantry alongside him to be more aggressive. One thing in particular you really have to look out for is the snipers, likely in high ground. Not only is that a big danger to you directly by them shooting you but if they can see you, they’re able to spread that information to the soldiers in the area around them much more effectively. While you’re trying to deal with a sniper himself, you may well be being flanked by other infantry who are on the ground nearby.”

To help you navigate around those pesky soldiers, Fairburn has plenty of other weapons as his disposal. As well as the mines, you can perform brutal unarmed or knife executions, or set explosives near barrels, lighting a fuse with your flint and steel. Ammo caches don’t take kindly to bullets, so if you want to go loud, they’re a good way to announce your presence or send people scurrying in the wrong direction.

Where you could always destroy vehicles by shooting at the strangely obvious red petrol caps, Sniper Elite III now introduces multi-stage kills. In the demo they showed us, Fairburn first shot through the metal grille of a truck to expose the engine, then fired again through the engine itself. Much like Sniper Elite’s famous bone-shattering executions, this now triggers a vehicle kill-cam where you can see individual pistons shattering as a bullet passes through the engine block. It’s incredible.

Sniper Elite III - CliffsideWhen you find your own good sniper spot, there’s still a host of things to worry about. As well as your heart rate, you need to control your breathing, worry about the wind and compensate for bullet drop. In the normal mode, this is easily done – a red circle appears over your ironsight reticule showing where the bullet will land. Simply line that up with your target and you’re done. On the hardcore modes, you’ll have to work things out for yourself by judging distance and using the reticle markings to aim accordingly. The wind will set leaves blowing and kick up dust and your sniper rifle will be much shakier if your heart rate is too high.

Executions themselves are categorised by your approach. Get a successful kill and you’ll find a series of attributes popping up – Headshot, silent, premeditated, isolated, ghost, long distance, steadied and more. These feed into your XP which is used to customise your weapon loadouts in both single and multiplayer.

The game will ship with campaign co-op as well as a 12-person adversarial multiplayer mode. I don’t yet have many details on this but will post them up as soon as I learn more.

Sniper Elite II will be coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and Windows PC in 2014.