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Sniper Elite III E3 Hands-On Preview: Go The Distance (PS4)

June 21, 2014 Written by Paulmichael Contreras

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While some shooter franchises may have left World War II behind, some developers feel there are more stories to tell from this dark point in human history. Rebellion Developments is definitely not done telling their tale of lone wolf Karl Fairburne, as Sniper Elite III is due to arrive next month. We got some quality time with the upcoming tactical shooter at E3, and have our impressions for you here.

Tucked away in publisher 505 Games’ media booth in the upstairs meeting rooms at E3, Rebellion had their latest game on display on two PlayStation 4s and two Xbox Ones. While Sniper Elite III is releasing on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows, their focus was clearly on the latest generation of consoles, which is good news for us. With the game under a month away from shipping, the entire campaign seemed to be available to play, but we started from the beginning of Karl’s adventure.

Sniper Elite III takes place in North Africa. The first thing you’ll notice when the game loads is the change of scenery — no gray, dreary cities like you’d find in Berlin from the previous game or other WWII shooters. Instead, you’ll find dry, arid deserts with a completely different color palette. It’s still dreary, mind you — this is a World War after all — but at least it’s something new for your eyes to take in. The campaign will last roughly 8-10 hours, or longer if you’re a perfectionist or playing on the highest difficulty level, which has no assists on, nor even indicators of key enemies that need to be taken out. Stages take place during varying times of day, with night time obviously being the best for a sniper to hunt in. These stages are at least three times larger than the environments in Sniper Elite V2, according to Lead Designer Michael Howe, a fact that can be best appreciated when running from enemies if you are spotted.

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While we were not shown multiplayer, it will be back in both competitive and co-operative modes. This includes the Relocation feature, whereby your enemies are alerted to your last known firing location, and if you move from there and can net a kill you are awarded bonus points. Distance King and Team Distance King make returns here, where the longest combined distance of your kills is more important than the sheer number of kills you can obtain. Running around and killing everyone with pistols isn’t going to trump someone with a handful of long-distance ownage. Matches will contain up to 12 players, which should prevent most games from turning into chaotic Call of Duty-inspired sessions.

One thing I noticed while playing on the newest generations of consoles was that the draw distance was noticeably improved. This is to be expected with a move to the next generation, but it is most welcome in a game where you are often trying to make out minute details from over 100 meters away. I became accustomed to the controls and visuals of the game in short order, and soon made my first 150+ meter kill in the cover of night. It felt very rewarding to get a good line on a far-away enemy, hold the focus button, line up my sights, and nail an incredible shot. Due to the extreme distance of the shot, the game’s famed kill-cam took all the dramatic angles it could muster during my bullet’s long flight to its target. The end result was a flesh-ripping, bone-shattering, organ-tearing, merciless death. I actually cringed when I saw the damage I had done to the poor, unsuspecting foe.

If you’re looking for a shooter that requires thinking, then it looks like Sniper Elite III is shaping up to be your kind of game. If you’re tired of World War II as a setting for a game, don’t forget that this one takes place in the quite different landscape of North Africa. Think hot, dusty, isolated desert, and you’re there. This isn’t your typical gun-ho game with infinite ammo and tons of health, either. Sniper Elite III is a slower-paced, methodical, every-bullet-counts, kill-from-the-shadows kind of game. It forces you to think before you shoot, and avoid enemies at all costs because only a few bullets is all it takes to bring you down. Expect our review when the game releases on June 27.