The release of Sniper Elite III is creeping up, closer and closer. Much like you can expect to when you get your hands on it yourself and step into the shoes of Karl Faurburne an American sniper who has impressed the British OSS, enough to send him on some rather unique one man missions in North Africa.
Perhaps in the past, Sniper Elite titles haven't been world renowned for their historical accuracy or authenticity but on this outing, that seems set to change somewhat, though lets not talk about ‘Hunt the Grey Wolf DLC’ as killing Hitler earlier than the history books might tell you, perhaps doesn't lend itself to this theory.
So whats it like? Just another FPS or is there something uniqe here?
Well I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early build of the game and I can say it's a little bit of both. Theres a lot of the usual FPS tropes you can expect to deal with as you play through SEIII. Guns, grenades, explosions and all that good stuff but for once, stealth actually plays a big part in the game and it plays it rather well.
The stealth aspect has been really bolstered up here and offers you the chance to really have some fun with the games personal code of conduct - Observe. Plan. Execute. Adapt - and it’s that last part that really gave the game life for me, adapt.
Far too many stealth games, shooters especially, give you one chance to make your move and if you fail in anyway you might as well restart the whole level. Thankfully this is something the guys at Rebellion were keen to change and focused on building a game that, no matter how bad you screw up, can be salvaged and allow you to finish the mission.
You're encouraged to freely explore the open maps, which are 3x larger than those you'd find on offer in previous games in the series, and find the most perfect vantage point to deliver those kill shots. These larger and much more open levels offer many more routes to get the job done and make enemy encounters all the more unique for it, sneaking past whole fields of soldiers before pulling 2 into the bushes in order to secure that perfect spot was gloriously tense and satisfying. Once ready to open fire however, you’ll need to be aware that each shot however will obviously let out quite a roar which slowly fills a small meter. Once full, your location is no longer safe and sound (what? Not funny?)
This isn't the end of the world or even Game Over, once you're covers blown and you hear the sound of german soldiers sprinting closer yo your nest, thats your chance to run out of the general area to another safe location and begin anew with your mission.
Close combat offers similar respite, In perhaps a small nod to more recent Splinter Cell titles, once spotted a small silhouette appears in your last known location, giving you a chance to move out into the distance and remain unseen.
One of the even more unique features in your stealth arsenal is sound masking which gets you sabotaging generators in order to make them cough and splutter. Learn the rhythm of each noisy outburst and you've got the perfect cover for a quick sniper shot. It's a really cool idea and it works extremely well and really plays into the concept of adapting your plan according to your surroundings.
Of course Kill Cams are back to give you an X-ray view of just how much damage you've done, managing to be both gorgeous and gruesome with their full 1080p lick of paint. Nothing could offer a shooter fan more satisfaction than seeing the single bullet you've personally fired, slowly tear into an enemies body, breaking bones, tearing flesh and detailed levels of pain. The kill-cam that rewards a precise shot now replicates the muscular and circulatory systems of your prey, making for some shocking murders as well as opening up more target areas. Much like myself, I saw many players trying to deliver shots square through privates, well, privates.
This level of extra detail has been extended to vehicle takedowns too. Thats right, if that vans parked across two spots, or simply flashed its lights at you funny then by all means, unload on the grill and deliver that final shot to the engine and watch as flames burn under the hood before an almighty bang.
SEIII offers some fantastic ideas and pulls off almost all of them flawlessly but while I had a great time in North Africa, the story might not grip everyone and it simply remains to be seen if gamers are ready to jump back into a WW2 shooter or wether the genre is just too tired for a come back.