Title: Sniper Elite 3: Ultimate Edition
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Third Person Shooter
I have never been a big fan of stealth action games. Using binoculars to survey the enemy posts, planning a route, and executing the perfect plan can be a worthwhile experience. When an unexpected enemy ruins all my hard work, I internalize it as time lost. After my time is Rebellion’s Sniper Elite 3, my mind hasn’t changed, but I commend them for getting this high adrenaline action onto the Switch. Unfortunately, everything else surrounding the game’s core elements is rough around the edges.
Sniper Elite 3: Ultimate Edition follows Karl Fairburn, an agent with The Office of Strategic Services assigned to assassinate a man in hiding named General Franz Vahlen and uncover his secret plans. While out in the deserts of Libya, Fairburn instead discovers Vallen’s documents called Project Seuche, meaning Project Plague. Karl Fairburn must use his deadly sniper skills to take out assigned targets and track down General Valen before he can set his plans into motion.
During my time, the campaign doesn’t strike me as memorable due to its generic nature. There’s just no real urgency found during the cutscenes, and when the gameplay starts, the objectives are as simple as taking out targets or infiltrating a base. Furthermore, I felt as though I wasn’t missing anything from skipping some of the cutscenes.
The story continues to ask for the assassination of targets while giving checkpoints to find. An early moment in the campaign, Karl recovers a captive agent that was too injured to fight. It was then up to me to single-handedly carve a path through the enemies and escort the agent to safety. As a tired trope of accompanying a captive, I would have had more fun teaming up with the agent and coordinated our sniper shots together for a fresh gameplay spin.
At least Sniper Elite 3’s hallmark game mechanic makes sniping felt excellent. The indicators for long-distance shots are simple and easy to understand. As a side note, I decided to take the hardest difficult for a spin. The added challenge of wind effects, no indicators or awareness meter, created an overall satisfying gaming experience.
Firing killing shots activate slow-motion sequences that show an “x-ray” of the enemy’s body impaled by high caliber sniper fire. The visuals and sound effects of such imagery are visceral and satisfying as players can watch in anticipation, waiting to see how damaging their shots can be. Additionally, the results of the kill shots are not diminished at all on the Switch port with exception to a few bugs that do not apply the x-ray effect.
Other than the level design and environment interactions which I will get to later, other aspects of the game are rough around the edges. Different weapon types, like the full automatics and pistols, have an unusual amount of spread that makes them inaccurate. I felt that this ended up causing the act of taking out a single enemy before being spotted a chore.
Ironically, when you are spotted, you get the option to cause as much havoc as possible. Firing shots and tossing grenades are just a few of the actions to take until the coast is clear. An outline is the created where the enemy last saw Karl Fairburn and will fire at or investigate that area, which is known as the “last spotted” feature. When the enemy loses track of the player, they carry on with their day as if 20 members of their army didn’t die. I recognized this is a criticism of a port from a 2014 title, but this is an oversight that I feel I should bring up for those new to the series.
Earlier I mentioned the two aspects of the gameplay I found stood out from the others. For one, traveling through the world is significant because the level design has plenty of paths and routes to take in each section of the map. I was surprised to see that there was a path in a building that leads to a connected basement, which allowed me to flank an outpost. It shows that even then Rebellion was thoughtful for the different ways players may tackle the same objectives. Staying perched in one spot, covering your flanks with traps or always moving to circle your foes are both rewarding for either of those player types.
Secondly, the ways players can interact with the environment has its merits as well. Throughout the level, players can sabotage gas generators into malfunctioning, which causes them to backfire, so that bullet sounds are masked. By masking the noise, players can shoot to their hearts contents as enemy infantry scramble to find the source of the gunfire. You can apply this tactic to cannon fire, heavy rainfall, and thunder. It makes for a dynamic twist to the gameplay that I find to be fun.
With such a neat idea involving sound, I was a little confused with the audio from the enemies. You see, the volume of enemy voices is borderline disorienting. Enemies that are an in-game equivalent to 30 to 40 meters away sound like they’re in your immediate vicinity.
Many times when I was inside a building, enemy soldiers seemed as though they are just outside a door. Being low on health, I was cautious about exiting the building, thinking I was about to be seen by an enemy fleet when, instead, they were two buildings over. This situation occurs when on a cliff and troops sound like they are below your position, it turns out they are hiding much further away upon investigation. I felt as though this was an oversight, seeing as this is a game about being aware of the enemy’s position. When there is no sense of enemy distance, I may as well mute the Switch.
Nevertheless, the visuals of Sniper Elite 3 on Switch is enjoyable. After playing the PS4 version not long ago, the general look has been maintained as well as the viewing distance, making the overall disadvantages for the Switch just technical.
It’s easy to see the downscale of details like foliage, textures, and character models. The Switch’s smaller handheld display could be a minor issue for some when it comes to spotting far away enemies. Though none of which is to say Sniper Elite 3 doesn’t look good on the Switch because it looks just fine. However, the sound issue is jarring to the overall experience.
Sniper Elite 3 is a good entry for new players that missed out on previous titles. Just know that its flaws could hurt the experience for those going in with higher expectations. The game runs well on the Switch, and its visual downgrade makes the statement consistent.
Rebellion has an excellent series on its hands. The concept of sneaking around as a sniper expert while stalking a target translates over to Switch well. However, everything else surrounding that is enough to know that the developer may have already had a better experience in its sequel. Maybe then this series can hit its mark.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.