Sniper Elite 3: Shooting Nazis with a pistol

| Thursday, January 29, 2015
This is a terrible game.

The sniping is tedious at best. If you don't want a dozen elites shooting at you, you have to carefully time shots to kill isolated enemies while some source of noise is masking your shots. For example, every 15 minutes a plane flies overhead (slight exaggeration), and in some spots it's loud enough to cover shots. Otherwise, you might get to fire one shot; the second will get you instantly spotted and located. Thankfully, every generator in the game backfires very loudly if you kick it.

I hope you like reloading (the game) often. You'll miss a lot. The ballistics are realistic, or were in the mode I played it, because it seems pretty damn pointless otherwise. The shooting range, rather than being a useful place to practice, get a feel for what the notches on the scope do, was instead a place to shoot sandbags, which conveniently did not show an impact site. Eventually you can get a gun with a high enough bullet velocity that the ballistics are somewhat negated, which makes it playable, but perhaps not worth playing.

Thankfully, what the game lacks in smooth gameplay, it makes up for by constantly interrupting it for a kill cam. It's sort of neat the first time. Then it just throws off your rhythm.

The movement is terribly awkward. You can't jump, except in very specific horizontal circumstances. You can fall, very noisily. Those three foot drops are the best security system in the game, instantly revealing the location of enemies. The terrain is terrible. Short walls may or may not be of the type that you can hop over. If there's a drop on the other side, well guess where you're going? Meanwhile, slight mismatches or inclines in terrain may require you to go all the way around. You'll learn to hate three foot gaps, and one-inch pieces of debris on the ground.

The stealth and AI are just silly. Enemies see a dead body and get worked up about it for a while, then go back to standing around. I ran into an alarm twice, in the very last mission, and it wasn't triggered by people finding corpses. Nope, only explosions are a valid reason to call in reinforcements. Meanwhile hearing someone walking behind a foot thick wall is enough for enemies to not only identify you but also tell exactly where you are. Apparently Nazi guard training puts a lot of emphasis on identifying non-Aryan footsteps. But, rocket launchers sticking up behind boxes are not at all suspicious. Oh, and all that yelling that people do when they find you: no one cares, as long as there is no gunfire. I guess Nazis are just constantly playing pranks by saying they found a dead guard, so no one believes it anymore. Perhaps the best thing is how vehicles can see you from any angle. Crew of two, one driver, one gunner facing forward: they see you, anywhere.

Speaking of explosions: oddly ineffective. While bullets can go through thin wood, explosions are stopped dead in their tracks. Also, they use Hollywood physics, in which being more than five feet means you're maybe slightly staggered for a second. There is one circumstances in which explosions are very effective: saving. It seems that the game doesn't quite treat things as a binary "can explode" and "has exploded". Instead there is a binary "can explode" and "exploding". I blew up some exploding red barrels and found that it was a very noisy location, so I used it for some sniping. Since sniping is a terrible idea in this game, I needed to reload. I reloaded to the barrels exploding and killing me. The ones that I'd quite thoroughly blown up several minutes before.

This one time, I placed a trap. But first I needed to reload the game about an hour back, because I didn't yet know that it likes to fuck you over for using quicksave too much. I made the mistake of not knowing that I'd effectively failed a mission when I quicksaved. Turns out that "set up an ambush" actually meant "place TNT and a tripwire in the path of a halftrack, that you magically know is going to take that particular route." I figured it meant wait for him to show up and shoot him, since the game does tend to emphasize shooting people.

Not with the sniper rifle, of course. I already explained how the circumstances around the shooting make it extremely tedious. So I instead used my silenced pistol a lot. Not suppressed: this weapon was silent, except for the thwip that everyone ignores. It's not very useful beyond five feet unless you have a thing for shooting guys four times in the chest while they stagger around and everyone watches. It's essentially the stealth melee takedown for when they're already facing in your direction. However, it's still better than firing your rifle and having every guard within five miles decide to close in on your location using telepathic Nazi GPS.

The story isn't anything to write home about. You're tracking down a Nazi who is making a weapon that will turn the tide of the war: a really big tank. To make things interesting, they also made him psychotic and disloyal to Hitler. He once says that you (the sniper) and he are the same. This has no impact on gameplay, or plot. You never plant evidence against him, tell a German spy, or do anything to take advantage of your biggest threat in Africa being on the verge of starting a civil war, or getting executed for treason. Your best friend gets blown up by a tank, so then the game says that you have his blood on your hands. I'm not sure they know what that phrase means, or they're just complete assholes. It's not my fault that a tank knew exactly where he was despite being on the other side of a wall, and the bottom of a tower, and really in absolutely no position to know to shoot him. In their defense, that's pretty standard tank behavior in the game, so at least it's consistent.

Mixing stealth, sniping, and old fashioned Nazis-killing should have made this the greatest game of all time. That was not the case.


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