Sniper Elite, the series known for its grisly x-ray bullet effects, is making the transition to Nintendo Switch. I should admit right away: I’ve always had a soft spot for the Sniper Elite series. They’re not perfect, but they’re a fun mix of stealth and action. When Sniper Elite 3 released in 2014, it marked a turning point for the series with its larger, more open environments than previous games and expanded x-ray system.
Sniper Elite 3 is a third person shooter with an emphasis on stealth. That’s not to say that non-stealth options aren’t viable, but elite sniper Karl Fairburne (sometimes accompanied by his silent companion in co-op) will be facing hordes of fascists that want to kill you, so running in guns blazing isn’t always the best approach. Taking place in Africa, you’ll be fighting Italians and Germans in a variety of environments, from sandscapes to deep canyons and imposing fortresses.
With a name like Sniper Elite, you’d expect some long-distance shooting. But that’s relative. I guess I’ll get this out of the way now: the distances you fight in Sniper Elite are hardly real-world sniper distances. Often, you’ll be “sniping” enemies within 200 meters, and that’s hardly sniper worthy. But it’s a game, and the distances end up feeling pretty sniper-like in that context.
As super sniper Karl Fairburne, you can hold your breath to enter a focus mode—giving you a diamond reticle that calculates (the ridiculously exaggerated) bullet drop and allows you to hit your target with little thought, save for the impending slow motion display of bones shattering, and organs ripping. It’s my head canon that gravelly-voiced Karl is sitting there imagining his victims internals as they’re shredded, but with Sniper Elite 3 you don’t have to resort to using your imagination.
In fact, Sniper Elite 3 expanded on the x-ray system of previous games to include the cardiovascular, skeletal and muscular systems in the x-ray peek into your opponent’s demise. Now, when you shoot a fascist, you can watch their innards get torn up by your bullet—if that’s something you’re into. I’m not usually one for excessive violence and gore—but when I manage to land a particularly difficult shot, I admit I indulge in watching my enemy’s last moments and gory end.
If you think the assistance provided by the focus is too much, you can turn it off. Sniper Elite 3’s adaptable custom difficulties allow you tweak the enemy difficulty, ballistic realism, and tactical assistance to your preference. You can remove the focus assist system if you want, make enemies harder (or easier), and make the bullets act more (or less) realistically, based on your preference. If you want the ultimate sniping challenge, turn off all assists, and push the “Ballistic Realism” to full “Realistic”—which means that gravity and wind have an effect on bullets.
Each level in Sniper Elite 3 is its own open environment. You are given a list of objectives and optional objectives to complete, and the way you complete them is up to you. Several environmental objects and conditions can help mask your advance (and bullets) as you kill and sneak your way to the objectives. Planes flying overhead, or a backfiring generator can hide the sound of your gunfire, perfect for those who like to get high up on a perch, and pick off their enemies one-by-one. Or you can embrace the calamity, and shoot at will—but often against overwhelming odds. And sometimes tanks.
In addition to the optional objectives, there are a series of hidden ‘collectibles’ to find. Sniper Elite 3 almost overdoes them—with four different types of locations to find, or items to collect. If you miss them your first time around, you can always choose to play each mission individually to go back and grab what you might have missed.
Each objective you complete and enemy you kill gives you experience, which adds to your overall rank. The higher your rank, the more weapons and explosives you have available to you when you get into missions. Sniper Elite 3 gives you the ability to customize your loadouts between missions, and even set up different loadouts that you can swap between, based on the objectives.
If you get tired of playing singe player, the entire campaign is able to be played cooperatively, using the Switch’s local wireless mode, or the internet. Playing Sniper Elite 3 cooperatively, to me, is one of its biggest draws. Coordinating with a friend to take out enemies and complete objectives is a blast.
There is also a multiplayer versus mode which can be played online, over the local wireless, also. This mode allows up to eight players to snipe at each other in large multiplayer arenas. There are also leaderboards to track the greatest snipers, and a shooting range that allows you to practice with the multitude of Sniper Elite 3’s weapons at your leisure.
The transition to Nintendo Switch was mostly good for Sniper Elite 3. It runs well, and looks pretty good. I do have to mention that its lower resolution was an issue at times. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if the pixel in the distance was an enemy, or a bush—and not because of camouflage, but because they were literally a blurry blob. This actually makes the shorter sniping distances a blessing, because even with a scope, your distance is limited to about 300 meters based on resolution alone. But Sniper Elite 3 is extremely playable, and manages to be extremely fun on the Switch. Just don’t expect perfection.
The Nintendo Switch version is the “Ultimate Edition” which includes all of the DLC that was released for Sniper Elite 3. That means four extra campaign missions, and additional weapons. The transition to Nintendo Switch also includes motion controls—which are non-compulsory, and switched off by default for those who would prefer not to use them. But to those that do use them, their implementation seems spot-on. The HD rumble also gets some good use, simulating Karl’s heartbeat when he’s in his slowed-time sniper focus mode. It’s a cool bit of immersion, but it also handily tells you if his heart rate is too high to get into focus mode.
It’s strange to think that I used to consider Sniper Elite 3 one of the weaker entries in the series. Somehow, playing it again on Nintendo Switch has managed to change my mind. It’s not anything as simple as its portability, since I’ve hardly played it undocked. It’s just all around fun, especially if you can find some friends to snipe with.
Sniper Elite 3 will be available on Nintendo Switch tomorrow.
Of course, there’s still the Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions if you can’t wait.
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