The Nintendo Switch gets a remaster of Sniper Elite 3 that, after years of patches and refinements, almost feels like a new game.
As unpopular as they may be in an ordinary game of Call Of Duty or Battlefield, there is an undeniable appeal to playing as a sniper. The sense of being, sometimes literally, above the general conflict, able to pick off targets at will and without anyone knowing what happened, is almost unique amongst action games. After all, it’s much better to be dishing out death from the shadows than having it dealt to you. That’s always been the primary appeal of Sniper Elite, as it allows you to have all of the fun and suffer none of the recriminations.
The Sniper Elite series has been going on for a long while now, dating all the way back to 2005, and it’s shown slow but steady progress in terms of making use of the concept’s full potential. Sniper Elite 4 was the first time it hit the bullseye dead-on, but its predecessor got pretty close, let down mostly by a suite of technical problems that are largely fixed in this new Switch version.
It’s not the first time the series has been on the Switch, after Sniper Elite V2 Remastered came out earlier in the year, but this remaster is only for Nintendo’s console – presumably because it couldn’t quite handle Sniper Elite 4. Set in Africa during the Second World War, the game’s loose narrative takes place much earlier in the conflict than the previous game, as you play an American called Karl Fairburne who’s been sent behind enemy lines on a vital mission to shoot Nazis in the testicles.
There is more to the game than that, and you’re not specifically told to aim for the family jewels – but that’s what everyone ends up doing sooner or later and Sniper Elite 3 is most certainly prepared for the eventuality.
The one thing Sniper Elite definitely gets right is… the sniping. We’ve played plenty of shooters where the shooting isn’t much fun, and platformers where the jumping just doesn’t feel right, so that achievement was never a given. Accounting for both wind and gravity you’re taught to hold your breath when pressing the trigger, with a successful hit leading to a hilariously over-the-top slow-motion x-ray cut scene that looks like something out of Mortal Kombat.
This was all true of Sniper Elite 3 when it was first released, but at that point it was riddled with technical faults in terms of glitchy visuals and inconsistent artificial intelligence. Both are now improved, although not really because of the Switch but because it’s able to take advantage of several years’ worth of patches for the other versions.
As you’d expect, the graphics are a step down from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions but since the game was originally a cross-generation release the Switch still gets pretty close. Although to be honest the visuals were never that great, so it’s hard to say whether this is a good port or just one the Switch is naturally well-suited to. The important things is that nobody gets caught in the scenery anymore or ends up floating in mid-air, which definitely did used to happen.
The artificial intelligence is still problematic though and while we’d no longer call it half broken it’s certainly not all there. Sniper Elite is, and always has been, a stealth game; but enemy soldiers still tend to have inconsistent abilities that range from goldfish memories and extreme myopia to superhuman hearing and telescopic vision. They’re more consistent now than they used to be, but their unpredictable levels of competence are still the game’s biggest failing.
What is generally very good though is the level design, which does away with the linear restrictions of the second game and offers multiple routes to your target and plenty of room for improvisation – not to mention secondary objectives. Here the Ultimate Edition also benefits from the passage of time because it has all the DLC released so far, creating a substantial amount of content from the off (although the £30 asking price still seems somewhat optimistic).
We’re not sure how many people are going to be interested in the eight-player online modes, but they’re there if you want them. Although it’s the two-player co-op Overwatch mode, where one player acts as a sniper and one a spotter, that’s the most entertaining way to play the game and takes good advantage of the various open-ended maps.
Sniper Elite 3 was a difficult game to recommend when it was first released but the passage of time has been kind to it. Sniper Elite 4 is still by far the better game, and hopefully Sniper Elite 5 (which has already been hinted at) will be the ultimate realisation of the franchise’s potential, but as the best entry on the Switch this is still worth keeping in your sights.
Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate Edition review summary
In Short: It’s still not as good as Sniper Elite 4, but years of patches and DLC have improved it to the point where this is a viable alternative for Switch owners.
Pros: The sniping works great and the x-ray vision (almost) never gets old. Large maps allow for a lot of freedom in how you tackle a mission. Some fun multiplayer modes and lots of content.
Cons: The artificial intelligence still feels glitchy and unsophisticated. So-so graphics and sound design.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 1st October 2019
Age Rating: 16
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