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Sniper Elite 3 Preview: Open-ended tactical combat

Sniper Elite 3 Screenshot - 1160752

Tactical shooters are generating quite the buzz as of late. With plenty of smaller studios instilling feelings of nostalgia, it's obvious that there's a lovely little niche market for the genre. When you consider the Sniper Elite series, however, it's impossible to think about these games on a smaller scale. Launching in 2005, the Sniper Elite games have garnered impressive critical acclaim and a great fan following. The series is back with Sniper Elite 3, and this time around, the battlefield is more evolved, open, and daunting, allowing you to craft your own legacy as a skilled soldier.

Snipers aren't exactly known for entering soldier-laden posts guns a-blazin' and taking out everything that moves Rambo-style. No, there's a much more methodical approach to eliminating threats for these battlefield tacticians. As such, Sniper Elite 3 requires a bit of stealth and precision. That's not to say that you can't get a little brazen at times, but the majority of the game requires you to think before you act, separating it from the myriad of FPS experiences commercially available now.

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As a sniper, it's up to you to find a clear vantage point to take out the opposition. Doing so often requires you to sneak around, perform melee kills, and utilize a silenced pistol. Once you get to your destination, you're rewarded for your troubles with the opportunity to pick off your enemies with your trusty sniper rifle. Don't think you can just camp out on the highest perch and shoot away, though. True to real life, you can only fire a certain number of shots before your enemies become aware of your location, prompting you to exit the area and find a new spot.

To add to the realism, Sniper Elite 3 employs a heartbeat/breath mechanic that directly affects your shots. If your character is fatigued following intense brushes with death, for example, you'll be able to monitor his heartbeat and breathing. Attempting to perform a skillful headshot on a distant enemy when you're out of energy and all riled up is a lot harder to do than when you're calm and collected. This is appropriately reflected in your accuracy, which takes a noticeable hit, and could make the difference between success and failure.

Developer Rebellion wants player choice to be a major part of the experience. Maps are quite large and can be approached in a variety of ways. Branching paths allow you to explore different routes. Sometimes you can choose between stealth and loud explosions. You can mask your gunshots' sound by setting off nearby machines. You can even rig the area with trip mines and lure your enemies into lethal deathtraps. Hell, you can even blow up certain environments if you desire — you'll possibly sacrifice useful cargo, but hey, it's a small price to pay to see a kick-ass explosion.

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Luring enemies into traps is one of the more satisfying tactics you can utilize. For example, if you simply injure a rival soldier instead of killing him, he'll call for help. When one of his comrades arrives, you can pick them both off. As previously mentioned, you can also set up trip mines and other traps. One great feature in Sniper Elite 3 is the ability to combine gadgets Matlock-style. You can place some TNT and flint on an oil drum and have it blow up the interior of an enemy-filled building. It's totally empowering, and it's one of the many options you have at your disposal.

One of the coolest elements in Sniper Elite 3 is the X-ray kill cam, which has been brought over and advanced from Sniper Elite V2. Performing certain tactical shots results in a slow-motion capture of your shot. The bullet fired is followed as it goes down its path of death toward your enemy, and you then witness as it goes right through his wide-eyed skull (or torso or leg), cracking the bone and ripping right through your target. This feature isn't exclusive to human targets — you also get a slick X-ray view when you shoot vehicles and blow them up.

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Sniper Elite 3 has a solid legacy behind it, and as such, it's definitely a game worth watching out for if you're into shooters and want something a little different. The open world and sense of choice make it stand out from other FPS titles. In addition, you'll be able to take on the 12-hour campaign alone or with a friend in co-op mode. Aside from the main component, there are also multiplayer modes to check out.

You can expect Sniper Elite 3 to drop sometime in Q2 2014. The game will be available for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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