Bullets soar in slow motion once again in Sniper Elite 3, a new installment of Rebellion's third-person shooter coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 this summer. Continuing the franchise's tense action through the second World War, Sniper Elite 3 focuses its efforts on the mountainous regions of North Africa.
What fascinates and still disturbs me about the Sniper Elite series is its relationship with bullets. Sometimes, you fire away and the ammunition is simply disposable destruction, but every so often the game becomes enamored with a single shell. It lovingly slows the camera down and sways as the killing shot exits your rifle's chamber, triumphantly careening toward its new owner (also known as the guy you just shot). As the bullet hits, the enemy's body contorts; in a single cut, the camera pans around both the baddie and the bullet in an eloquent and disturbing dance of death.
Get a room, you guys.
Gallery: Sniper Elite 3 (PAX East 2014) | 7 Photos
Sniper Elite 3 attempts to enhance this relationship by showcasing even more of your bullet's brief adventure. As it punctures its new BFF, the camera will present a detailed, X-ray model of the enemy – as it did in Sniper Elite V2. Bones and organs are on display, all shattering and exploding as the bullet finds its new home. What's new is a batch of wholly unnecessary (but disgustingly fantastic) details such as veins, muscles and other elements of the human body.
The "classics" are all still featured, of course. The words "Testicle Shot" flash at the bottom of the screen if you manage to fire off a shot that hits ... uh, ask your parents. Yes, it's still idiotic, but just try not to pat yourself on the back once you land the shot after a few failed attempts. I landed a "double-ball" shot and had to stop myself from telling publisher 505 Games to pack up their booth because it wasn't going to get any better than that.
The PS4 version looks sharp, about as clean as the previous game looked on highest settings for PC. The mission available for attendees to play at PAX East asks you to explore an enemy encampment and eventually destroy a number of anti-air-gun arrays, which are built on top of explosive barrels. Natch. Once you fire your sniper rifle in an area filled with hostiles, they will explore the source of the noise. If you're spotted or in an area that is being investigated, the game urges you to relocate immediately. This tactical assists made the mission extremely easy; however, they can all be toggled on or off to increase the game's difficulty. Additionally you can toggle bullet trajectory, ensuring all bullets travel in a straight line or force yourself to compensate for distance, wind and natural bullet drop.
With all assists turned off and enemy difficulty ramped up, Sniper Elite 3 was quite a challenge. The mission's environment was far more open than anything featured in Sniper Elite V2 and, something Rebellion says it added to the new game, was the ability to attack multiple objectives in any order to give players a little more freedom.
Even with the infantile humor that comes with such spectacle, Sniper Elite's narrative continues to take itself very seriously. It's hard to figure out how to feel about the ravages of the second Great War while the game informs you on an enemy's gonad status. A Rebellion representative told me that its gameplay presentation is up for interpretation. The developer didn't intend to make elements like testicle shooting a back-of-the-box feature, players just gravitated toward the absurdity.
The absurdity of the Sniper Elite series has been something of a guilty pleasure of mine and it's something I'm interested to learn more about leading up to its launch on July 1.