As I’ve said many times, I like games where you shoot Nazis. But unlike most World War II shooters, where you get up close and person, Sniper Elite III — like its predecessors Sniper Elite and Sniper Elite V2 — casts you as a WWII soldier who prefers long distance relationships. With 505 Games releasing Sniper Elite III on July 1st for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, (and the developer, Rebellion, issuing a PC version the same day), I spoke to 505’s VP Of Global Marketing, Kevin Kraff, and 505’s Production Coordinator, Michael Greening, about such new additions to the series as the co-op modes, weapon customizing, and the ability to kill trucks.
For those unfamiliar with this series, what are the Sniper Elite games all about?
Greening: The Sniper games are World War II sniper games, as opposed to just straight shooters. They’re more tactical than other shooters. Rebellion like to call it a thinking man’s shooter.
Greening: No. We’re not looking for trench warfare. It’s more about long range attacks. Up close is available, you can pull out a small machine gun or pistol, and you can even use melee attacks or stealth, but the core is being able to take out enemies from far away, and making tactical decisions that keep you away from the battlefield.
Most of the time you’ll start a mission at a distance from the enemy, and will be able to mark targets and use tactics to decide which enemies you’re going to take out and when. You can play this run and gun style, but it’s dangerous. Your health depletes very quickly. You don’t have a shield or anything, and your health doesn’t come back entirely if you wait. Your health bar is segmented, and will only restore a segment, not the whole bar.
Oh, so if you get hurt and your health bar goes down 60%, and it has four segments, it’ll only go back to the 75% mark?
Greening: I believe it starts off with four bars, so yeah.
Kraff: And that staged health mechanic really lends itself to more of that tactical gameplay, as opposed to action gameplay.
Similarly, the Sniper Elite games have always been heralded for its realistic ballistics. You have to be mindful of the wind, range, droppage, and so on.
Greening: Though you can opt out of that, if you want. The game has a customizable difficultly set-up. The difficultly level is all about how attentive the enemies are and how quickly they’ll attack. But you can also turn off some of the realistic ballistic aspects, such as whether you need to consider which way the wind is blowing, or whether you have a targeting reticule or not.
So you could, in theory, play the game where the sniper mechanics are realistic, but the enemies are idiots?
Cool. And for those who’ve played the previous games, what new stuff are you bringing to Sniper Elite III?
Kraff: One of the big things is that the game is set in North Africa, as opposed to Europe. Which means that instead of corridors, alleyways, those kind of environments, the North African setting — which hasn’t been seen much in gaming before — gives us different environments and larger, more open areas. This gives the player more options when it comes to deciding which way they want to go, which way they want to approach their targets and objectives. It’s also strikingly different, visually speaking, from the usual European theater you usually see in games.
Another interesting element are the new stealth tactics. For instance, to make sure you’re not spotted, you can now do things like wait until a anti-artillery cannon goes off, and time your shot so no one hears it. You can also do things like hide an enemy’s dead body so that no one else sees it and thus becomes alerted. You can also toss rocks to distract people, and use traps to take people out.
You can even, now, go through some levels without killing anyone by using stealth. Which isn’t how a sniper operated during World War II, but it is an interesting approach to the game.
Are you playing as the same guy from the other Sniper Elite games?
Kraff: Karl Fairburne, yup. But this is actually a prequel to Sniper Elite V2.
Any other changes?
Kraff: One of the hallmarks of the Sniper Elite series is the kill cam, where you watch the bullet in slo-mo go from your gun and into your enemy, and it gives you this graphic image of the bullet going through their bones and all that.
Now, however, they’ve expanded the kill cam to include vehicles. You can now look for soft spots in vehicles and take them out. So you can look for the cover of a gas tank or a weak spot in the hood. And when you hit it, you’ll now see the same kind of inside detail that you see when you shoot a Nazi.
Sniper Elite III also now lets you customize your weapons. You’ll be able to upgrade the scope, the barrel, the bolt, the stock, and fine tune your weapon.
Do you unlock this stuff through a leveling system?
Greening: Yes, which is also new. You get experience points for, say, getting headshots and completing objectives, those sorts of things. But you don’t just unlock new parts for your sniper rifle, you also unlock new guns, new traps, the ability to carry more items, how many people you can tag at a time, things like that.
Kraff: There’s now some new co-op modes as well. You and a friend can play the entire campaign.
Is there split-screen couch co-op or is it just over the Internet?
Greening: No, there’s no split-screen or system link.
Is there also competitive multiplayer?
Kraff: Yeah! It’s up to twelve players, and we have a bunch of different modes. We have “Deathmatch,” “Team Deathmatch”…
Greening: …”Distance King,” “Team Distance King,” and “No Cross,” which is a mode where there’s an invisible wall in the middle of the field that keeps the two teams apart, which keeps it a purely sniper rifle match.
So it’s like “Dodgeball”?
Greening: Ha! Kind of. Well, except you have your own ammo. You don’t have to catch the other guys.
Kraff: Yeah, you don’t want to catch the other guys bullets.
Right. What was the mode you mentioned between “No Cross” and “Team Deathmatch”?
Greening: “Distance King”?
Yes, what’s that about?
Greening: It’s “Deathmatch” and “Team Deathmatch,” but the points are based on how far away you are from someone when you kill them. If you shoot someone from fifty yards out, you’ll get less points than if you shoot someone from a hundred or hundred yards out.
Kraff: We also have two other co-op modes, aside from being able to play the campaign. There’s Survival, where you survive enemy waves…
Oh, so it’s like “Horde” from Gears Of War 2?
Greening: Yes, except that there are multiple waves within each level, and if you die, you go back to the beginning of a level, not a wave. So if you die during the second wave of the fourth level, you just go back to the beginning of the fourth level, not the beginning of the match. Though it doesn’t save your progress. You can’t stop and come back later at level four.
There’s also a co-op mode called “Overwatch,” which has one person is down below, and he has an SMG and has to complete objectives, while the other person is up above and has to protect the person on the ground. It’s also like a campaign in that it’s story driven, though it’s more like instances.
Do you know how many maps there are for these and the multiplayer modes?
Greening: There are two maps for Survival, and two for Overwatch as well.
Greening: We’ll have five maps for that when we launch.
Sniper Elite III is coming to the PlayStation 4 as well as the PlayStation 3, and the Xbox One as well as the Xbox 360…
Kraff: And to PCs!
Right. But in regards to the PS3/PS4 and XB1/360 thing, aside from visual fidelity, are there any differences between them?
Greening: No, it’s visual only.
Will the PC version support modding?
Greening: You’d have to ask Rebellion that question.
But I assume the PC version is the same as the console one, and vice versa, right?
Kraff: Yeah, it’s all the same.
Will there be digital as well as physical versions of the console game, and will they be out the same day?
Greening: Yes, day and date. And for all four consoles: PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
Lastly, while the campaign in Sniper Elite is historically accurate, you guys have done add-ons to this series before that stretched the truth. Like the one where you go to shoot Hitler. Since this game is set in North Africa, will you be doing an add-on where, say, the Nazis are digging in the desert for some ancient artifact?
Kraff: Ha! To be discussed.
Though we will have an add-on, called “Hunt The Grey Wolf,” which will be free to people who pre-order, and available to buy later on. In it, you again hunt Hitler. During the war, Hitler went to North Africa to meet with Rommel. But he brought a body double to throw off his enemies. So your objective is to figure out which is the real Hitler, and then take him out. And you’ll be able to play it alone and with a buddy co-op.