When it came out last summer, Sniper Elite III was a flawed but fun third-person World War II stealth action shooter. But while including all of the released add-ons may not make the Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360) a better game, it does add more than enough to earn its “Ultimate” status.
For those who missed the original last summer, Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition casts you as O.S.S. sniper Karl Fairburne as he sneaks his way around Northern Africa, shooting Axis soldiers as he goes. Which is a far cry from the German setting of his previous adventures in 2005’s Sniper Elite and 2012’s Sniper Elite V2.
But changing the venue Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition doesn’t just impact what Fairburne gets to eat on his days off. Instead of narrow corridors, you now get to explore more open battlefields, where you may even find secondary objectives as well as enemy info and much-needed supplies. But rather than turn this into Grand Theft Libya, it instead makes this feel a bit like Wolfenstein: The New Order or Battlefield: Hardline, in that you can come at your objectives from different directions…though this means your enemies can attack from all directions as well.
Good thing Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition lets you be a sneaky S.O.B. Not only can sneak up behind people and take them out, either by hand or with a silenced pistol, but you also have a pair of binoculars you can use to survey the landscape, and can even mark your targets so you can keep tabs on them. Just be careful, though, because your sniper rifle doesn’t have a silencer, so once you go hot, everyone will know where you are. Well, unless you mask the sound of your rifle by, say, waiting for a loud plane to pass overhead.
Couple in some varied locations, a good mix of assassination and exploration missions, and you have a campaign that makes Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition as compelling as it challenging. So much so, in fact, that while I already played this game last year when the original came out, I found my second time through for this review to be just as engaging.
Even cooler, Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition expands its story mode with the three-part “Save Churchill” add-on, which tasks you with uncovering and then stopping the plot to send England’s Prime Minister to that great British pub in the sky. Granted, they are basically just three more levels of the regular game, but their plot gives them some added weight.
As with the original, the story-driven campaign is by far the best part of Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition. But if you do enjoy playing with others, this does have both co-op and competitive multiplayer modes, many of which have been expanded. Along with six new maps, multiplayer now also includes a “Capture The Flag” mode, which plays exactly like it does in every other game, save for the fact that camping is now encouraged and expected.
As for co-op, Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition adds a mission called “Twilight Strike” in which you and friend have to work together to take back a rather large version of the Libyan port city of Tobruk at night. It’s not the most engaging of the “Overwatch” missions, but it is, thanks to the map, different enough to be interesting.
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition also adds eighteen new weapons, which can be used in any mode. Even cooler, the game now includes a shooting range, so you can test out such new weapons as the Springfield M1903 rifle, MAB 38 submachine gun, or Tokarev TT-33 pistol in a safe environment, as opposed to picking it up in the middle of a mission, only to find out too late that you prefer your previous rifle, SMG, or pistol.
While Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition may be the most complete version of Sniper Elite III, that doesn’t necessarily make it better, since many of the problems of the original remain. The self-explanatory “Survival” co-op mode is still nothing special, and the same goes for the multiplayer modes “Deathmatch” and “Team Deathmatch.” It also still ruins the lone wolf vibe to play the campaign with a friend.
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition also has the stiff movement of the original, though as with that version, you can make it a lot better by adjusting the sensitivity. Along the same lines, you still have to be in just the right spot sometimes for some of the buttons to work, most notably the ones to go prone or do a stealth kill.
There are also times in Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition when your enemies aren’t very good at their jobs, and don’t have much in the way of situational awareness. In one of the “Churchill” missions, for instance, I stopped to consider my next move, but didn’t notice the enemy soldier walking by. Which apparently wasn’t a problem since he didn’t notice me either, crouching suspiciously in the middle of their base.
It’s also a little sad — though only a little, and not that unexpected — that the core gameplay of Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition is the same as the original when it comes to the game’s slightly dated stealth mechanics. You still can’t shoot out light bulbs to make an area dark, nor pull guys off ledges when you’re hanging off it and they come to take a look at the view. But then, this is Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition, not Sniper Elite IV.
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition also, like the original, has a problem so common these days that I just cut and paste this paragraph into almost every game review I do (seriously, go check): some of the type is too small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV — y’know, like your mama told you not to — you’ll have a hard time reading the button prompts or the subtitles.
In the end, Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition is, for better or worse, the same game as Sniper Elite III…there’s just more of it to love. Which is why it’s not worth the double dip, especially if you’ve played the “Save Churchill” missions, but is the best version to get if you missed it last year.