Has it really been over five years since Sniper Elite 3 came out? One of the many games that bridged the generations, Sniper Elite 3 landed on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC way back in 2014. Five years on and Rebellion have been revisiting the earlier entries in the series, with a remaster of Sniper Elite V2 earlier this year and now with the release of Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch.
What’s fascinating from a gameplay and game design perspective is seeing how Sniper Elite 3 lives in the series’ evolution. Sniper Elite V2 (which was a remake and reimagining of the original game) is a fairly straightforward and linear experience, funnelling you through bombed out Berlin streets and Nazi installations from one objective to the next. Sniper Elite 4, meanwhile, has larger, much more open levels that give you numerous routes to choose from and often throw multiple objectives at you to complete in differing orders. Sniper Elite 3 sits somewhere between the two. It’s “wide-linear” as Naughty Dog might describe it, with a little more sprawl to the world design, with branching paths that might let you reach objectives in a different order.
You can feel this stopping point on the series’ evolution elsewhere as well. There’s diesel engines you can sabotage to become noise-makers that disguise your sniper shots, giving you ample opportunity to make use of your sniper rifle. If you’re discovered, the AI will hunt you down based off your last known location, and you simply need to escape the area to have them return to their previous posts, but they’re typically not that smart and can often feel overly aware on a sleepy night in North Africa. Additionally, the audio mix seems to be a bit wonky, with enemy voices coming through far too loudly on the Switch’s built in speakers. Near, far, wherever they are, it’s nigh on impossible to really tell unless you plug in some headphones.
Really they’re all there as fodder for your stealth or sniping kills. The series’ distinctive X-ray killcams are here in full force, by default triggering almost every time you get a kill (thankfully you can still reduce their frequency or simply turn them off). Sniper Elite 3 was the game that introduced the grim spectacle of popping testicles – one of the clues as to whether you’d managed to assassinate the real Hitler in the Hunt for Grey Wolf DLC mission.
Speaking of which, Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate Edition really lives up to its name on Nintendo Switch. All of the content is here and the main menu has been tweaked to reveal all the modes to you that little bit better. The main campaign is obviously the centrepiece, but it’s joined by the Hunt for Grey Wolf mission (which bizarrely isn’t in the PS4’s Ultimate Edition) and the Churchill trilogy (which is in the PS4 release). You’ve then got a Survival mode on two maps, and there’s co-op through all of this alongside a competitive multiplayer. I wouldn’t expect to find multiplayer to be a bustling hive of activity, but there could be some games to be found if you’re picking this up early.
All of this plays rather nicely on the Nintendo Switch, though long distance sniping will challenge you more in handheld mode than it will on a TV. The simple fact is that, with the game in handheld mode on the Switch’s 6.2″ screen, let alone the Switch Lite’s 5.5″ screen, you’re going to be trying to line up a tiny reticule over an equally miniscule target. This is most notably a problem with the starting M1 Garand sniper rifle with its weak zoom, but it remains as you switch to guns like the Mosin-Nagant.
You do, however, have the option of using motion control for some finer control over your aiming. Again, it’s the step between handheld and TV play, with the Switch Pro controller’s larger analogue sticks allowing for slightly finer control in my opinion. Motion control is turned off by default, but allows you to tweak its sensitivity on both axes and is a nice inclusion for all the Splatoon heads out there.
The game looks and runs nicely on the Switch, which you’d expect for an older cross-generational release. At the time, this allowed the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to push for 60fps play (though not being particularly consistent in actually hitting it), but that has been traded in for a solid 30fps on Switch in either mode. We only spotted a handful of tiny deviations in our capture. As a slower-paced, more considered third person shooter, 30fps is perfectly fine for this game and personally not something that distracted while testing.
There’s also some clear tradeoffs graphically, with the shimmer of aliasing, item and shadow pop-in. In handheld mode, it’s a native 720p from our screenshot spot checks, while docked play can top out at 912p, though we found it heading down to around 800p on a number of occasions. Outside of the outright resolution, these things don’t feel terribly noticeable in the run of play, but one thing that does stand out when jumping between Switch and PS4 is the over-the-top crepuscular rays (AKA god rays) that are completely absent on Switch. I guess Rebellion were really happy to have added the effect to their Asura engine in 2014, because they can flood the screen to an almost excessive degree every time you walk past a window or catch the sun through a tree. It makes the Switch version a touch less dynamic and vibrant, but it’s something that can occasionally be overbearing on other platforms.