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Sniper Elite 3

Sniper Elite 3

Aim, breathe, kill, move. Avoid detection, find a hiding spot, pick a target. Time your breath to the backfiring of a truck's exhaust, shoot, kill, move.

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That's our mantra for our 130 minutes with Sniper Elite 3 on Xbox One, Rebellion's long-running sniper franchise that goes cross-gen, ditching linear corridors for expansive sandbox environments littered with hiding spots, layered with multiple routes and rammed with patrolling soldiers.

The two hour plus worth of gameplay is spent totally within one level, with one mission still left unfinished by the time our session's over. Distance between objectives are measured in meters closer to four figures than three. We expect UK-based Rebellion's level maps could wallpaper their entire office.

As to, would the anatomical sketches. Sniper Elite's back-of-the-box bulletpoint X-Ray Kill-Cam returns and is as stomach-churning gory as ever. Kill shot a target and slow-mo will kick in, target's skin turning translucent so you can admire the trajectory of the bullet smashing bone and ripping organ in intricate detail. Cue numerous attempts during our time to score a crotch shot, an attempt at humour to settle the uneasiness in witnessing the stark reality of combat.

Close-quarters combat is never a sniper's forte, yet Rebellion give you the tools to slip between distant marksman and up-close killer easily. The valleys and mountain routes of the level we're on spill into small towns, larger settlements. We survey, we sneak, we range.

Sniper Elite 3

As firing without noise cover (along with backfiring trucks, there are spluttering power generators, artillery guns) alerts patrols to sweep towards your location, pistol head-shots or silent knife kills become preferable in punching through these dense areas. Rebellion limit your area traversal to low walls (slide over) and small jumps (run towards ledge and tap a button to leap). Their world, their rules, and mainly there to stop you climbing the highest ledge and camping.

You don't notice the limitation when ghosting through the abandoned settlements, and a tagging system, button tap when zoomed in on an enemy using your binoculars, paints a faint outline through walls of those marked threats, giving you the edge in skirting by within a few feet of danger. Additional icons placed on the heads of soldiers that are tagged can be spotted from a distance, giving you an indicator of far-away patrols. All combine to hand you a smooth close-range play style that needs to be coupled with the standard sniping if you're to make it to your objectives to take out larger targets.

Several additional items in your backpack give you a wider range of distractions or approaches. Tossed rocks distract guards, flint struck to set fires will pump smoke into the air, either drawing soldiers to it or, when the fire's set beside petrol drums, leading to a timed explosion. Equally dynamite set against truck engines (or a good aim from your scoped rifle) provides explosive cover - but means you flood the area with alerted goons. That includes artillery gun teams that could have been easily taken out with a single shot at their ammo dump.

So, you're flexible with your options. And, this level at least, has multiple mini-areas to ghost or hunt through. The sniper genre was never the poorer man's shooter choice; it just needed a better design to keep it stimulating. Hopefully, the rest of Sniper Elite 3 keeps up the variety to maintain our interest.

You can see Sniper Elite 3 at the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham this weekend. Check out the event's official site for more details.

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