- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2014

A one-man army challenges the Third Reich in Africa through the third-person adventure Sniper Elite III (505 Games, rated Mature, reviewed with PlayStation 4, $49.99).

The title alone gave me reason to joyously dive into the action. No matter the shooter combat game I’ve enjoyed over the years, be it “Gears of War” to “Call of Duty,” the Holy Grail has always been discovering a coveted sniper rifle.

Its ability to provide a long-distance strategy to keeping the enemy at bay, not getting me stuck in close quarters firefights (that I usually stink at) and offering some amazing visual moments tied to a bad guy’s noggin made it my premiere firearm.

With that in mind, this latest sequel to the Sniper Elite franchise does not disappoint.

A player can take control of the gravely voiced American OSS officer, Karl Fairburne, and find himself stationed in North Africa in 1942 during World War II — looking to deliver some serious hurt to German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s minions and his mechanized Afrika Korps.

Executed through eight, expansive multitiered missions, Karl stealthily moves from rocky and desert terrain found in such WWII key battle grounds as Tobruk, Libya, Pont Du Fahs airfield in Tunisia and the ill-fated Tunisian Kasserine Pass to complete objectives including sabotaging communications, releasing prisoners and destroying artillery.

Although a player has plenty of firepower and opportunity to sneak up on the German and Italian forces for up-close attacks, it’s the use of the sniper rifle that shines to pick off grunts, officers and generals and even cause massive damage to vehicles from a very safe distance.

He targets an enemy, zooms in the scope, taps a button that slows down the action (akin to holding and slowly releasing one’s breath before the shot), and as the reticle size turns a tight red, pulls the trigger to release the bullet that methodically takes flight and hones into the victim.

Just at the moment of impact, the soldier’s skin disappears, revealing his organs, skeleton, musculature and circulatory system while revealing the exact spot where the bullet enters, leaves and the damage to the body left behind.

The gruesome end result while following the bullet on its long-range mission is one that any coroner or “Mortal Kombat” fan would truly admire and referred to as the “X-ray Kill Cam.”

A message soon follows offering the awards for the death and including the organs in the body taking the most damage.

Yup, spleen, intestine, heart, kidney, liver, and even, get ready for this, the testicle, cannot hide from Karl the sniper.

That’s a visual sequence I never grew tired of and made me remain as patient as possible as I sought out sniper’s nests to get the best positions for my assault.

The game also features the ability to search and hide bodies, plenty of creative ways to kill enemies (from planting mine traps to throwing dynamite, attracting them with flint smoke to a trip wire and cutting a throat when being sneaky), tagging soldiers movements with help from binoculars, and using sound (such as a clunking generator) to mask a sniper shot.

Also, a player has four customized loadouts with a selection of vintage weapons to choose frim, Look for access to the M1 Garand or Lee-Enfield MK rifles, Sten MK. II submachine gun, the Panzerschreck (88mm rocket launcher) and Welrod suppressed pistol. III (silencer) to name a few as well as options to upgrade sniper rifles with better scopes, barrels and stocks.

I’ll admit the enemy troops are not too bright. When they begin to start a search, I can simply run away from my position until my meter gives the all clear sign (called relocation). Once the bad guys stop worrying about me, they seem to forget they are getting systematically picked off one at a time.

The locations are gorgeous, be they a sun-soaked mountain pass to a swampy and humid base camp set among ruins (during nighttime no less).

They are vast enough to find plenty of hiding areas as well as places to explore to discover items to exploit (explosive mainly) and clues to the Nazi’s plans.

The game also offers multiplayer options with the most strategically satisfying being a co-operative experience where one player acts as a spotter, looking for targets for his pal with binoculars, just like a real-life sniper scenario.

The added survival co-operative mode is not as strategic but much more exhilarating as a pair of snipers stop waves of soldiers.

Sniper Elite III offers a grisly charm for the fan of shooter games through its systematically violent but always satisfying action. I found the mixture of World War II pseudo-history, Nazi hunting and use of a glorious sniper rifle an irresistible, stress-relieving addiction.

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