'Sniper Elite III'
From: 505 Games
Who's it for: Anyone who relishes close-up shots of Hitler taking a hit
Console: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Honestly, I'm still not sure how I feel about "Sniper Elite III" as an experience.
As a video game it's fairly well crafted, with solid gameplay and a fun, if not remarkable, structure.
But the game's level of violence and gore often disturbed me, encouraging me to occasionally put down the controller and walk away for a while.
Let's be clear here: I'm not the squeamish type. I revel in the horror genre in films, books and games, and I have never been coaxed to walk out on a movie because the violence was too much to handle.
But in "Sniper Elite III," the visceral experience of watching the slow-motion path of a bullet as the tension builds, cutting to an X-ray of your target as the projectile penetrates flesh and decimates the muscle, bone and any organs that happen to be in its way is a lot to handle.
Now, I've killed a lot of Nazi's in video games. Even in this time of political correctness, when companies hesitate to demonize any particular group as the "villain," it's OK to hate the Nazis. They are a historical evil that will never be redeemed.
That's why even I was surprised when the action of "Sniper Elite III" actually disturbed me. True, repeatedly shooting Hitler game me something of a perverse thrill, but that was the only moment that really seemed cartoony in an otherwise extremely realistic game.
The action centers on Karl, an American sniper in the North African front of the war. History buffs will appreciate the locale, as the African front is grossly underrepresented in games.
Across the game's eight missions you'll find diverse objectives and plenty of opportunities to slaughter Nazis.
However, unlike most World War II shooters, "Sniper Elite III" favors stealth over bravado.
You will want to proceed cautiously through every area, considering your approach, assessing threats and deciding on the most logical course of action.
It's often easiest to isolate an enemy and take them out without making any noise, as a shot from your sniper rifle will draw attention to your presence.
Unfortunately, the artificial intelligence is such that if you do take that noisy shot and manage to relocate outside the guard's sensory perimeter, they will quickly forget you were ever there.
Despite this flaw, the game's action and ambiance makes it easy to become engrossed. Each scenario plays out in an almost operatic way, driving the somewhat thin story forward and compelling the player to move on.
Everything comes back to the game's violence, though.
Anyone entering the realm of "Sniper Elite III" must be aware that the violence soars beyond the realm of fantasy into hyper-realistic territory. If some of the kills don't turn your stomach at least a little, then you might want to seek some professional help.
I'm not condemning the game for this violence, though. War is brutal, and the job of sniper is perhaps the most brutal of all. These men are not dropping a bomb onto a faceless population or shooting into the darkness out of a foxhole.
Snipers spot their target through a high-powered scope and see a person's face as the bullet they shot turns their life off like a light switch. And the X-ray camera here only intensifies that experience.
Therefore, while I have given "Sniper Elite III" a good rating, it comes with a caveat. Do not let anyone under 17 play this game, and do not play it yourself if you are sensitive to this type of realism. There are plenty of great shooters out there that let you blast away aliens.
Lastly, I should mention that those who pre-ordered the game received an additional mission allowing them to kill Hitler. Those who didn't will be able to purchase this mission soon. I recommend that those who play this game not miss the opportunity to confront history's ultimate villain.