By Joseph Luster

One of the best things about the Sniper Elite series is the painstaking detail put into its head-bursting money shots. After all, what would a game that focuses on sniping be without a lingering look at the destruction caused by each pull of the trigger? Sniper Elite V2 really peaked with the “Assassinate the Führer” DLC, which did pretty much precisely what it says on the tin, tasking players with killing off Hitler himself. Throw in the understandably praised “X-Ray Kill Cam” and you had the perfect mixture of realism and over-the-top, absurdly gratuitous violence.

Sniper Elite 3

So how do you top something like that? Sniper Elite 3, which is due out on PC as well as current and next-gen consoles in 2014, aims to do so by taking the action to North Africa. The military escapades of American OSS Agent Karl Fairburne continue here, and the plot focuses on German technology that threatens to crush the Allied resistance permanently. When the first trailer debuted, it offered a quick cinematic sampling that certainly makes it seem like it plans to maintain the series’ explosive standard.

Like its predecessors—and just as its title and general premise would imply—Sniper Elite 3 has players joining in on the battle from afar. The focus goes even wider this time, though, with a turn toward more sandbox-style gameplay. That definitely falls in line with general trends of late; recent unveilings in franchises across all genres show that open-world design is the go-to style as we shift to the next generation. From Metal Gear Solid V to persistent worlds like that of Bungie’s Destiny, expect to see even more of your favorite games follow suit on more powerful PCs and systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if Sniper Elite 3 pulls it off successfully.

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Rebellion Developments
System(s): PC, Xbox 360, xbox One, PS3, PS 4
Available: 2014

Air Conflicts: Vietnam

Air Conflicts: Vietnam puts players in the middle of the Vietnam War in 1965, just as it places bitComposer Games in the middle of a heated battle for supremacy between various flight and air combat sim developers. Air Conflicts: Vietnam falls on the more arcade-style side of the fence, but there’s still plenty going on here for those more willing to invest thought and time into the process of waging virtual war from above.

U.S. Air Force pilot Joe Thompson is the hero this time around, but the real star of AC:V are all the aircraft—both jet fighters and helicopters—from which players get to choose. Certain missions call for a specific type of play, too, like those created to take full advantage of the helicopter’s unique set of skills, and those that have players commanding full squadrons rather than just one individual unit.

With over 20 airplanes and helicopters in the lineup, there should be just enough variety right out of the box, but one of AC:V’s big hooks is the ability to customize the aircraft you start with, as well as those you unlock through progression. This is where those who want something a little more than arcade action come in, as they can tinker with the planes and helicopters to find a loadout that works best for each individual situation. The battlefield prep screen shows the location, weather, and the type and amount of enemies you’ll be facing, and each aspect ultimately factors into the customization choices available.

Choose something like the AH-1 Cobra, for instance, and you’ll be able to outfit each of its hardpoints with weapons suitable for the upcoming sortie. Air Conflicts: Vietnam is still very much an experience that stares down the barrel at pure, fast-paced action, but customization adds just enough of a strategic edge to draw in those who prefer something a bit more thoughtful in the moments prior to launching a full-scale mission.

Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Bitcomposer Games
System(s): PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Available: Now

Company of Heroes 2: Theater of War DLC

While Relic’s sequel to Company of Heroes retains much of what made the original a success, one of the most intriguing aspects was rolled out more recently. October saw the first of the Theater of War DLC roll onto Steam, offering up new challenges for solo and cooperative play, as well as additional multiplayer maps that hopped on as part of the same patch.

Theater of War delivers a fresh way for the developer to tell tales from the Soviet and German battles, opening the Eastern Front conflict up to a scale that was previously unmanageable in the campaign itself. This allows things to be broken down year by year, region by region, and other ways that present the story and action differently than before, while also making the whole thing flexible enough for player feedback to shape the way it’s presented.

What makes Theater of War more interesting than your average DLC is precisely that last bit, which gives the team the ability to craft challenges in response to the way players are engaging the content. Best of all, it’s just a fun new way to play an already compelling war game. The Case Blue mini-pack kicks things off with two new solo challenges, two AI battles, and a Co-Op scenario. It’s free to those who pre-ordered, and for the rest it’s available on Steam for 10 bucks.

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Relic Entertainment
System(s): PC
Available: Now

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