Penetrating Insight: Sniper Elite 3 Killcam Dev Diary

Bullet to the brainpan, squish.

It’s rare that videogame violence makes me feel uncomfortable. After all, it’s just polygons, only code. I like the idea of games that purposefully make me feel uncomfortable with the heinous acts I commit – in ways more nuanced or subtle than po-faced script writing, at least. But I don’t think that’s what Sniper Elite 3 is going for with its X-Ray killcam. I think it’s going for, “hey bullets are awesome, look at how badass they are.”

The developer diary below outlines the changes to the system in their next World War 2 sniping sim.

The developers in the video explain that the killcam is there to convey the reason why soldiers were so afraid of snipers, but I don’t buy that. They were afraid of them because they had guns and were unseen, not because their bullets did a particularly graphic job of killing people. The very next developer refers to the killcam as the “money shot”, and I think that’s closer to the truth. There’s something lurid and scuzzy about the slow motion bullet impact. I don’t like the sense that I’m spunking lead up inside people’s brains.

Which isn’t to say I don’t like the game anyway; I just know that I’m a terrible person for it. It’s due out in a few months, and I’ll be there, hoping the multiplayer is as tense and compelling as in Sniper Elite V2.

Thanks, PC Gamer.


  1. Steven Hutton says:

    There is something slightly sadistic about the violence in Sniper Elite isn’t there?

    • Steven Hutton says:

      While I find that sadism dangerous and exciting I know that it is morally wrong.

  2. jarowdowsky says:

    This all sounds great but the last games just descended into dull corridor shooters.

    Hope they’ve spent a lot longer working on level design than on the killcam

  3. Gap Gen says:

    Today’s RPS was brought to you by Smiths and ‘Sons.

    • RPSRSVP says:

      Graham’s middle name is Wesson. And I just saw him get a Steam achievement in SE2.Ophthalmologist, 100 retina shots.

  4. MrUnimport says:

    Shame about all those underutilized skeletal models. Forget Nazi Zombies, I want to square off against a force of angry skeletons with naught but my sniper rifle to help me.

  5. Alexander says:

    Man, these guys are so serious about this stuff. Video Games: Serious Business.

  6. Zenicetus says:

    Yeah, that one developer’s comment is off-base (and just pure marketing bullshit) about why snipers are feared. Try stepping on a land mine or charging a machine gun nest ,if you want to see what WW2 military hardware does to tissue and bone.

    I’m more conflicted about whether the X-Ray effect is any worse than what we see in other games. In Bioshock Infinite, you get to mangle people’s faces with your sky hook and set people on fire, watching them burn in agony. I don’t recall many complaints about that. One difference here is how the X-Ray effect suspends normal gameplay to show you the effect of your kill shot. But that’s been done before too, in the more recent Fallout games and others.

    If anything, the X-Ray effect is somewhat sanitized because (AFAIK) it only triggers on kill shots. It doesn’t show extended suffering as a result of your actions, which would cross the line into sadism for me.

    • Smion says:

      I guess you could argue that a sniper is more deliberate in what sort of damage they do to you, i.e. they specifically aim for your brain/kidneys/whatever (though I doubt it’s all that easy to pull of such aimed shots in real-life).

      IIIRC I think you could wound enemies in the previous game to draw their comrades out of cover, which is so perverse and sadistic, it (and the weird feeling that for some reason the admission that the enemies are people with organs, which for some reason seemed to add a layer of realness to them) actually made me pause the game and think about the horrors of war. It’s probably not what the developers really, deep down in their hearts wanted to happen but it happened anyway, so good on them.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I haven’t played this game series, and if a previous game allowed wounding to draw enemies out of cover, that *might* be borderline sadistic. It reminds me of that scene with the Vietcong sniper towards the end of the Full Metal Jacket movie.

        However, that does fit the overall military doctrine for the last 75 years or so, which is that wounding an enemy soldier in ground combat is more valuable than killing them, because it ties up other soldiers in trying to help the wounded. As I understand it, that’s one reason why there are international agreements to use jacketed bullets that are more likely to wound and not kill, instead of more effective killing rounds like pre-fragmented bullets, flechettes, exploding rounds, etc. Of course that’s for general infantry ground combat. When you really want to kill someone these days, you call in an air strike.

        • PoulWrist says:

          It didn’t. He made that up.

        • Axess Denyd says:

          Well, flechettes actually just suck. They don’t tend to fly very straight and when they do, they make teeny tiny holes instead of big damaging holes. Explosive rounds exist, but aren’t “supposed” to be used on people, only vehicles.

          I find it odd that the hollow point bullets the police (and most civilians) use are not permitted to the military….but the military also has much tougher rules of engagement than the (American) police, which seems pretty backwards.

          A lot of the rifle bullets they use do tend to fragment though, they just aren’t PRE-fragmented, as you said.

      • Corrupt_Tiki says:

        So your saying that because a person takes the time to make a well-placed shot and hit you in the chest, exploding your lungs he is worse than the machinegun that sends a stray round through your chest?


        Also, yes shooting is easy. That’s why child soldiers are a thing. Making well placed shots, less so, but still easy enough that most people with half a brain and some patience could make consistent hits out to 300-400m with most center-fire rifles on the market today.

        I don’t see it sadistic at all, and even if it were, they are just pixels at the end of the day.

        • HadToLogin says:

          “I don’t see it sexist at all, and even if it were, they are just pixels at the end of the day.”. And whole John Walker’s work goes down the drain.

        • Flopper says:

          Child soldiers are a thing because they are easy to produce (and some of the only combat ready males left available.) not because of their combat effectiveness…

          And your comment about anyone with half a brain could hit a 300-400m target… God I hate the internet.

          • says:

            Actually anyone could hit a target which is 300-400m large..

          • Axess Denyd says:

            Give me two days to train you and unless you have very bad, uncorrectable vision (or another physical handicap and I’ll have you making head shots at 250m with open sights.

            link to

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      Malarious says:

      Maybe I’ve been desensitized by years of videogame undead skeleton violence, but just showing someone’s skull shatter or whatever isn’t really shocking at all. If these bullets mangled their faces in some gory, fleshy manner, then it’d be a bit more appalling — but seeing just a few bone chunks fly out and a mist of blood doesn’t really cut it.

    • The Random One says:

      IMHO Fallout worked because of the radio. Ultraviolence becomes funny when set to a soundtrack of 50’s songs.

  7. Andy_Panthro says:

    When the “x-ray kill-cam” thing started it just made the guy look like one of the aliens from Mars Attacks!

  8. Shooop says:

    So this trailer is just Rebellion proving once again they couldn’t figure out how to make a game actually about sniping if their lives depended on it?

    • haradaya says:

      Such a shame too. The killcam doesn’t really need any further improvements for now. They need to make a better AI, and much much more open levels. With none of these predetermined sniper spots.
      I bet you if they start boasting about open-ended level design, it’s going to be 1-2 other spots in a level clearly put there for you to use.

  9. Borodin says:

    Phil Savage’s review of Sniper Elite v2 in June 2012 said something very similar. These are his words.

    “The lingering gratuity seems to miss the point of sniping in games. A skilful shot over long distance is a thing I want to feel good about. Perforating a man’s lung isn’t.”

    Yes, that line about this being “to illustrate why people were so afraid of snipers in WWII” is tosh. It’s gratuitous gore, and it’s my guess that the idea to push it even further in v3 of the game came from the boardroom. It’s what we gamers want after all isn’t it? Together with our Doritos and Mountain Dew.

    Sadly I believe that, rather than pleasing their target audience, this new caper will just give the Daily Mails of the world more fuel for their outrage.

  10. Scumbag says:

    I always wonder what this kind of gore tech would be like implemented into something that does not sell itself on it. If put into something like ArmA or Red Orchestra it would be interesting.

    And when I say the tech, I mean the damage modeling, not the stupid slow-mo stuff.

  11. BlackLabel says:

    These Videos fill me with unease…just LOOK at the Artist. I wonder if they feel uncomfortable rambling about their “cool” “killcam”.

  12. Wurstwaffel says:

    I found the killcams in V2 rather satisfying. This looks even nicer, so thumbs up.

    That line “I just know that I’m a terrible person for it.” makes me sad.

  13. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Uncomfortable? 4 words: Kung Lao Finishing Move

  14. Pemptus says:

    Christ, nobody cares about a gimmick that gets old after 5 to 6 nutshots. Just make a good game with proper mechanics and some open-ended design this time.