In the corner of Jason Kingsley's office sits a suit of armour. It's not quite shining; having been put to practical use by the co-founder of Sniper Elite 3 developer Rebellion when he first decided to take up jousting around five years ago, it's as weathered and beaten as the large, chilly warehouse on an Oxford industrial estate the developer calls home. But it's a perfectly anachronistic prop to find in this perfectly anachronistic studio - an indie with hundreds of employees, and a developer that's endured for well over 20 years without ever finding much in the way of critical success.
Sometimes, game demonstrations are like the oddest school assembly you've ever attended. It's not just the awkward show-and-tell nature, but those strange special guests who are carted on-stage with a slight pang of confusion glistening behind their eyes. Ringo, Paul and whichever NBA star had to take to an E3 stage in the wake of a live beat poetry performance aren't the only ones. I'll never forget the time Brothers in Arms decided to herald its recreation of WW2's Operation Market Garden by getting a veteran of the campaign to relive his own experiences through the alien medium of an Xbox controller. It wasn't a pretty sight.
Or the time last week when Rebellion fronted its reveal of Sniper Elite 3, the latest in its fast-growing series of period stealth shooters, with a long, detailed talk by a real-life, fully trained sniper. We couldn't take his name, nor take photos that would compromise his identity, but we were allowed to ask questions of a man who proudly had never really played a video game until being ushered into the Oxford studio for this performance. Turns out he's been trained to kill, but he's not so hot on more serious matters like what resolution the game he's pimping will run at on next-gen hardware (it's 720p on older hardware, and 1080p on the new generation, if you're curious).
It's an odd one, because in their brief lifespan the Sniper Elite games have never really been noted for their authenticity. Recently, they've become renowned as the go-to place if you want to offload a .50 slug into a Nazi's nutsack and witness, in glorious detail, the hideous results. "What we try to do with the Sniper Elite series, we're gamifying a historical situation," Rebellion's founder and CEO Jason Kingsley tells us after the demo. He's a chap who knows a thing or two about historical recreation, given that he spends his weekends in a full suit of armour jousting on horseback and has been asked to play Henry Tudor in two recent documentaries. "We're trying to get a balance between historical realism and the shocking nature of what a sniper does. Snipers are disliked by their own side - so you're kind of an anti-hero."