Reviewed: Sniper Elite V2

Developer: Rebellion Developments

Publisher: Rebellion Developments

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Windows

Platform Reviewed: PS3

 

Headshot!

If that word strikes some primal gaming urge in you, then Sniper Elite V2 may well be your game, because you’ll be getting a lot of them.  A remake of sorts of the original Sniper Elite, the game sees the overused WWII setting repurposed, and steers away from epic battles and towards subterfuge and popping Nazi caps from really far away.

The story is an entirely throwaway, boy’s own comic book affair (well, Rebellion do own classic comic book 2000AD). Some heroic American sniper gets chucked into Germany to prevent the V2 rocket falling into the red hands of America’s real worst enemy, the Ruskies. With a distinct lack of cutscenes and most of the story being dispatched in loading screen voiceover, it’s clear that story was not the order of the day in development.  Instead, Rebellion wisely sticks to the central conceit: shooting Nazis right in the face.

The crux of the game is down the scope. Sniper Elite V2 boasts superlative ballistics physics to please even the most diehard gun nuts. Bullet drop, elevation, distance, lead, heart rate and wind all have to be taken into account when lining up your shot. A well thought out customisable difficulty system allows you to tinker with just how real you want the ballistics to be. On the lowest setting every shot is bang on the mark, but when it’s cranked up and the wind is high you have to aim seemingly miles off target to cadaverise the unfortunate Jerry in your sights; but the harder the shot, the more satisfying the kill.

And what could be more satisfying than killing a Nazi?  Watching them die in slow motion. And what could be more satisfying than killing a Nazi in slow-motion? Getting an X-Ray cross-section of their body as you watch the round puncture individual internal organs and burst meat and bone out of a massive exit wound.

The controversial X-Ray kill cam makes Max Payne 3 look like Disney. It kicks in whenever you make a particularly good shot, and also, a lot of the time, just for the hell of it. Disgusting it may be, and indicative of everything that detractors say about violence in games, however it is just incredible fun, especially when you pull off a 300m headshot or take down two foes with the same bullet. It should get boring, but it never does.

The game is at its best when you sneak unseen into position, stake out the lay of the land with your binoculars (which allow you to tag targets), line up your shot, wait for an artillery shell to fall using the noise to mask your shot, and then take a deep breath and put that pesky fascist down with a perfect slow-mo headshot.

Outside of sniping however, the game falls flatter than a recently ventilated German.

The AI, whilst competent at a scopes length, is woeful if your position is uncovered and they swarm you.  Some good ideas with the AI also fail to fire, such as the fact that you can wound one enemy to draw others in, but kill the guy who comes to investigate and it doesn’t stop another coming to the rescue until you basically have a morgue lying on the street around poor injured Nazi, still shouting for help.

Getting into position for snipey times can also be a bit of a slog. Some misguided stealth sections feel a bit PS2 era; get spotted once and you get swarmed by the enemy resulting in instant death, making these sections more reliant on trial and error than skill.  Although you do have the means to defend yourself at close range (thanks to Mr Tommy Gun) ammo is scarce and your character too frail to put up any kind of real defence.  Although this does urge you to take care and rely on using your primary weapon to dispatch enemies from a distance, it results in plenty of instances where you make a tiny mistake and just hit restart because death is swiftly and irritatingly on its way.

Aside from your trusty rifle you have a wealth of explosives, tripwires and landmines to set up traps and cover your escape; in theory.  I say this because I never really found any use for them.  There are few stages where you need to come out the way you came in, and when the purpose of the game is to keep enemies at a distance, there is little merit to booby trapping your position.  It seems an almost pointless inclusion to seemingly give you options which never require your attention.

Another gripe is the fact that you are supposed to be the Sniper Elite yet you can be sat on top of a building, shooting at and missing enemies 300m away, who casually and with uncanny accuracy, shoot you with pistols from this same distance.

The levels are mostly a shooting gallery, with little freedom off the beaten path.  It would have greatly benefited the gameplay to make the stages more open, with the opportunity to scan the map for good position, get set up and go. Instead you are limited to prescribed vantage points and repetitive attack patterns which begin to grate on repeated playthroughs.

Multiple plays are recommended though, with a slight increase in difficulty each time until you’re a Lee Harvey-Oswald-esque assassin, the short length of the title makes repetition rear its head early.  Sniper Elite is seriously short, and could be beaten in an evening on the easy setting.  Even a co-op survival mode doesn’t add a great deal of benefit to this slight package.

Despite the kickass slow-mo the game is also pretty ugly.  The stealth sections on offer aren’t the only PS2 comparisons to be drawn. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine this as a previous gen title that’s been spruced up a bit, and to be fair it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the original Xbox version.

With a lovingly crafted central sniping mechanic and engaging ballistics led gameplay, Sniper Elite V2 is a must for quick-scopers and headshot junkies, especially those who would derive pleasure from seeing an X-Rayed head being exploded.  On the other hand, this is a dated, repetitive and occasionally boring drag through bland environments that must be endured until you get to snipe someone again.  In fact everything outside of actually looking down the scope of your rifle has been done better, so long ago that some readers may not have even owned the consoles I’m thinking of.

 

If you play COD or Battlefield lying prone taking cross map potshots, this is the game for you. If you’re more of a guns blazing type, there’ll be little here to hold your attention.   Sniper Elite V2: the clue is in the name I suppose.

6/10

Not quite a headshot, but still a confirmed kill.

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