We’ve done military shooters; to death, even. Why on earth do we need another, especially one that retreads World War II for the hundredth time? Most would say, simply, that we don’t. However, if you have a fascination with long range rifles, period art and the most gruesomely realistic kills ever to grace a video game, you might find something to love about Rebeillion and 505 Games’ Sniper Elite V2.
When I saw the game a couple of months ago, I talked about how it blended stealth elements with finding the right location and angle for covert sniping. All of that holds true, but the single player content is largely about getting from Point A to Point B. Sure, you’re better off keeping quiet so you don’t have to face indomitable odds, but there’s nothing that says you have to stay silent. The tools are all there, but utilizing them is your choice.
When you load up the game, you’ll be offered three difficulties, but one of the things I really enjoyed about the game is that you can customize your experience. If you want dumb as doornails AI, but bullets realistically affected by gravity and wind, you can do that. Want to flip that around and have every shell fly straight and true while deadly Nazis aim for your melon? Not a problem. Want to turn the threat indicator off for a deeper challenge. Go right ahead.
The story places you in a divided Berlin not completely liberated from the Nazi threat. Your mission is to assassinate the five remaining members of the V2 rocket program to ensure that the technology doesn’t fall into Russian hands. To do so, you’ll have to creep through the deserted streets, lay traps for patrols and perforate skulls, lungs and hearts. Each kill you make is scored based on distance, whether the target is moving and where you make contact.
There are some cool touches that emphasize the focus on sniping. Being able to detect an enemy from the glint off a scope is a neat effect, especially when you have the threat indicator turned off. Also, playing with a good headset or home theatre system is important so you can figure out where shots are coming from. I also liked the way that loud sounds can mask your shots. There is something very cool about zooming in, holding your breath to focus and waiting for the clang of a bell or whistle of a train. Combine that with a cinematic kill shot, and you’ve got the makings of a good time.
Should you manage to pull off a particularly long assassination, you may get treated to a dynamically rendered x-ray death. Put simply, these are not for the faint at heart. You will see pieces of skull explode outward from the head, vital organs become pulp and, if you’re particularly lucky or malicious, an enemy’s testicles become useless faster than you can shriek in sympathetic pain. You can also pull off a variety of trick shots like exploding a grenade hooked to a Nazi’s belt or kill two soldiers with one bullet. These are fun to watch, especially given the deformation of the slug as it passes through one body before tumbling into the other.
Unfortunately, for all its adherence to and respect for historical accuracy, the developers couldn’t help but pepper in some classic red barrels. I understand the explosions caused by carefully placed dynamite or a fantastically accurate shot on a vehicle’s gas cap, but conforming to this trope cheapens the experience. What is also very mysterious is that the streets of Berlin are absolutely vacant with the exception of hostile forces. I understand that people must have been scared with the city under martial law, but Berlin is a ghost town.
In addition to the single-player campaign, which can be played online with a friend, Sniper Elite V2 offers three cooperative game types. Overwatch puts one player behind the scope of a sniper rifle while the other must move between objectives on the ground, using binoculars to spot. This effectively splits out the spotting feature from the single player, which allows you to keep tabs on as many enemy soldiers as you can tag. It’s an interesting mode, because your success is absolutely reliant on the prowess of your partner. The sniper will have a difficult time picking out the important targets without his eyes on the ground. The runner will meet a perforated death if the guy on the perch is asleep at the trigger.
Kill Tally is a fairly standard horde mode, but emphasizes the use of land mines, trip mines and other nifty traps. While also available in the single player mode, these devices shine when in these situations that require someone (or something) watching your back. Finally, there’s Bombing Run. In this setup, you need to pick up multiple pieces of a vehicle from around the map, all while stealthily confronting patrols. Using the infinite supply of rocks, you can flush out wandering soldiers. Right up until the end stages of these modes, things are just fine. Patience is rewarded and there is a sense of victory for every salvaged part successfully installed in the getaway vehicle… and then things take a bad turn.
In both Overwatch and Bombing Run, we noticed that the game dials the difficulty up to 11 just as you are about to achieve victory. You don’t have a lot of health and getting pinched suddenly gives you little time to react. It’s not that it’s difficult, the rest of the game meets that definition. Instead, this felt unfair. When surrounded by troops from out of nowhere, there is little hope of survival. Sniping skills become practically useless, and we were left to pray and spray with the Thompson or MP40 machine guns. This isn’t a good scenario and seems to defy the very nature of the game experience.
Visually, the game is hit or miss. I know from talking with the developers that a great deal of time was spent researching, reproducing and creating new, authentic looking art. From the wallpaper to the fixtures in the bombed out buildings to the propaganda posters, the fine touches on the aesthetic features of the game are impeccable. The game’s artists must be commended for the quality of this work. Unfortunately, the environments don’t support the careful finishes put on everything. From a distance, the architecture is fantastic, but up close, the rubble isn’t terribly exciting. There never felt like quite enough variation until I went inside a building and saw the period furniture and other detail. The unevenness is obvious, but only because of how good the minutia is.
The sound is largely as you might expect from a World War II period title. There is a great deal of spoken German, loud bombs and the rattle of authentic sounding gunfire. There were a number of minor sounds that sounded particularly good, such as the sliding of rubble off the exterior walls of ruined domiciles. Again, you can’t help but admire the attention to detail.
Sniper Elite V2 isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s certainly not the kind of game I expect the average Call of Duty fan to flock to. In fact, the title isn’t like much of anything else on the market. The stealth isn’t great, especially since it often doesn’t feel necessary, but the sniping is terribly satisfying. So much effort was put into that crucial part of the game that it’s easy to admire. It’s a shame that other parts of the experience let it down.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Fantastic long-range gunplay
+ Attention to acoustic and visual details are impressive
+ Variable difficulty options allow players to tune the experience
+ I cannot get enough of those X-Ray kills
- Short-range gunplay is frustrating
- Online modes, while enjoyable, ridiculously spike in difficulty at the end
- Textures are unimpressive and drab
- Too much unenjoyable play in between stellar sniping moments
6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it. A game in this range has rental written all over it.
Sniper Elite V2 was developed by Rebellion and published by 505 Games. It was released on May 1, 2012 for PC, Xbox 360 (reviewed) and PS3 at the MSRP of $49.99 (PC) and $59.99 (Xbox 360 and PS3). A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.