Review: Sniper Elite V2 (PC)
Title: Sniper Elite V2
Platform: 360 / PS3 / PC (reviewed on PC)
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments, 505 Games
TL;DR: A fun but flawed sniping romp.
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Sniping is a fine art. It takes a lot of skill to pull off something truly spectacular, but when you nail that single tremendous kill you are rewarded with a rush like no other and become the envy of all others on the digital battlefield. Making a sniper game is a fine art, too, as it happens – any minor distraction from the core mechanic of aiming and squeezing the trigger can serve to detract from the experience as a whole, as evidenced by Rebellion’s entertaining yet flawed Sniper Elite V2.
Set during the Battle of Berlin, you take the role of OSS officer and sniper extraordinaire Karl Fairburne as he attempts to assassinate pivotal members of the German V-2 rocket program. The premise is serviceable and reason enough for the World War II backdrop, but the real meat of the game comes in the form of its game play while narrative is for the most part encountered between level loads.
It’s a good thing then that the sniping in Elite V2 is so entertaining. The game swaps into a scoped first-person mode from its usual third-person position when Karl aims down the sights, and it is here that a few options present themselves to the player. You’re free to zoom in and out for greater precision, and adjust your aim to account for external factors such as the wind and your target’s distance depending on the difficulty setting you’ve selected. Also included is the ability to exhale and focus on a target, slowing down time and providing an indication of where a bullet will fall taking into account its trajectory. These fairly standard sniping mechanics are nothing to write home about, but the game is hugely bolstered by its kill-cam system which will track your bullet, often across vast distances, as it penetrates the skull of your target. Often, the game enters an x-ray mode not dissimilar from 2011′s Mortal Kombat, showing you the grisly effect of your shot in the form of a punctured lung, shattered leg or — yes, even an exploded testicle.
The bodies of your enemies are realistically weighted and react with a good sense of force to your devastating attacks, while picking off soldiers as they shout with surprise and confusion gives an immense feeling of being that great predatory, sophisticated sniper archetype we’ve all come to associate with the role. Experimenting with creative bullet positioning and lining up soldiers to rack up multiple kills with a single shot demonstrates the fun to be had sniping people down, but also serves to highlight the rest of the game’s rather unpolished features.
The game makes excellent use of moody indoor lighting and brilliantly shining outdoor scenes, but texture and model detail falter under close scrutiny. Many of the walls and surfaces you can take cover against look jarringly low resolution, marring an otherwise excellent overall presentation.
The levels are expansive and have some perfect sniping nests, but a true sense of player agency in deciding exactly where to position yourself for the best effect is undermined by the game’s somewhat hand-holding nature, and while there are options to disable things like tutorial tips from the menu, there are certain instances where the level will only progress once you have made it to a particular spot in the level, serving to ‘funnel’ you down an intended path rather than encourage you to find your own.
Other strange issues like turning a corner only to see enemy soldiers spawned as though the game thought you weren’t looking immediately pull you out of the experience. The game has a fairly generic orchestral score which repeats, often abruptly, and plays continuously throughout the missions. I’m a big fan of minimalism when it comes to game soundtracks: make your music good and make it mean something. Elite V2′s atmosphere might have been improved dramatically were you ever just stalking the streets to the sound of your own footsteps, or the tinny echo of a world-war era radio lying smouldering somewhere among the ruins. Confusingly, enemy dialogue also repeats on a loop… Which is fine if you don’t speak German or usually disable the subtitles, I guess.
These things combined with other issues like enemy gun models sometimes not appearing and changing difficulty mid-campaign occasionally resulting in lost save data shine a damning light on what is an otherwise enjoyable sniping experience. It’s a shame that everything on the periphery of Sniper Elite V2′s fantastic core mechanics serves to distract and pull you away from the fun.
All that said, if you were a fan of the previous Sniper Elite (and do bear in mind this is the exact same game as the original, revamped) or the Sniping category of shooters in general, there’s bound to be something for you in Sniper Elite V2. Those not yet won over by these sorts of games probably wont find themselves a convert having played V2, but the joy to be derived from the utterly brutal kill cam system is undoubtedly universal, and might be worth the price of admission just to play around with for yourself.
Das ist gut!
- Great use of lighting across levels
- Expansive levels make for great sniping opportunities
- Outrageous kill-cam makes a meal out of your attacks
- Lots of bizarre bugs (and some big ones) detract from the experience
- Repetitive music and dialogue
Sniper Elite V2 is a 15 Rated game, and is packed full of delicious gore. Pew pew!