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Review: Sniper Elite V2

August 17, 2012

Guest writer Sam Roberts reviews Sniper Elite V2!

Released back in early May 2012, Sniper Elite V2 is a Rebellion Development and 505 Games’ remake of the acclaimed Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945 released way back in 2005 for Xbox.

I’ll confess to not having played the original, but the appeal of V2 was that it was marketed as a ‘sniper simulator’. I’ve been on some weird kind of stealth binge recently, having snuck through the various thief games, flown through the Assassin’s Creed series and rolled yet another stealth character in Skyrim. To that end, Sniper Elite V2 sounded perfect. This was a game where stealth was key and you got to end a few bad guys from ridiculous distances. Or so they told me.

First impressions were pretty good. After a brief opening cinematic using genuine WWII footage you’re told that the Russians are trying to get their hands on several scientists. These scientists apparently worked on the heinous V2 Rockets, so it’s in your best interests to not let that happen.

The game starts and you’re briefing yourself on your mission. Weird, but you can roll with this. Enter Berlin: rubble and smoke. The game begins with a tutorial. Although non-skippable it’s an easy and quick hand-hold that shouldn’t frustrate the average gamer.

Graphically, it looks pretty tidy. Playing on PC I have settings to maximum and it looks crisp and clean. There’s no trouble picking out enemies from the masses of rubble or foliage, though some dodgy transparency AA gives far away textures for things like curtains or fences some noticeable flickering (if you’re into tweaking, at least with nvidia, this can be solved). Overall it’s relatively pretty but not particularly indicative of today’s graphical capabilities. Character models and animations are ‘good enough’ and there are some pseudo-realistic ragdoll physics. Unfortunately though, lack of any real in-game cinematic dialogue of our boy Karl Fairburne leaves you with the sense that he’s incapable of talking outside of his own head.

Not much time passes until your first real taste of why this game got people so excited. A German with a scarred face is chatting to a sleek-haired Russian. But you should have little regard for lack of character creativity at this point, you have a man to shoot after all! Having spent a minute or two scoping out any other enemies in the area, you prepare yourself. Wind and distance accounted for, the shot looks good. The ever-present voice-over prompts you that you can hold your breath to steady your hand. Then, the magic happens.

The camera pans out as a loud crack and a bright muzzle-flash alerts everything within a half-mile radius to your whereabouts. But it’s too late for your target – the camera follows the trajectory of your flying projectile, the rippling wake reminiscent of the original bullet-time shots from The Matrix. You watch it spin, a little scorched, a little scratched from such an explosive birth into the world. Closer, closer. Suddenly, you appear to be viewing your target through an X-ray machine. You can see his skeleton. You watch in awe as your bullet burrows into the man’s skull, splitting bone, tunnelling through brain and emerging victorious on the other side, now little more than a tiny mess of mangled metal.

Allow yourself a pause before punching the air. Go on, you’ve earned it.

The X-ray bullet-time kill-cams are a wonder. Your first five shots are a glory to behold and you wish you could rewind, just to watch it all again. After another ten, you’re thinking you’ll never get tired of cracking skulls or puncturing lungs. After twenty more they make you smile. Sort of. Somewhere around the third mission, the shine starts to fade, rapidly. By now, head-shots are second nature and the kill-cams provide irritating pauses to game play. Mercifully, Rebellion allow you to turn the kill-cams down a notch, or even turn them off. Or, if you’re a real fan of watching meat fly, then you can opt for turning them on for literally every shot. But if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself reducing their frequency pretty sharpish.

And then, sadly, the game starts to take a hit. Without the glossy gore-fest of the kill-cams, the game reveals itself to be little more than a bog-standard shooter. The stealth element certainly keeps it from being your average Call of Duty or Modern Warfare clone, as anyone running into a fire-fight in Sniper Elite V2 will quickly find themselves back at their last checkpoint. Indeed, even the stealth staple, Sam-Fisher-WhistleTM style distraction makes an appearance in the guise of rock-throwing. On the other hand, strategic placement of mines will make you feel like a bad-ass when a ‘TRIPMINE KILL’ flashes on screen twenty minutes after placing one. But even with the focus on getting to a vantage point as sneakily as possible, when it comes down to it, you still end up gunning down as many people as you can, as quickly as you can, and fire-fights are often unavoidable.

Luckily, the games major flaw makes these moments fairly easy to handle as the enemy AI is, frankly, a little slow. Fire-fights will have them leaping from cover for no apparent reason and when in stealth, enemy shots do not alert other enemies, and lying in wait is made all too easy with the dense German/Russian forces stumbling blindly into even obvious traps.

Enemy dialogue can be ‘listened to’ by enabling subtitles and the writing isn’t awful, though most soldiers seem to talk about their wives or ailments. Karl himself is your typical cheesy American hero, but you can forgive him for that, I’m sure. The score is suitably rousing for a WWII game and is acceptably background-y, which I like. The story, while not weak, is really only worth listening to once. Any playthroughs beyond the first will likely have you focusing solely on game mechanics rather than Karl’s oft-punctuating dulcet tones.

In fact, there’s little replayability unless you’re a fan of collection side-missions, or enjoy watching kill-cams on strategically placed wine bottles. There is something to be said for retrying the entire game on it’s hardest mode, which offers no help from the UI and gives you a smidgen more of the ‘sniper simulator’ feeling, but the linearity of the missions leaves little room for experimentation.

I think the saddest thing overall is that the majority of the game can be accomplished (arguably more quickly and more interestingly) without a sniper rifle at all. Your silenced Welrod pistol quickly becomes your best friend as the winding underground tunnels of a V2 facility, or the maze-like back alleys of war-torn Berlin prove to be harsh worlds for those with a trigger-happy rifle finger.

Perhaps sadder still was that I’ve been unable to try out the multiplayer which has, by all accounts, been lauded as a success. Perhaps I’m just too late from release, or perhaps my dodgy internet connection just won’t allow it, but the joys and perhaps potential for replay in co-op mode, or the more obvious death-match style modes will remain out of reach.

In the end, Sniper Elite V2 can be a rough ride on harder difficulties or a little tedious on easier ones, the worryingly bloody kill-cams can either be a delight or a frustration and the campaign, while it might keep you playing for a casual week or a hardcore day, seems to end pretty quickly. It’s a game full of miniature epic moments and the occasional few larger ones that do seem to keep their wow factor through multiple playthroughs. The stealth aspect and decent sniper moments sets this apart from being yet another war game and it’s undeniably fun – but for how long? Well, that’s down to each individual player, but it’s definitely a good game to show off to your mates on a Saturday afternoon.

After all, who wouldn’t be impressed by an 800m nut-shot?

Header Link: Sniper Elite V2: Downloads: Wallpapers

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 1, 2013 4:11 am

    Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for details about this subject for ages and yours is the best I’ve located so far.

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