It’s 1945, and the Axis forces have lost World War Two. The German army is in full retreat, and it’s up to you to send them a farewell, engraved on a 303 bullet, one soldier at a time. You find your mark, bring up your rifle, and steady your aim as clueless infantryman lines up in your cross-hairs.
You squeeze your trigger, and in a burst of gunpowder and duty, your round finds its mark, shattering bone and grey matter, all over a nearby wall. You’ve just taken the life of a man, and all that he could have ever been is busy oozing down from his fresh cavity, into the sidewalk.
And damn, did that feel satisfying.
Sniping games have never been the most successful sub-genre, when it comes to titles that have players focused on shooting all the soldiers from afar. It’s a fine line to cross, when it comes to balancing tense gameplay with believable action, a component that many games have failed at delivering upon, in the past.
Sniper Elite V2, however, doesn’t fall into this now stereotypical setback, as it manages to accurately deliver moments of calm with moments of great action and suspense. Even though our protagonist, Karl Fairburne, has the personality of a wet brick, Sniper still sets up some fantastic scenarios for which Fairburne has to flex his trigger-finger.
It’s not purely a Sniping game either, as players can choose from a limited arsenal, that includes a handgun and pistol, with which to deal death or escape from enemy forces. With a third person perspective, that focuses on action, you’d be forgiven for thinking of running through a game with gung-ho approach, blasting all enemies within earshot.
That’s the kind of approach to military gameplay, that will get a player killed in Sniper Elite. Karl can’t handle too much damage to his frail body, so you’ll have to think your way through levels, using stealth and traps to avoid enemy patrols, while using your sniper rifle advantage to pick off unprepared enemies.
Traps, such as trip-mines and grenades under bodies can be set, with which players can lure in soldiers by causing a commotion. it’s this very mechanic that forms the heart of the Sniper Elite approach to gameplay, one that focuses on controlling your theatre of warfare, that makes the game feel fresh and exciting.
Getting to those vantage points from which you can snipe from, is another story however, as players have to rely on stealth, instead of brute force, to get through. It’s this gameplay component that feels lacking however, and exhibits a few trademark Rebellion game flaws, such as movement and camera issues, that makes it feel like less of a feature, and more of an after-thought.
Fairburn walks as if he has just sharted himself, with a slow walk that can be unbearable at times, as you traverse across vast hallways and fields, to get to your designated spot. Sniper also borrows a few elements in the stealth genre from Splinter Cell: Conviction, such as enemies homing in on a silhouette of your last known position, or the fact that you can mark known adversaries through your binoculars.
I’d be upset with this flagrant borrowing aspect, but yet, for Sniper Elite, it works beautifully. Enemy AI isn’t too fantastic either, as Hitler was obviously recruiting from soldiers whose parents also doubled as siblings, towards the end of the war.
Soldiers will blunder past you, not noticing the silenced pistol pointed at their jackboots, while duelling with enemy snipers, over the crack of high-calibre rifles, will elicit less than a “achtung” from the oblivious troopers.
So far, you’ve got a game that has some poor cover-based and movement mechanics, as well as an AI that is about as intelligent as a Michael Bay film.
But once you’re up in your nest, and you do decide to start sniping, the game really picks up. One key feature of the title, is that bullets, when fired,will occasionally trigger a slow-motion video of the damage done to a human body.
Blood splatters, bone shatters and organs rupture, as the projectile creates an exit wound. You’d think that after seeing it a hundred times, the visuals would become bland and boring but it never does.
It’s like watching a train loaded with Lamborghini Aventadors crash. It’s horrible, yet strangely beautiful to watch, especially in a slow motion replay. Depending on the difficulty selected, the actual art of sniping is going to present some authentic challenges.
On easy difficulty, players can point and shoot, but change it to normal and higher, and you’ll find a gun that bobs with your breathing and heart rate, while the bullet itself can be altered off course by wind and perhaps even the Coriolis effect of the earth.
Depending on your mindset, this authenticity could be a boon, especially for the niche gamer. This is where the game shines. Not in the meandering stealth sections, or capable online and challenge multiplayer modes, but in the art of firing off round after round from your rifle, using your environment to your advantage, and tagging enemies with new and interesting ways to extinguish life.
The story itself can be completed in around 6-8 hours, leaving players with the added multiplayer modes to tinker with. An online co-op mode covers four more missions, but it’s just not as strong as the fantastically fun single-player mode, while a challenge mode pits “hordes” of enemies against you, which increases with difficulty as the game progresses.
PC players get a more substantial competitive multiplayer than console owners, while the Overwatch option has two players teaming up as spotters and snipers. Even though Sniper Elite doesn’t exactly shine visually, the game still manages to create a war torn Europe that feels real and authentic. Rubble litters the streets, while torn propaganda posters flitter around, with enemy forces wearing well researched uniforms.
It’s clear that the bulk of the graphical budget has gone into the X-Ray kill mechanic, and it shows beautifully, while the sound of the game will benefit anyone that enjoys playing with a system that costs the same as a small car.
Rebellion and 505 Games have hit a few of the usual pitfalls, that are commonly associated with their games and controls, which come off as sloppy, when examined. Stealth and movement is competent, but not perfect, while the pace of the game itself could have done with some extra polish.
But when players reach their vantage point, the entire game changes, as the slick setup emerges. Realistic sniping, bullet-time disguised as breath-holding and a playground of experimental violence awaits, for those players eager to catch a high score.
Design and Presentation: 6.9/10
It’s not pretty, but it’s not terrible either. Enemies look fine, average and the action that unveils on screen is consistent and never drops a frame, while the gorgeously gory X-Ray kills are an occasional highlight, amongst the loud cracks and bangs of the battlefield.
The story, of rescuing or killing defecting Axis rocket scientists, while not exactly thrilling, is competent enough to keep the story moving.
PC multiplayer has more bells and whistles than the console versions, but the options on offer will keep the action flowing for a few weeks. It’s the urge to improve and experiment that really makes the game stand out, as you look for new ways to dominate and control your surroundings.
It may not be the greatest war game ever produced, but it certainly is the best sniping game to appear, in recent history. Make no mistake, Sniper Elite has some flaws, but they aren’t game breaking errors, that derail the fun from this title.
It’s a gem of a title, that will appeal to those military nuts that want something less chaotic, and more intelligent, resulting in a game that is a thinking mans shooter. Plus, I got to shoot Hitler in the head, splattering his grey matter, much to the delight of my Jewish friends.
Last Updated: May 21, 2012