Game: Sniper Elite V2
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: 505 Games
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
The original Sniper Elite was released way back in 2005 and was reasonably well received. The gaming world has moved on quite a bit since then so Rebellion have decided to revisit their original title, bringing it back up to date with V2. It’s an interesting idea, rather than make a full-on sequel, they’ve remade the original game but added so much to it that it’s barely recognisable, but is it worth the discerning public’s hard earned cash?
STORY: Set during World War II, the player is cast as Karl Fairburne on his mission to apprehend, or kill, key Nazi scientists. Starting out in Berlin, the story quickly takes twists and turns to keep the player engaged at all times. The locations vary, meaning that most of the time the progression feels natural, though there are rarely examples where the narrative is fully fleshed out, most of the time the next level you’ll be in will be the place the previous level suggested you’d end up. Functional with some twists, the gameplay is the star but the story is most certainly engaging.
GRAPHICS: On the whole, Sniper Elite V2 is a good looking game. Character models are realistically done, environments that play host to Karl’s hiding spots are well designed and suitably rough around the edges to match the situation. Indoor areas are excellent too, creating tension at every corner with well placed enemy shadows and lighting.
Of course, most will have seen the kill cams by now, some of which are long, some are short, but somehow it never gets old. The kill cam is almost a reward for an excellent shot. Get the headshot and you’ll see it, it’s gruesome as hell, but oh so rewarding. There is yet more visual flair when it comes to the enemy spotting you, leaving a ghostly white image of where you were last spotted similar to other games in the stealth genre such as Splinter Cell: Conviction.
SOUND: Sniper Elite V2 is a tense game, that much is definite. The soundtrack enhances the tension no end, whether it be through the now-traditional use of hearing the protagonist breathing heavily as he aims down the sniper scope, or the chatter of the enemies. If you trigger an alert state through carelessness, the rest of the enemies will run around trying to discover the problem, the panic is palpable and transfers to the player, causing alarm and meaning you’ll need a calm hand to save the situation, it really does feel excellent.
The soundtrack throughout adds to the events of the game. You won’t hear blistering music blasting through your speakers when taking aim, Sniper Elite V2 just isn’t about bombast in that sense, you are alone on a would-be battlefield and you need to concentrate to make the shots, especially when trying to time a shot so that it is disguised.
GAMEPLAY: On the surface of things, it could be forgiveable to think that Sniper Elite V2 is a simple third person sniping stealth game with first person aiming, but where it truly excels is the amount of customisable ways you can take down the enemies. Sure, you could – if you so choose – just stay far away and aim down the scope, taking out each enemy one at a time, but you’re missing out on so many tactical advantages you can possess; and it’d be a crime to do so. You see, whilst stealth is a key part of how the game is played, it’s not done with the simplicity of so many other titles. You can make your way in, but you need to be mindful of your escape route.
It’s with that in mind that the toys come into play. Say you find a vantage point from which to snipe from, you want to be sure that nobody discovers you while you are stealthily killing the enemy. So, you plant a tripwire on the door frame that leads to your location, meaning that you’ve stopped the enemy finding you – by killing them – but also created an alarm system to ensure you aren’t caught on the job, it’s a brilliant feeling.
However, there’s so much more than just a simple tripwire. Most of these items are limited, but you can always throw rocks to distract the patrolling guards. Draw one away from the pack with this distraction technique, end his life, then put his body right in the middle of a patrol. Sounds daft, right? Sure, but that patrol will find the body along with the mine you’ve planted on the corpse too, taking them all out and saving you the time and effort of shooting them. Magnificent.
The sniping itself varies hugely depending on what difficulty you choose from the get go. There’s a hardcore simulation in here if you choose to take the higher difficulties, which will require you to take into account things like distance to target, wind-change, for want of a better phrase, it’s bloody hard. You can spot enemies too, so if you’re tracking a patrol that you want to tackle later, you can do exactly that.
Precision is the name of the game, an early level will see you, a lone sniper, take on a tank. It’s a little on the nose in how it’s explained, but being an early level Rebellion remind you that accuracy and precision are vital to being a good sniper, so you have to remove the tank from the equation by destroying its fuel tanks. The feeling of destroying a tank single handedly with a sniper rifle is cathartic and you’ll want to replay most of the levels for these stunning set pieces alone, before you even bring the collectibles into the equation.
When you are done with the campaign, a fairly hefty set of multiplayer options are also available. Mercifully, campaign co-op is included, but you can also take part in modes like Kill Tally, Bombing Run or Overwatch. All the modes continue the ethos of the single player, where gameplay is king. The lack of a more traditional death match or versus mode isn’t a problem whatsoever, as a game purely based on sniping could get very messy, very quickly.
Those competitivly natured people can scratch that itch in Kill Tally, which is also available in challenge mode if you want to practice on any given map. The more friendly gamer can just go through the campaign with a friend. Options are always great, but there’s no split-screen present, which is a shame, however, there’s plenty to do when it comes to the online modes, and score-chasers will love the leaderboards too.
LONGEVITY: The varying difficulty levels that change how the game actually feels mean that replayability for the people who don’t start on “hardest” is high. Sure, you’ll know the maps the second, or third, time around, but you’ll have to adjust to the more realistic feeling weaponry and enemy A.I. The actual single player campaign is of a decent length though and manages to engage the player throughout. There are plenty of hidden collectibles through the single player campaign too and a decent multiplayer rounds off the package, meaning that nobody will be complaining about value for money when it comes to Sniper Elite V2.
VERDICT: Sniper Elite V2 is an exhilarating experience, a brilliant example of gameplay being the most important thing when all is said and done. Whether you’re popping multiple heads off or settings traps to catch patrolling enemies off-guard, there’s never a dull moment as set-pieces amongst the core moment-to-moment gameplay constantly keep things fresh and interesting.
Even if you aren’t a fan of stealth games, you should still check Sniper Elite V2 out and see what it has to offer you. Mark my words, this could well be the sleeper hit of 2012.