Sniper Elite V2 Preview
For all of today’s military shooters that preach of realism and promise accurate representations of warzones past, present, future, fictional and non-fictional; the Call of Dutys, Battlefields and Medal of Honors of this world do little to show the player that war is not always about gung-ho heroes and run-and-gun tactics. I would imagine that transferring the playstyles of these games to a real-world warzone would at best, end in injury; at worst, death.
Sometimes it takes patience and proper planning to win a war; choosing your targets selectively and thinking of the bigger picture before a shot is fired. It just so happens that the previous sentence could be used to accurately describe Sniper Elite V2.
Veteran British developers Rebellion took an interesting approach to war with the release of the original Sniper Elite in 2005 for Xbox, PC (and later, Wii). The concept of becoming an Allied sniper in World War II, with stealth and environmental awareness serving as more effective weapons than standard firearms, is one that set it apart from the many other World War II-themed games available at the time. A console generation later, V2 brings back these ideas to create a more cerebal combat experience.
Returning as Karl Fairburne, the player finds themselves in Germany near the end of the war. The Nazis are practically making a last stand, as forces from both the Allied Nations and Russia begin to roll into Berlin. Secretly, the Germans have been developing the V-2 rocket; the first long-range combat-ballistic missile ever created. Fairburne has been tasked with ensuring that the Allies obtain the V-2 technology, while keeping it out of the hands of the Russians; by assassinating V-2 scientists who intend to defect to the Russians, or rescuing scientists that can be turned to the side of the Allies.
Sniper Elite V2’s Senior Producer, Steve Hart walked us through sections of two of the game’s eleven missions. Beginning with the second level, he strolled through the decimated streets of Berlin, to assassinate a Nazi scientist and retrieve some V-2 intel from his corpse. Gameplay is in the third person, with an emphasis on stealth; players can walk while crouched, to move around without being detected. Right from the start of the mission, Steve demonstrated one of the game’s more low-tech items; a rock that can be picked up and thrown to distract and lure enemy soldiers, while he sneaked past them, undetected.
Upon reaching a suitable vantage point, it is possible to use a pair of standard issue binoculars to survey the environment. This enables the player to take a closer look at enemies for further information such as rank, weaponry and their distance away from them. Enemy soldiers can also be tagged with a marker, to make it easier to keep track of enemy movements. While inspecting the area, an enemy sniper was spotted from their own vantage point, it was highlighted that there are situations where the player will need to decide what targets need to be taken out first: Do you take out the closest enemy that is likely to notice you are there and raise the alarm, or do you dispatch the sniper that is just waiting for you to make a mistake. There is then the issue of protecting your vantage point, which is where landmines and tripmines come into play, these defences are suitable for placement in doorways and corridors, acting as an early warning alarm, should an unnoticed enemy try sneak up from behind.
Once the targets had been identified and the plan of attack had been decided, it was time to “Go loud” as Steve exclaimed, switching to the sniper rifle, a typical scope view appeared. From here it is apparent that sniping in this game takes a different approach. When targetting, the player needs to think about the distance and enivonmental factors before pulling the trigger, plus in the bottom-left side of the screen the player is given a heartbeat reading in beats per minute (bpm). The faster your heart beats, the more difficult it is to focus on a target; in times like this, you need to exhale and expel the air from your lungs; this calming action helping to steady your aim before you take that deadly first shot.
Once the trigger is pulled, there is no turning back. Should the sniper’s aim be true, the game’s defining KillCam feature triggers, showing a bullet’s journey from muzzle to target. Depending on how good the shot was (the game scores you on your accuracy), an X-Ray view is shown of the bullet piercing through skin, shattering bones and sometimes, utterly destroying vital organs. Watching a well placed chunk of lead, puncture a human being’s lung in slow motion is surprisingly shocking, showing the player a grisly consequence of their actions. These sequences are calculated on the fly, and are not canned animations; at one point, a soldier was shot in the hand, his finger bones crumbling upon impact.
Once the KillCam has done it’s work, it was time to dispatch the rest of the enemies. A flurry of KillCam sequences after (we were told that the demo triggers KillCams more than usual, which will be rectified in the final game) it was time to move to the next objective (a dynamic music system indicates whether enemies are still in the area); placing explosives to set a trap for the German scientist’s convoy. Once completed, it was time to travel to the next vantage point, to oversee the convoy roll into position.
After the explosives had been triggered, chaos ensues and a Tiger tank rolls in, to come after the player. Steve points out that this particular kind of tank had it’s own Achilles’ Heel; the fuel tanks on it’s rear, with their bright red caps practically screaming “Shoot me”. A well placed shot later, and the tank was toast; with only a few German soldiers in the way, it was only a matter of time until the Scientist would be assassinated, and the Intel recovered.
What impressed me about Sniper Elite V2, is the idea that the player actually has to think like a sniper. A popular sniper tactic is to wound an enemy, so that their colleagues will leave their post to retrieve their fallen comrade (and turning them into an easy target in the process) – This is a valid tactic that can be used in the game.
When walking us through the tenth level of the game (set in the trenches, in the middle of a battle between Russian and Nazi troops), thunder and lighting pounds the battlefield. An icon in the top-right of the screen will flash up when a crack of thunder is heard. This allows particularly smart snipers to use the thunder to their advantage, taking shots that would otherwise be so loud it would alert the enemy.
It’s these details, that make Sniper Elite V2 an interesting alternative to the modern day military-themed game. The emphasis of stealth and encouraging the player to think before they act, makes this game one to watch when it is released sometime in May. Keep an eye on GodisaGeek.com in the coming days, for an insightful interview with Senior Producer, Steve Hart.
Snipe Elite V2 is due to be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC at some point in 2012. As soon as a firm release date is announced, you’ll know about it from GodisaGeek.com.