I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of the x-ray kill cam in the Sniper Elite series. While war is never intended to be glorified, this close-up of your bullet cutting through enemies gives you such a sense of accomplishment and morbid satisfaction. Seeing this in virtual reality further cements this feature as one of my favourites across the entire video game spectrum. Watching as your bullet punctures every internal organ, or smash off a jaw in bloody fashion makes every kill a small victory, however, Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is much more than the feature the series is known for.
The three main modes in Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior all offer something exciting, making use of the authentic controls. The main campaign sees you play as an Italian resistance soldier during WWII whose sole focus is fighting off the Nazi forces from your home soil. Many of the missions involve taking out the Axis using an array of weaponry familiar from the time, and exactly how you do so is up to you. The sniper rifle is obviously the key weapon in your arsenal, but their are shotguns, rocket launchers, SMGs, and grenades to help keep things fresh.
The way you load your weapons with ammo is incredibly realistic, and the precision you have when firing is great. To load ammo into your rifle, you’ll need to pull back the bolt, grab bullets from the satchel on your waist, put them in the gun, then push the bolt forward. Pistols require the mag to be removed and a new one put in, whereas the one-use panzerfausts need the distance bar lifting and both hands placed on it to fire. Every weapon requires different prep and calibration, adding to the authenticity of being a soldier in World War 2. My favourite weapon was the welrod, a stealth-focused bolt action pistol. While going in loud is an option, playing it quiet is much more effective.
Stealth is a a possibility via other means, as well. In certain missions, anti-aircraft guns and planes can mask the sound of your bullet firing, offering up ways to remain undetected when killing the enemy. You can also smash an enemy over the head with your fists or an equipped weapon to remain silent. I found using my fists didn’t work as well as using a weapon, leading to some frustrating moments where I had to replay a fair amount of the game. Save points are few and far between, so being cautious and making the right shot is something you’re always having to do.
I played on both the Meta Quest 2 and 3, and while it looked a lot crisper on the latter, owners of a Quest 2 are still going to appreciate the level of detail in the level design, weapon animations, and that wonderful x-ray kill cam. Whether you’re at the docks, a German mansion, or a weapons facility, each level looks great, and the designs allow you to get creative with how and where you dispatch enemies from. The x-ray kill cam is glorious, especially as you follow the bullet, and, at the moment of impact, you’re brought right up-close to see its path as it dices arteries, organs, bones, and flesh. Just Add Water has done a great job with the VR, and the snowy environments are a particular highlight.
It’s the simple things where Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is at its best. Holding the sight to your eye, guiding it across the environment, holding your breath, and finally pulling the trigger with both trepidation and focus provides the most authentic experience as a sniper to date. One of the other two modes, Sniper Hunt, is a fun way to make full use of the weapon as you have to take out a number of infantrymen before the enemy sniper shows themselves. Enemy at the Gates, a movie from 2001 about two rival snipers, feels very similar to this mode as it’s about patience. Waiting for them to show themselves, either by spotting them relocate across rooftops or as the glint of light hits your eye, takes time, but getting that kill feels all the more special.
The other mode in Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior, sees you facing waves of enemies for as long as you can. Accurately called Last Stand, these waves increase in the number of enemies and how varied their attacks are. Staying in one place isn’t advised, but with plenty of weapons and ammo to get your hands on, mixing up ways to kill them never gets stale. When it does take its toll, and enemies flood the battlefield firing bullets that take you to within an inch of your life, the elation of getting as far as you can never feels disappointing because of how fun it is to play.
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is true-to-life shooter where every kill feels important. The controls work really well when it comes to preparing your shot and getting your weapons ready, and the range of environments are beautiful to look at. While some missions aren’t doing anything particularly different compared to other shooters, it’s the level of detail and authenticity where Just Add Water have massively succeeded. Enemies can often spot you a bit too quickly, but it puts emphasis on what the role of a sniper has and always will be about: patience, silence, and success.
Sniper Hunt is a standout mode
AI can be alerted too easily
Using your fist is awkward
Few save points
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