- Kill-cams look great
- Custom difficulty levels
- A nice change of pace for a shooter
- Levels are a bit on-the-rails
- Story gets a bit silly
- No option to show off my best shots
Back in 2005 a different kind of WWII shooter was produced and released by Rebellion Studios. That shooter was Sniper Elite, a game that placed you in the role of US Sniper Karl Fairburne, as he stalked the bombed streets of Berlin in 1945 attempting to prevent nuclear secrets falling into the hands of Soviet forces. Seven years on and Rebellion are about to release Sniper Elite V2; a game that places you in the role of OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officer and elite sniper, Karl Fairburne, as he stalks the bombed streets of Berlin attempting to prevent German V2 rocket scientists from defecting to Soviet forces. Sound familiar?
The game even takes place in the same time period of WWII, during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945 when the US and allied forces carried out operations to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany. Events begin with the Russians already banging on the door to Berlin, and a few key rocket scientists already planning on defecting to work with the Soviets. Karl’s mission brief is simple: liberate any scientists he can, or make sure the ones he can’t, or won’t, don’t live long enough to share their secrets with the Reds.
Rather than the story just moving to different locations around Berlin, with a new target assigned each time, the plot attempts to twist and turn its way through conspiracy – and soon reveals the game’s main bad guys. Although it is typical video game story telling, it almost manages to break Sniper Elite V2′s strongest gameplay mechanics by getting all a bit silly. The game works hard at creating the feeling of a lone sniper, deep behind enemy lines and where one bad decision or careless shot could soon have you full of holes. Just when you’re really feeling the tension of making quick and calculated decisions on the best moment to drop your target, the story pops up again and shatters any sense of realism.
But, putting the story aside, Sniper Elite V2 still manages to entertain and is a nice change of pace when it comes to shooters. If you’re the run and gun type then you’re going to struggle getting through the game’s eight hour campaign. As you are probably aware, the true nature of the sniper is far from glamorous. Often they will remain perched in their vantage points for a few days at a time just waiting for that perfect target opportunity to stroll into their kill zone. Obviously that would make for a pretty boring video game, and also leads me onto the first thing that the game does well – the pacing. Each mission has a nice balance of exploring (even if it is rather minimal exploring), planning, stealth and action.
Another area that Sniper Elite V2 does well is in the difficulty levels. It comes with the standard easy, normal and hard, but also adds in the option to customise the game’s challenge to how you want to play. If you fancy setting the game so that Karl can take more damage, but still want more accurate bullet physics then you can. On easy there is no need to worry about bullet physics, Karl becomes pretty much bullet proof and enemy AI is at its most casual – certainly not the best way to play for the best possible experience. So, being able to set the way you want to play is certainly a welcome addition.
Visually the game comes across as a bit of a mixed bag. There are times when bombed out Berlin looks great, and other times when it just looks all rather average. It certainly appears that most of the work has been done in the x-ray style camera view that results from a well placed shot. As soon as you pull the trigger the camera focuses on the bullet from the moment it leaves the barrel of your rifle to the moment of impact. Along with a satisfying sound of flesh, bone and organs being ripped apart, a coloured x-ray shows the internal damage caused. During the course of the game, and again depending on difficulty, it happens pretty often. But even if it happened on every shot, seeing the damage caused by the single bullet never stops getting old – and never once does it not make you wince even the slightest bit. However, it would of been nice to be able to have some kind of save feature where you could keep and share your best shots with friends.
Although each of the missions feel different enough, offering various objectives from taking out a key target to gaining valuable intelligence, it’s the way the levels have been designed that can be seen as a little disappointing. Although each one does offer slightly different routes through, it’s pretty much on the rails stuff. In most cases, there isn’t much need in planning or finding the perfect sniper spot. It would of been much nicer to be given your target and objectives, and then let loose in a small sandbox area of Berlin to approach how you want. This would of also meant tracking your target and looking for the best window of opportunity. The more linear path isn’t a bad thing by far, and does help with the pacing, it just feels that in doing so it loses some of what it means to be a WWII sniper behind enemy lines.
Overall, Sniper Elite V2 is not a bad game at all, it’s just one that you can’t help feel could of been better. The kill-cams really are the star of the show. When you achieve one with the highest level of bullet physics switched on, it certainly feels satisfying. The main campaign will last around the eight hour mark, again depending on the level of difficulty you choose. Multiplayer co-op will also keep you busy long after the campaign has finished and spans four different modes; the best of which is a “horde” like mode. I never thought I would say this, but going back to WWII certainly sets it apart from all the other modern shooters out there. Like I have said already, Sniper Elite V2 is far from being a bad game, and is worth the price for the kill-cams alone, it just seems to fall short of the true sniper experience that the original managed to get so right.