Rebellion and 505 Games tempt us back to World War II with the chance to shoot Nazis from a cunningly concealed vantage point.
Placed in the role of Karl Fairburne, an American sniper, the player follows a story in which they will travel around war-torn Berlin towards the final part of World War II. The missions start with the player being tasked with killing some German scientists behind an experimental rocket programme. Of course, things don’t necessarily go according to plan, but I won’t spoil the fun for you.
As a sniper, the game play is much more thoughtful and careful than most other shooters out there. As is often the case, there is a degree of choice about how the player approaches each mission, and the chance to run and gun with the Nazis is available and sometimes unavoidable, but the emphasis is on stealth – finding the perfect sniping position, getting there without being seen, making your shots and then escaping before the enemy even knows what hit them.
To aid the player in their mission, there are certain tools of the trade. Perhaps the most important are the binoculars, allowing the player to not only examine their surroundings and plan the best course of action, but also to tag enemy troops in preparation of what comes later. The player has to plan ahead and ensure they have an escape route, and that they will not be disturbed whilst lying prone, waiting for the perfect shot. For this, the player has a variety of trip-wire explosives, land mines and such with which to lay traps and ensure that the way will remain clear. They even have a pocket full of handy stones with which to distract the often slightly dim-witted troops.
Where Sniper Elite V2 excels is when the player finds themselves in a relatively safe position overlooking enemies that they can comfortably pick off one at a time whilst they run around like headless chickens. Sure, they will quickly work out your position and start shooting back, but by that point the player generally has found their stride and can just take them out when they pop their heads out from whatever cover they may have been using. These sequences are particularly satisfying.
Your standard shot from a distance will see the enemy soldier crumple to the ground like a sack of potatoes. However, if you manage to score a particularly impressive shot, everything goes into slow motion as the camera follows the bullet, whizzing through the air. Upon contact with the enemy, an x-ray view is provided and the player will be treated to a quite graphic visual that shows exactly what damage their bullet is doing to the body of the enemy. Watch in awe as the bullet rips through the bone and muscle of whichever body part it hits, even some parts that we would rather not be seeing. It is incredibly graphic and I really don’t want to say that it is enjoyable to watch. But it is and the player will find themselves taking extra time to try and get a shot that results in an even more impressive explosion of bone and body parts than their last. Or maybe I am just sick?
Depending on the difficulty level that the player has chosen, sniping can be as easy as pointing and shooting, or as difficult as having to take into account wind, movement and distance, then having to hold their breath for extra stability before taking the shot. The higher difficulties do make the game much more complex, but also more satisfying when the perfect shot is achieved. These perfect shots don’t always translate to a simple headshot, but may mean destroying an entire tank by shooting a really small fuel cap, shooting a particular body part on the enemy, or shooting a grenade and watching the surrounding soldiers being thrown into the air like ragdolls.
When things do get up close and personal with the enemy, Sniper Elite V2 does falter slightly. Sneaking around is not always possible, and when the player finds themselves having to draw their pistol to fight their way through a bunch of enemies, the action does feel a lot more generic, but not up to the standard of games which make this their focus. The controls are not as tight as you would want them, and the enemies still run around like headless chickens, even when not having to deal with a hidden threat. This is down to the enemy AI not being the brightest and often resulting in them doing incredibly stupid things.
Alongside the decent sized campaign, which should last between 10-12 hours, there are some nice co-op multiplayer options. Players can work through campaign missions and there are also a collection of dedicated co-op modes such as the excellent Overwatch, in which one player simply covers the other, and the Horde-style Kill Tally. Unfortunately, there is no competitive multiplayer on the console versions.
Considering that Sniper Elite V2 doesn’t have the same production values of the big name shooters out there, Rebellion have done a magnificent job of creating a game that is highly entertaining. The game is not without its problems, but the wonderful sniping sequences more than make up for them. We have had a short break from the World War II theme, which I think we all needed, so now would be the perfect time to head to Berlin and pick off some Nazis from a distance.