by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
The Sniper’s Playground
When sniping, players playing on anything other than easy have to account for real-world problems that plague sharpshooters every day. Issues such as bullet drop over distance, lead time, stance, heart rate and even wind speeds in and around the target must be accounted for when taking an accurate shot at your target. With only the indicators on your rifle’s scope and an estimated distance to target to work with, higher difficulties in the game can be incredibly tough. To make things a little more manageable, the game features a similar mechanic as Bullet Time called Focus Time. It can only be activated when the heart rate is low enough, slows down time and shows a targeting reticule in your scope to indicate exactly where the bullet will strike.
At random, the camera follows bullets along their flight path, usually to show the impact of the round. Often, however, it will zoom in on the actual damage that the bullet inflicts, showing an anatomic cutaway of the victim and the destruction the round wreaks upon him as it tears through the body. The result is both grotesque and awe-inspiring, easily making it one of the most memorable and oddly enjoyable features that Sniper Elite V2 has to offer. Needless to say, this game is not for the faint of heart.
Visually, the game is filled to the brim with browns and greys and looks muddled as a result. Granted, its setting in a war-torn city asks for depressive colors but something a little livelier would have been welcome. Fortunately the does manage to sell the player on being witness to the fall of Berlin. Many locations feel authentic, triggering the imagination on what it must have been like when the Soviet army stormed into the city.
Level design is mostly a linear affair, though later levels feel a little more ‘sandboxey’. The game comes to life when that happens, especially during a particularly fun mission where you can explore freely after being tasked to infiltrate a Soviet base next to a bombed-out and rubble-filled neighborhood. At other times, the game has you sneaking through destroyed churches and advancing on flak towers. There is a fair balance between linear levels and open ones but I can’t help but wish for more of the latter.
The game’s surround sound only rarely offers a better experience than that of basic stereo. A rock hitting the ground while a large explosion is going off can clearly be heard, but shouldn’t. In contrast, weapons fire can often sound muffled despite occurring almost right next to the player. The game features authentic sounding German and Russian voice work but Fairborne’s voice is very monotone and lacks emotion. Sniper Ellite’s soundtrack doesn’t fare much better either. It is generic and indistinguishable from any other war game and, given its uniqueness, deserves a good musical allotment.
One in the Chamber
While for the most part Sniper Elite V2 adopts a standard control scheme, some of the game’s design choices contrast its tactical nature. When crouched, player movement only has one speed and has the camera stuck to the player. An unlocked camera would have suited the game much better. Similarly, the player character is locked to the left third of the screen and cannot be shifted to the right unless in cover, making it quite difficult to see around corners in enclosed environments.
An experienced shooter fan can complete the campaign in a single afternoon and - other than replaying the campaign cooperatively or completing challenges - there’s not much left to do afterwards. The ending is very abrupt and leaves the player wanting more which is a sign of the game’s quality, but also of something unfinished. DLC is expected to be released in the near future, but right out of the box, V2 doesn’t offer much else.
That said, Sniper Elite V2 is a great example of how to make a shooter different. Minor issues and a few odd design choices aside, Rebellion’s remake of the sleeper is just as much fun and clever as today’s triple-A releases. More importantly, it shows that being a World War II game isn’t necessarily undesirable and constrained fiction may just prove to be the way forward for the genre as a whole.
Fun sniper gameplay, gut-wrenching kill cams
Questionable stealth gameplay issues, lack of weapon variety, mediocre controls