by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
One Shot, One Kill
If you were to go up to the average shooter fan and ask them what they thought of titles set during World War II you’ll probably hear one of two answers: that they became oversaturated during the last decade or that nothing interesting can or could be told about them. Yet I look around and shelves brimming with nothing but modern, ‘cutting edge’ titles using the same plot and the same generic bad guys time and time again. I can’t help but want to revisit the days in which our enemies really were evil and not just a matter of perspective and consequence. In games, victory is assured through technological might and tenacity of Western powers but during World War II, victory was anything but certain, making it a far more interesting playground and offering plenty of room to explore new fiction.
The Waning War
Despite the American and British’s best efforts, it was the Soviet Union that charged into Berlin first and ended the five year struggle to rid Europe of Hitler’s fascist regime. With the end of the war in sight Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met in February of 1945 to discuss the post-war reconstruction and reorganization of Germany and its conquered nations. What followed was a behind-the-scenes scramble to gain control of Nazi technology, scientists and an all out attempt by both sides to place socialistic or democratic influence over the region. Europe would become center stage for a drama of ideologies that would engulf the world for the next fifty years. In Sniper Elite V2 puts you at the heart of it.
You play as OSS officer Karl Fairborne, inserted into Berlin in April of 1945. As the Germans fight a losing war of attrition against an overwhelming Soviet army, you are tasked with capturing or killing key German scientists attached to the V-2 rocket program that had been used against Allied cities such as Antwerp and London during the preceding years. With the war almost certainly won, you must do your best to prevent the Soviets from gaining these personnel at all costs. Without backup and both the German and Soviet forces considering you hostile, you are alone in the middle of one of the biggest battles in military history hoping to shape the future of a war that hasn’t even officially begun.
Sniper Elite V2 consist of nine different levels located in and around Berlin. Across the roughly six to eight hour campaign you will stalk your prey as the city falls around you and complete missions in a mostly linear fashion, completing objectives dictated to you in a pre-mission briefing. Other than a scant few cut-scenes, Sniper Elite is a decidedly lonely experience with little to no story narration or emotional pull to be had. This harkens back to a time in which shooters could be emotionally closed off and didn’t try to pull on your heartstrings. For a title such as this, it is all but necessary. Sometimes it’s just better to choose to give the player the tools to complete his mission and not much else and, at least in the case of Sniper Elite, this is the right call.
Lining Up the Target
Most shooters are run-and-gun, macho affairs where you play as a super soldier that can withstand pain as if bullets were mere pebbles thrown at you by a five year old. Sniper Elite V2 is the antithesis of this gameplay formula as you are far more human than in most games. The game does feature the commonplace regenerative health scheme but a burst of machine gun fire will end you quickly.
Going beyond the health scheme, Sniper Elite is a tactical shooter and gameplay is both slow and methodical. The majority of your playtime, the game actively discourages you from playing in any other style than a tortoise-like advance through the battlefield. It incorporates a stealth gameplay mechanic that seems to have come right out of Splinter Cell Conviction, were it not for the fact that some issues are keeping it from reaching the same heights.
The game takes line-of-sight far more seriously than player illumination and discrepancies rear their ugly heads more often than not during the later stages. For instance, a machine gunner can see you from fifty meters away in the dark, while some other enemies can’t see you from as little as 10 meters away. More often than not, an enemy sniper will see you long before you see them. Taking them out makes such a noise that it eliminates any hope of getting the drop on the enemies directly in front of you. This leaves the game’s stealth element difficult to use, sometimes frustratingly so. It is manageable but it takes some getting used to.
As the game’s title implies and demands, V2’s primary gameplay has you focusing on sniping targets from afar while trying to be as well hidden as possible. Over time you will earn new sniper rifles to get that offer enhancements such as increased ammunition capacity and enhanced magnification on weapon scopes. Players are unable to customize their primary weapon though, so you miss out somewhat on feeling like you are a professional sniper. Given that the weapon selection in 1945 was decidedly limited, this is but a minor issue in my eyes.
Fun sniper gameplay, gut-wrenching kill cams
Questionable stealth gameplay issues, lack of weapon variety, mediocre controls