Breathing life back into last-gen titles can be a bit of a risk, and while some have been hugely successful (like Ratchet and Clank for example) others have suffered from either some unfortunate design decisions (hello Worms 3D). And so with Sniper Elite V2, 505 Games have taken a reasonable, but not spectacular game from a few years back and given it a lick of HD coloured paint. The result? Pretty respectable…
The title of the game gives a pretty good impression of what this is all about, and while you’ll always get COD and Battlefield players bragging about their ability to sit 42 miles away from their enemy and still kill them, their bragging will stop short when they see just what you’ve achieved here. With the wind blowing and gravity doing what it does (COD snipers might need to look that up) you squeeze the trigger and follow your bullet as it flies through the air, moving across a bit and always dropping as a result of the world around it. Moments later, it rips through the forehead of the enemy in a glorious x-ray moment that gives you a brutal idea of just how much time it’s going to take to clear that particular mess up. This isn’t a kid’s toy, this is a violently accurate sniping simulator.
Set in the 2nd World War and with a story that is trick to spot and easy to forget you follow one guy through a series of increasingly difficult and daring missions. Whether you’re trying to disrupt a convoy (as seen in the demo), infultrate an enemy base or blow up a bridge the premise is the same: keep quiet, keep hidden, and keep killing. As soon as you start making a noise things are going to get difficult, and although your inventory features a mchine gun in addition to the sniper rifle and silenced pistol, it’s clear that getting into a firefight in open ground isn’t the best plan – that’s made obvious when you die very quickly. Instead you’ll be best served sneaking around, hiding behind cover and spotting your enemies from afar with your binoculars. Only then can you plan your attack strategy – do you take out isolated targets under the cover of a nearby explosion which masks the sound of your rifle, or do you make yourself known, shoot moving targets and hope that you haven’t missed an enemy sniper sat in the building opposite?
There are plenty of opportunities to stay sneaky and out of sight, although that’s easier in some areas than others. When trying to reach a vantage point at the top of a museum I got so annoyed with trying to sneak up and dying every time that I opted to just run like hell and hope nobody caught me. Bizarrely that as the most successful route; not what you expect from a game so intent on making you slow down. This in itself is ok, it forces you to think aout alternative options, but it took me over an hour to complete that mission (including the bits before and after the museum). There are checkpoints along the way for you to return to when you’re killed, but these are spaced out in a very old school way, and you’ll often take a huge leap back before you can start again. Worse still, if you quit the game because you’ve got to go somewhere, had enough or whatever else you start back at the beginning of the whole level, not the last checkpoint. With levels taking over an hour, that’s not really acceptable and can be very very frustrating if you find it difficult to find more than half an hour at a time.
But aside from the dodgy checkpoints the game itself is very enjoyable. You can have some fun with the bullet cam, trying to hit specific parts of the body or killing two people with the same bullet. Being able to very visibly shoot a guard in the balls is a perfect mix between stunning accuracy and eye-watering results, and I surprised myself by not getting bored with the zoomy camera – that’s helped though by the fact it doesn’t happen every time. The visuals throughout are decent without ever standing out. You get to a fair few high vantage points where the surroundings show perfectly just how destructive the war was, but having seen the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Arkham City and Infamous doing a splendid job of sprawling cities seen from high up, it’s noticable that this isn’t the most graphically strong game you’ll get to experience. It’s not terrible by any means, but there’s no denying that more could have been done.
The sound too is a little uninspired, and while you can tell quite nicely when an enemy is nearby as a result of them having a conversation with someone (or themselves) the music is repetitive despite the fact it doesn’t get used much. The voiceover that explains the missions sounds a bit bored and pissed off too, which doesn’t do much to psych you up for the upcoming challenges.
If you fancy a change from the single player campaign there are a couple of online options available. Obviously competitive multiplayer is out (imagine 8 people all tucked up into tiny windows in tall buildings looking for each other… possibly the least enticing prospect ever) and the developers have wisely focussed on co-op play instead. You can either play through the campaign together, play a survival mode that’s becoming quite common now in games and a final mode whereby one player has to complete an objective while the other provides cover, picks out enemies and generally gives support. Communication is key for all of these types, with obvious ramifications if your cover is blown by your partner bumbling around making far too much noise. Online play works well (helped by only having one other person to keep up with) and the options are a very worthwhile diversion if you need something else to do alongside the main campaign.
Sniper Elite V2 is a tough one to call. The game itself works very well, and being able to make life difficult by turning on all of the physics-based options gives you a sensible but hugely challenging task. The problems that do exist in terms of the rough visuals, occasionally tough cover system and insane non-save points could be enough to put people off, but that would be a shame. Provided you can accept the gripes there’s a very enjoyable, and very different, game to be had underneath and fans of war-based titles that fancy a change of pace could do a lot worse. It’s not the remake it could have been, but it’s still worth a shot if you liked the demo.
Reviewed on PS3 & Xbox 360