It’s that time to pick up your trusty Springfields and travel back in time to 1942 where, in case you hadn’t noticed, the world is at war for a second time and there’s an abundance of malevolent, malodorous Nazi’s to kill! (and if you pre-ordered the game then Adolf Hitler too!) If that wasn’t a deal breaker for you, consider the rest of my review.
I’m talking about Sniper Elite V2, an interesting take on the Nazi shooting genre that puts you behind the scope of an American Sniper on a mission to assassinate some of the fuhrers most valuable assets, his scientists, (specifically the ones responsible for the development of the V2 rockets) by taking them out from a great distance. Fortunately, for those that crave more variety, killing isn’t all you’ll be doing; sometimes you’ll be sabotaging weapons factories, retrieving intel and disabling vehicles.
After a short introduction and mission briefing you’re dropped right into a delightfully detailed and decimated Berlin, given a quick run down of the various sniping techniques and equipment you’ll need to use through a tutorial mission and the rest you’ll pick up by yourself. The controls are simple and familiar to anybody who’s played an FPS game in the last 10 years, making it fairly accessible.
What makes this third person action adventure stand out amongst its peers is the satisfying X-Ray kill cam that lets you see hearts and lungs tear, livers burst, bones and teeth shatter, and entrails fall out. You wont have any trouble aiming for vital organs either, as in Marksman/Normal difficulty a red diamond will appear in your cross hair telling you where the bullets will go. On higher difficulties this red diamond isn’t present, instead you have to take into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration and aim stability to get the perfect shot. It adds some welcome realism to an already authentic war game.
The X-Ray shooting is really enjoyable and a big part of the game’s appeal, it’s what makes the game hard to put down as you try to discover more extreme shots. The game redeems itself with this feature where it fails to impress in terms of narrative. There are short cut-scenes here and there with briefings on each objective before the start of every mission but you’re never fully engrossed in a story that been re-told so many times before, you’re more eager to shoot bullets through people’s testicles.
There are other death dealing methods worth discovering and all the different ways you can take out enemies are pretty special, however every one of these alternative executions falls under the umbrella category all gamers will be familiar with “shoot the red barrel” (or sometimes warheads, propane tanks or even a truck’s fuel canister.) If you find your supply of environmental explosives in short supply, then you can always use some dynamite which can be requisitioned from dead soldiers along with trip mines and land mines.
All these different methods add a surprising level of depth to what is at it’s core a simple sniping game, you can replay a mission multiple times but never have it go the same way, it’s up to you whether you want to play it safe and stealthy or go completely gun-ho suicidal nut job. In my experience the death wish approach didn’t really pan out. It works fine earlier on in the campaign when it’s a little easier to get away and you can afford to be that stupid, but as the campaign progresses, missions are longer, harder and love to penetrate you with bullets.
In order to succeed as a stealthy sniper you’ll have to think ahead, cover your escape and (most annoyingly) avoid the gaze of the eagle eyed Nazis who, through some form of German discipline, are able to see you from a freaking mile away. But super Nazi vision aside, the A.I is just a little temperamental, they don’t exactly organize themselves into squads, it’s more of a mad rush to see who can kill you first. When you are spotted a ghostly spectre will remain in you last known location, where upon the grey uniformed devils will investigate, which is a useful tool in evading aggressive enemies.
On the whole the gameplay is top notch, you have plenty of maneuverability, being able to hug walls for cover, vault over obstacles, climb through windows, and crawl around on your stomach if need be. However it does fall short in some areas, specifically close quarters combat. A lot of love and hard work has gone into making the sniping elements perfect, but the other weapons like the Thompson, MP40 or Silenced Pistol don’t respond as well, making it harder to defend yourself if the enemy does get too close. I feel like the one thing the combat is missing is melee, you can’t melee basically and it’s something that at certain points in the game I felt was necessary.
The killing isn’t all you can appreciate though, the environments in Sniper Elite V2 are fantastic renditions of a war-torn Europe, with each mission providing an entirely new explorable town, weapons factory or rural farming village with dynamic events that you or the bad guys have triggered, bringing surprises which you must adapt too. There’s some noticeable copy and pasting when you’re moving through buildings, with room after room looking almost identical but that’s fine considering that the games graphics, although featuring detailed and impressive landscapes, aren’t the game’s main attraction. If you like wine and gold (and lets face it who doesn’t?) there’s also plenty hidden around each level for you to collect in order to get a 100% success rate.
Where Sniper Elite really packs a punch is the sound design, it does a great job of creating that authentic WW2 atmosphere, bombers flying over head, bombs going off, the echo of mortar fire all on top of a creative soundtrack that changes tempo and style depending on your situation. It makes some of the more daring, action movie-like segments thoroughly enjoyable, and every organ that explodes does so with satisfying squelches.
As exciting as the campaign can be, there’s another feature that makes this game appealing to the masses and that’s the online multiplayer and co-op modes. There are three main modes to try out and there are as follows; Overwatch Mode has you and a buddy divide roles, one of you being a sniper on the rooftops and one of you taking a confrontational role on the ground. Both players need to spot enemies with the trusty binoculars and take them out together while making sure neither of you get taken out. The person on the ground has a bit more freedom and it’s much easier to plant traps or loot bodies but the sniper of course has all the joys of the sniper art and slow mo x-ray kills.
Unfortunately there are only 3 maps to choose from in this mode but your lack of choice is made up for in their size. This mode can be very difficult and you’d think playing without a sniper rifle would give you an excuse to run in, attacking more aggressively but as it turns out you just put yourself in harms way and annoy the hell out of your sniper who has to come down from his perch to revive you before you fail the mission. Microphones are a must when playing Overwatch.
Kill Tally tasks two players with taking on wave after wave of enemies, starting with just a few soldiers to kill but eventually you’ll get the full force of the Nazi regime, including Panzers. It’s exciting, fast paced, fun and most of all a refreshing change from having to sneak around all the time. A nice touch is an on screen prompt which tells you right before each wave how many soldiers and or tanks you’ll be facing. There’s always plenty of ammo on hand at strategically placed caches but explosives can only be gained by looting the dead. This is where I think most people will spend there time online in order to hone their skills. There’s room for improvement though, we could always use some more maps via DLC.
Bombing Run is a more objective-based mode, and a little more complicated than just killing X amount of enemies. At the start of each match you’ll have quite a large map to run around and you’ll need to gather up parts to repair a tank. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is since the parts you need are always guarded and making too much noise will have every bad guy in town raining down hell upon you. It requires more co-ordination and eyes in the back of your head. It can be really frustrating when everything goes wrong but also has the scope of being highly rewarding when it goes right.
Those three modes are all fun and provide a lot of value for money but it’s the co-op campaign you should be interested in. Rather than being a separate story the co-op campaign features all of the joys of the single player but with your friend fighting along side you. As well as being another set of eyes on the battlefield he or she can always help you find those precious gold bars and wine bottles, helping you to get more achievement points. You also have the added bonus of being able to show off your amazing skill shots.
Graphics: 3.5/5 - Visually impressive but not to a jaw dropping degree.
Sound: 4/5 - The soundtrack isn’t all that inspiring but it’s perfectly complimented by the amazing sound effects which help create an authentic atmosphere
Gameplay: 5/5 - The X-Ray Killcams never seem to get old and the abundance of different ways you can kill somebody it brilliant.
Longevity: 3.5 - Multiplayer and collectable items can only keep you hooked for so long! We need a steady stream of DLC
Overall: 4 Castrated Nazis out of 5
Sniper Elite V2 hits has really hit its mark with strong gameplay, bags of laughs and an interesting take on World War 2 genre. Thanks to the gloriously explicit X-Ray kill cam shots it is a thoroughly enjoyable game that is only really let down by an uninteresting story.
- Adam Radcliffe