Great Sniping And That’s About It
Sniping is whole different beast from other styles of first-person shooting. While shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, and even pistols merely offer different takes on running onto the battlefield and hoping to shoot your enemy before he shoots you, sniping is more of a waiting game. It’s about finding a safe position, lining up your target in your sights, and compensating for all the other environmental factors that can make you miss your shot. Sniping is a slow, stealthy chess game when compared to the run-and-gun action that modern day shooters pigeonhole every other type of gunplay into. Sniper Elite V2 is a WWII shooter that tries to emphasize these key differences in its core mechanics. The sequel to the successful but incredibly difficult cult classic Sniper Elite, V2 attempts to evolve on everything that made the original great.
Unfortunately, that’s not what you first notice when you boot up a game of Sniper Elite V2. Instead, the biggest and most prominent feature of the game is the absolutely gruesome new kill cam that the game has included. Taking a page from Mortal Kombat, Sniper Elite V2 now shows you an X-Ray view of your targets whenever you score a successful kill. You’ll see the bullet slowly penetrating their bodies, shattering their bones, and scrambling their organs. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated gamer squeamish.
This kill cam is perhaps the defining feature of Sniper Elite V2. If you are playing well, you will see it time and time again. At the beginning, it’s pretty cool. If you can handle the blood and gore, it certainly provides a satisfying payoff for landing a perfect shot. However, as time goes on it starts to feel excessive. Not only does it slow down the game needlessly (especially when you are on a kill spree), but some of the graphical details are just unnecessary. For example, the game slows down crotch shots so you can see your bullet making your target’s testicles explode. I’m sorry, but do we really need to see that?
Once you get beyond the exploding genitalia, the game plays a lot like Sniper Elite 1. All missions follow the same basic pattern. You will stealthily work your way to a safe spot to start sniping enemy targets. Then you’ll silently take out everyone in the area as a battle rages on around you. You’ll do this until it’s safe to sneak on to the next checkpoint. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that sniping takes center stage here. You have a pistol for close-quarters combat, but it’s unwieldy to use and is generally nothing more than a last resort. The rest of the gameplay changes depending on what difficulty setting you play the game on. On low difficulty, the game is barely a game at all. Enemies move slowly and put themselves right into your line of fire. Your accuracy is always spot-on regardless of wind or bullet drop. No matter what you do, your enemies will be completely oblivious to your position. The only thing you’ll do is find an enemy, click on him, and repeat the process until the whole game is over in a few hours.
Once you bump up the difficulty, though, you’ll start to encounter some challenge. Enemies get smarter, avoiding open areas where you have easy access to a headshot. They will begin to notice you more readily if you aren’t staying out of sight. They will also notice you if you don’t use the environment to mask your shots. If someone hears your rifle, the enemy will panic and become harder to take out. However, you can use other sounds like loud bells or cannon fire to mask your rifle shots and make yourself hard to find. The physics in Sniper Elite V2 also become stricter on higher difficulties. Whereas low difficulties allow you to simply click on an enemy to kill him, higher difficulties force you to cope with bullet drop, wind direction, rifle inaccuracy, and even your own unsteady hand.
Unfortunately, high difficulties seem to turn these environmental factors up to unrealistic levels. Bullets drop far quicker than they do in real life, making it nearly impossible to compensate. Enemies become eagle-eyed, noticing you no matter where you are and screwing up your shots. Scouting an area for enemy forces from afar becomes useless as the game seems to spawn a wave of troops out of thin air the second someone notices you. In fact, the “realistic” setting of the game doesn’t necessarily feel real; it feels unfair.
As a result, it’s actually rather hard to find a difficulty setting that is enjoyable. In my experience, the game only fluctuated between boring and repetitive bouts of nut explosions, and nearly insurmountable super soldiers with X-ray vision. The ability to control different aspects of the difficulty does help though, allowing you to decide just how to frustrate yourself. In the end, the most enjoyable way to play the game was with “realistic” physics settings along with enemies suffering from stupid A.I. It allowed me to experience the many facets of sniping without being punished too hard when I failed.
The games weakest moments are when it tries to make you do anything other than snipe. There are times when it tries to make you play a cover-based shooter, but the game’s cover system is glitchy and it’s hard to tell which walls are safe and which ones aren’t. There are portions that emphasize the stealth aspects of sniping, allowing you to cause distractions in order to sneak past guards behind enemy lines, but these are generally soured by the hyper-alert A.I. soldiers.
There were certainly enough hype sniping moments to make up for it though. You can do cool things like shooting grenades on enemy soldiers in order to make them explode. You can also shoot fuel tanks to make vehicles explode and assassinate enemy leaders to induce panic in the rest of the troops. However, this still causes the game to feel a little repetitive. Sniping is cool, but eventually the standard pattern—snipe targets, move to next area, and so on—just gets a little too much for an extended play session.
Aside from the single-player mode, there are co-op modes to take part in a well. Sniper Elite V2’s take on Horde Mode is probably the most fun to be had in the game. You’ll be tasked with defending against wave after wave of enemy soldiers, of course, but the focus on sniping and trap setting makes it almost feel like a tower defense. The game also offers competitive multiplayer, though this is only available on the PC version.
Sniper Elite V2 was a decent game, but I wouldn’t call it a work of art. Its dedication to the nuances of sniping is interesting, but that’s unfortunately all it has going for it. Unfortunately, a game that only does sniping well really feels like only half of a game. In fact, it feels like the designers spent more time designing the gruesome kill cam than the non-sniping portions of the game. If you absolutely love sniping in first-person shooters, then you might want to check this out. Similarly, if you get a kick out of Mortal Kombat’s blood and gore, this game certainly delivers the same experience in a shooter format. However, there are simply better shooters on the market right now, making Sniper Elite V2 little more than a diversion. It’s a pure and well-crafted sniper simulation, but that just isn’t enough to carry a full game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.7 Graphics
Sniper Elite V2’s graphics simply aren’t up to this generation’s standards. Textures are muddy, models are blocky, and it’s just not nice to look at besides the X-Ray kill cam. 3.4 Control
While the controls themselves work well enough, the cover system and enemy A.I. make the game incredibly frustrating. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There isn’t much to the sound design other than the sound effects of the battles you are in, and they work well enough. 3.0 Play Value
While the sniping itself is fun, the rest of the game doesn’t measure up. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|