Available on Xbox 360, PS3 (version tested), PC
Sniper Elite v2 feels of a different era, and we mean that in both a good and bad way. On the bad side, its graphics feel dated, its environments lack depth or any rich interaction, and if you’re looking for the kind of cinematic presentation you might find in a Battlefield or Call of Duty, then you’re not going to find it here.
Yet, on the good side, it’s a game that harks back to the days when military shooters were about more than funnelling you through a level, blasting mindless goons as they popped into view and preparing for the next spectacular, semi-interactive cut-scene. It’s not that Sniper Elite v2 is a World War II Deus Ex, giving you a big set of tools and the freedom to use them, but it does feel different to the modern norm. It’s a slow-moving shooter that expects you to think a little about the situations you’re going into and how to play them, and where planning and improvisation actually have a minor role.
Reboot or Remake?
Some of the game’s anachronistic feel comes down to that it’s a remake of a WWII shooter that hit in the last days of the Xbox/PS2 generation. The premise is the same as the original – an OSS agent is dropped into Berlin in the last phase of WWII, with orders to either extract or kill scientists working in the Nazis’ rocket research program. The action takes place primarily in third-person, but with a first-person view for sniping, which – as you might expect – is very much the focus of the whole shebang.
While Sniper Elite v2 is a comprehensive reworking, with new locations, improved graphics and a whole lot of HD polish, it still doesn’t look or play like a game being released in mid-2012. There are points at which it all looks brilliant, as Berlin’s ruined architecture and the enhanced lighting engine combine to create impressive vistas, but up close the textures are muddy, the lighting primitive, the character models lacking in detail and the scenery a little boxy and angular. Sniper Elite v2 looks better than any PS2 or Xbox game, but playing the PS3 version it’s hard to imagine that it’s running on the same hardware as the Uncharted or Killzone titles. At times it’s horrifically ugly.
It’s also hard to ignore how limited and artificial its world seems. Full of doors that can’t be opened, small chunks of rubble that can’t be navigated and light bulbs that can’t be shot out when you need to. Meanwhile, the game’s PC origins come through in a miserly attitude to console checkpoints. Sniper Elite v2 is a reasonably challenging game where death, when it comes, often comes quickly. Having to slog through the same fifteen minute chunk of gameplay again because you didn’t reach the next objective marker gets mildly infuriating over time.
This might be enough to damn some other games, but Sniper Elite v2 has three big points in its favour and these are big enough and good enough to make it worth a second look.
The first is that it does a really good job of the main business: sniping. The whole game is structured around taking Nazis and Russians our from a distance, and depending on your difficulty level you’ll have to worry about movement, wind speed and the effects of gravity on your bullet as you shoot. While you have a silenced pistol to help in those parts of the game where you’re sneaking around occupied buildings and enemy bases, not to mention a machine gun for close encounters, the general rule is that you won’t last more than a few seconds in any serious firefight. Good sniping isn’t just the best option, but the only way to get through each mission in one piece.