An ultrarealistic sniping simulator; it really seems like a “can’t fail” scenario, doesn’t it? Gamers have an obsession with snipers. You can’t play a round in Battlefield 3 without tripping over one, and they seem to be the class of choice for every new player venturing into Team Fortress 2. Hell, there are almost 10 million results for “COD Sniping Montage” on YouTube (and at least 5 million of them feature Drowning Pool’s Let The Bodies Hit The Floor). So, what could possibly go wrong by releasing Sniper Elite V2 into the world? The unfortunate answer is more than we could have predicted.
Sniper Elite V2 set forth as a sequel to the criminally underrated PC game, Sniper Elite, which was released back in 2005. The idea was to create an ultra-realistic sniping simulator, where you would have to take real world mechanics into mind (such as bullet drop, sound and wind,) before taking each shot. With each successful shot, you’re scored based on distance and where you hit your target, as well as whether it was a kill or a mortal wound. You’ll also be rewarded with a slow motion kill cam that has the chance to invoke a Mortal Kombat-esque x-ray, where you’ll be treated to a graphic view of the damage you dealt. Exploding eyes, torn organs, shattered bones and ruptured testicles are all on display, and it brought on childlike glee in me every time. The kill cams are a fairly common occurrence, but they somehow managed to stay fresh throughout the experience. Even now, I find myself clamoring to try and scope a grenade on someone’s hip, just to blow his friends to hell.
Strangely enough, there is no real incentive to be an effective sniper outside of one’s personal enjoyment. Most levels have some sort of background noise that can be used to conceal the sound from your shots, allowing you to use some degree of stealth, but there’s no punishment for barging in and luring enemies towards you for easy kills. In fact, certain stages seem to actively encourage it, since there’s nothing you can do to mask your shot. Once you fire your first shot, it seems like every German in the area becomes aware of your position.
The enemy AI seemed a bit inconsistent during my play through. After a properly masked shot that would take out someone directly in front of them, the enemy would search in every direction except the one I was standing in even if I was standing in the open. However, if I were to shoot without noise cover or walk too quickly into an area, rest assured I would immediately be recognized by everyone. Enemy snipers also have an innate ability to see you the moment you pop into the area, and I often found myself having to leave cover to coerce a shot out of them before I could get a bead on their position. I should note that, while I can’t prove it, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of them are set pieces and won’t spawn until you’ve reached certain areas. I know I checked out a particular rooftop several times with binoculars to make sure it was clear before a sniper eventually started to open fire.
If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be clamoring for a World War II shooter as a fresh breath of air from the norm, I would have looked at you as if you had lost your damn mind. However, in the modern age of gaming where every game seems to break down to the good-looking-with-perfect-hair Americans against (insert scary Middle Wastern stereotype here,) it was refreshing to get back to killing some good old fashioned Nazis. It may not be intellectually challenging, but there’s absolutely no moral dilemma when it comes to taking down an entire platoon of them.
Luckily, Rebellion Developments allowed me to get back to this for one glorious mission. After that, the plot of Sniper Elite V2 takes a vicious left turn and I’m now tasked with taking down Russians. As a former history major in college, I’m finally able to use my years of schooling on the job (please note, this may be the first time anyone who was a history major has ever been able to utter that sentence in a non-ironic sense or without scowling at a coffee maker). If you’ll recall, during WWII, the Russians and the US were indeed allies taking on the Axis forces. In Sniper Elite V2, the Russians decided to help the Nazis build V2 rockets (insert “I see what you did there” joke here) for…well I’m not honestly sure of the reasoning behind that decision.
As a lone sniper behind enemy lines with little to no contact with friendly forces, I am now tasked with stopping the V2 rockets, assassinating Nazis and Russians alike, and generally running amuck in war torn Berlin. The only chance to stop is to empty the brain pan of anyone who speaks a different language. I don’t mean to harp on this, however for the better part of the game, I kept trying to figure out why I was taking out Russians, who were traditionally our Allies at that point. Yes, I understand that Rebellion was setting the tone leading up to the Cold War (which I can only presume will be the setting of the eventual sequel), though it felt needlessly out of place at best and infuriatingly convoluted at worst.
This confusion didn’t get a chance to last long as the game itself was abhorrently short. It took roughly 7 hours for me to complete the campaign on the highest difficulty level, and that is with no small amount of failure on my part. This may be argued as a plus since the game won’t have time to become stale, but even at a discounted $49.99, the seven hour-long campaign feels insulting. There’s simply not enough meat on the bones to justify that price tag.
Multiplayer is present, but most of it isn’t worth the effort of finding a game. The community seems to be fairly small, so finding a multiplayer partner may take a bit of time. The most popular mode seems to be Overwatch, where one player takes the role of the sniper from a vantage point while the other sets off on foot to tag targets and complete a few objectives. Sadly, it’s a bit one-sided since playing the foot soldier simply isn’t as fun as being the sniper.
The most puzzling thing to me, however, is what was missing from the Xbox and PS3 versions of the game but present in the PC version. The PC crowd is privy to multiplayer deathmatches, which sounds like a blast on paper. Being able to use all of the mechanics learned in the game against your foes while strategically waiting for that perfect shot is exactly what so many gamers have been trying to do in other titles. It’s a missed opportunity.
I will doff my cap to Rebellion for allowing you the option of attacking the campaign in co-op mode, which is something that most other titles lack for whatever reason. Overall, it just feels like the multiplayer fell short of where it could’ve been.
It’s a shame that Sniper Elite V2 falls short of what it could be. Its length, a few questionable game design choices and the lackluster multiplayer really diminished what could have been one of the better titles of the year. Luckily Rebellion appears committed to the franchise, at least for now, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could see a more fleshed out sequel down the road. Though, here and now, Sniper Elite V2 is a fun title that simply doesn’t earn the price of admission. Pick this one up when its price drops a bit later this year.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.