Join the dark side...
XBox 360, PS3
Despite the fact that the original was a bloody good game, if you mention Sniper Elite to most people you’ll likely get a blank look shooting back at you. Perhaps that’s because the original was released way back in 2005, or maybe it’s just that people have pushed the WW2 gaming years out of their heads to make room for, well, more of the same except in the future. Whatever the reason, the fact is that it was a good game, and since the sequel was announced there were plenty of people across the world eagerly rubbing their hands together waiting for V2 to drop.
For those of you not familiar with the original shouldn’t worry too much, you’ll be able to drop right into V2 without needing to know how things panned out first time around. Sniper Elite V2 is set in 1945 during the final days of the Second World War. The Nazis are in retreat, with both the Allies and the Russians forcing them deeper and deeper into Germany. The Reich is about to fall, but rather than resting on their laurels, both the Americans and the Russians are keeping an eye on the future, and they have set their sights on the V2 rocket technology developed by the Germans both to further their own arsenals and to keep it out of the hands of any potential enemies – read; each other.
Players take the role of Karl Fairburne (also the protagonist of the original title, in case you were wondering), and your job is to ensure that the Americans are the ones who emerge with the V2 technology by the time the war is over. That’s certainly easier said than done, but when you’re as handy with a sniper rifle as Karl is, thing aren’t quite as tricky as they might otherwise have been.
The on-screen action pans out using the third person perspective, which makes utilising that all-important cover a little more straightforward, but when you’re in sniper mode, you’ll be staring right down the barrel of that bad boy, with your target in your sights.
It’s fair to say that Sniper Elite V2 was always going to die on its sniper mechanics, and the good news is that they work excellently. The authenticity of the ballistics will very much depend on the difficult level you selected (we recommend starting out with the default settings first, at least until you find your feet), so there’s plenty of learning to be done, particularly when it comes to aiming properly – although the absolute basics are shown to you in the very first mission.
When you’re not sniping, you’ll be creeping around enemy encampments or inhabited parts of Germany, planting explosives or plotting your assassination attempts. While this definitely sounds interesting on paper, in reality you’re getting a run of the mill third person shooter title with a cover mechanic. It’s not remotely original or unique, but it’s solid, it works and, most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun most of the time.
The game’s checkpoints can be a little unfair sometimes, particularly if you’re hightailing it around a corner to get away from incoming enemies when you reach a checkpoint, because not only do you respawn there, but the enemies will continue from wherever they were when you died, making for some tricky situations and many, many deaths.
Aside from that though, the game’s difficulty level is almost perfect. As trickier enemies or enemy weaponry is introduced, you learn more about the best way to take them down, opening up brand new approaches and gameplay styles, while adding increasing depth at with every mission. Stealth is obviously very important, but the further you progress and the more you learn, the more gung-ho you can be should you choose to replay some of the earlier missions (this approach is not recommended for beginners!).
The game’s presentation is passable, without ever wowing. The only real standout moments come when x-ray animations play for particularly lethal shots, displaying the internal damage your bullet has wrought in a satisfyingly grotesque manner. Aside from that, and perhaps the nice moments where you can use environmental sounds to mask the sound of your gunshots, letting you take down enemies with stealth, there’s nothing else to write home about.
Overall Sniper Elite V2 is a strange beast. There’s really not all that much here that you’ve not seen before, but the whole thing is still thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Perhaps we simply needed someone to try something a little different than yet another first person shooter to pique our interest, or perhaps we just appreciate a good, solid but unspectacular way to spend seven hours in front of the TV.