Contrary to what modern-day multiplayer games may make you think, snipers aren’t just a bunch of campers. They may not lead an assault, but relying primarily on stealth, they infiltrate enemy lines, hunting their prey from a distance. Choosing a vantage point, they zero in on the target, picking them off before they knew what hit them, only to escape without a trace. Sniper Elite V2 comes real close to offering players such an experience, but ultimately falls a bit short thanks to clunky controls, terrible AI and wonky stealth mechanics.
You are Karl Fairburne, an elite American sniper sent into Berlin during World War II to eradicate a couple of high-ranking officers who’re up to no good. Your mission will take you across conventional video game locations all over Berlin, from secret launch facilities to heavily guarded German strongholds. The PC version is quite good looking and its art style does a tremendous job in capturing the grit and grime of World War II. However, framerates do tend to dip quite often (especially on Nvidia cards). This issue isn’t a deal breaker per se, but in a game where quick reflexes dictate the difference between life and death, it can get a bit annoying.
Two for the price of one
Sniper Elite V2 isn’t really a sequel to Sniper Elite; it’s more of a re-imagining with a new gimmick thrown in. The draw obviously is the gruesome X-ray kill cams that display the damage of your bullet in all its gory glory. Strip that away and you're left with a linear game, where every level is designed keeping stealth in mind. You can take the more obvious path, but scout around a bit and you may come upon a sneaky little route that allows you to pass by unnoticed. Of course, that still requires a certain amount of preparation on your part as you’ll have to memorize guard patterns, move when they have their backs turned to you, and if need be, distract them by throwing rocks.
If forced to confront an enemy, you could quickly eliminate the threat with your silenced pistol and then hide the body so it doesn’t raise an alarm. However, in many levels, I found the patrolling guards to miraculously sense the death of their comrades even though I hid the bodies out of plain sight. Once that happens, they’ll summon all the backup in Berlin and you’ll be forced to indulge in some rather clunky third-person cover-based combat.
That's got to hurt
Even if you do manage to slip away from that location, leaving behind nothing but a ghostly apparition of your existence a la Splinter Cell: Conviction, they won’t just go about patrolling again like other stealth games. They will somehow always know where you are and will automatically target all their fire towards you. This does seem rather unnatural since I was under the assumption that I was fighting evil Nazis and not some psychic super soldiers who can sense death and see through objects.
Level design is awesome
The game is at its dullest when it forces you into combat, transcending into yet another generic World War II shooter, but the core sniping experience it offers definitely outweighs the negatives. I cannot explain how satisfying it is to survey a level, tag your opponents, climb up to a nearby tower, protect your rear by laying down some booby traps and then snipe the living daylights out of everyone. Watching their heads fly back in slow motion as your bullet pierces their helmets is satisfying, yes, but kills look even better when the game switches to an X-Ray cam following your bullet from the time it leaves your rifle to the time it enters their bodies, puncturing tissues and shattering bones only to make a rather bloody exit from the other side. Thankfully, these animations aren’t canned, which means you’ll see different organs getting ruptured every time you target a different part of the body. And yes, we all know which part you’d probably target first.
Sniper Elite V2 is a significantly lengthy game, offering players an eight to twelve hour campaign depending on the difficulty you chose. We suggest you go with Normal on your first playthrough, and once you get the hang of how to calibrate wind and bullet drop, bump it up to Elite. This will remove any aiming aid or indicators, which makes combat tougher, but at the same time, pulling a 200 meter headshot feels far more satisfying. As much as I enjoyed the campaign, I did find the ending rather lackluster and I felt absolutely no closure or satisfaction as I fired the last shot to end the life of the game’s antagonist.
Go to sleep…forever
The entire game can be played co-operatively with a friend and this definitely makes it more enjoyable. You could split up and flank enemies or one guy could take to a height while the other snipes them from ground level. The X-Ray kill cams are severely reduced in co-op, but the slow mo deaths are still there. If you can’t find someone to co-op the game with, you can try your hand at online matchmaking, where you could even give the game’s horde mode a shot. A horde mode does feel like an odd fit for such a game, but I guess every game has to have one nowadays.
The game also ships with online deathmatch, which is quite intense. You, along with twelve other players, are thrown into random, sprawling levels taken from the campaign, where your goal is to kill everyone around. It really becomes an intense game of cat and mouse where every player quickly takes to a higher ground to secure a safer vantage point. From there, it’s all about patience as you strive to take out the other snipers. It may sound boring on paper, but it was a refreshing change of pace from the usual run and gun action most online shooters offer. It’s too bad there’s hardly anyone playing it online.
And that is a fate this game will meet eventually, I’m afraid. Sniper Elite really isn’t a franchise most people are familiar with, so at a time when games like Max Payne 3 and Diablo III are about to dominate sales, I doubt anyone would want to spend $50 on this game. However, if you do have a fetish for sniping and are willing to overlook some this game’s flaws, it is most definitely worth checking out.
Motherboard: Intel DP67BG Extreme Desktop series
Processor: Intel Core i7 – 2600K @3.40 GHZ
Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
Ram: Corsair Vengeance 4GB DD3 @ 1600 MHZ X2
Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200W
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