Sniper Elite V2 Review (PC)

As a one-trick pony with a premise that’s covered entirely by the title alone, Rebellion’s Sniper Elite V2 sets about its business in a workmanlike and fairly uninspired fashion. From the overly-familiar World War 2 setting through to uneven (and at times baffling) production values, you may well get a keen sense of deja vu if you played the original. It’s not that a renewed focus on sniping is a problem, but everything around the periphery feels a little tired and somewhat recycled.

Dropping into late-war Berlin, it’s down to your lone American sniper to run through a series of set-piece levels, upsetting German plans and generally making mincemeat of the enemy forces in a semi-graceful long-distance fashion. Much like its forebear, V2’s environments are set up as narrowly-focused playgrounds in which you creep around and tag targets, throw rocks, distract guards and lure people into trip mines; or simply pop heads, hearts, legs, arms, and whatever else you fancy witnessing in gruesome slow-motion X-Ray vision.

Sniping is a subtle process

Indeed we’d better get those bone-shattering moments out of the way up front, as the new kill animations are clearly the major selling point of Rebellion’s update.

Taking out an enemy from afar and following the slow-motion bullet trail has been a staple of the action genre since the days of the ever-grimacing Max Payne, but to add a new twist to the spectacle, Sniper Elite V2 allows you to get beneath the skin in full Mortal Kombat fashion. The majority of those spiralling trails terminate with an almost pornographic level of detail as the bullet is shown entering your enemy’s body, tearing through bone, flesh, or vital organ, and then splattering the surrounding exit wound with enough viscera to let you know a field medic isn’t going to be a whole lot of help.

It’s a visual mechanic that is, by turns, a satisfying and grizzly denouement for every tense encounter, but also an entirely frivolous waste of time once you’ve gotten over the initial thrill of witnessing graphic internal destruction. There’s a sense of glee and attention to detail to those exploding organs and shattered bones that’s somewhat at odds with the rest of the design too, and V2 never really feels sure as to whether it wants to be regarded as a simulation or an action game; resulting in a campaign that never really sucks you in either direction.

Wait for the right moment

Take the enemy soldiers as an example. You can sneak around, find the perfect vantage point, lay traps and set up situations as you wish, but when the AI is as dumb as it is here, there’s little point or satisfaction to be gained from doing so. Time and time again V2 descends into a simple long-range shooting gallery filled with slow-motion death, and whilst it’s satisfying enough to play through those situations, there won’t be enough detail to the sniping mechanics or variety in marksmanship to satisfy everybody. Yes you have to account for wind and the parabola of your shot, and yes you can turn the assists off to increase the challenge and make every scoped decision count; but when your enemies are running around in straight lines and generally acting without much self-awareness, it’s difficult to really get involved in your role as a lone killer.

Maybe that’s overly critical though, as for the majority of the time, Sniper Elite’s dumb formula is enjoyable enough in short bursts, and as long as you’re not playing through the entire campaign in one sitting, it’s good enough to drop in and play for 45 minutes and get all you need from it. Once you’ve gotten the flow of aiming and breathing to focus each shot, various spectacular set pieces open themselves up. Can you shoot the weapon out of somebody’s hands? How about firing at that grenade on his belt? How does an exploding testicle look exactly?

In terms of standout campaign moments, there are a few tense set pieces sparsely peppered throughout the story, and most of those will leave you wishing that Rebellion had injected a little more of the personality into proceedings. V2 is at its best when it embraces cinematic silliness rather than its dry simulation leanings, and it’s a shame they didn’t follow that direction with conviction. Despite the well-worn setting, it’s to the developer’s credit that you’ll want to see what they have in store next, and although you’ll recognise the bombed out buildings, factories and church towers from a million other stories, they’re rendered well and keep the action funnelling along nicely.

Cover is essential, as ever

It’s also probably worth noting that V2 also supports the inclusion of co-op support in various guises. The full campaign can be played through in tandem, and there are Horde-style modes and a decent spin on the Modern Warfare Spec Ops sniping missions (one on the ground, one providing cover fire), although in our limited experience playing through for review, they came across as a little buggy and nothing to write home about. Unfortunately competitive multiplayer was not available to us in the review build, although all signs point to it being a fun diversion with the removal of AI and the promise of tense battles against other humans.

When the dust settles on Sniper Elite V2 though, it’ll likely be remembered for those X-Ray kill animations and little else of note. Your level of enjoyment will be almost directly mapped to how entertaining you find the visual spectacle to be, and - for me at least - it was perfectly good fun in short bursts. Not the best shooter of the year by a long stretch then, but certainly nowhere near the bottom of the pile.

Best Game Moment: Removing Hitler’s ‘tache. With force.

Platform Played: PC

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