I’ll admit I groaned when I read the synopsis of Sniper Elite V2: a sniper game that takes place during World War II. Nothing about that sounds even the least bit appealing to me. I am not big on most stealth games, and seriously ,World War II? Like that hasn’t been done to death. Then I got deep into the game and realized that Rebellion had really nailed something here. Watching soldiers take bullets in the gory X-ray camera was deeply satisfying, and the missions were intricate and well-designed. Sniper Elite V2 may sound like another ho-hum shooter on the outside, but once you get through the door, there is a lot of fun to be had here.
The story finds you in Berlin during the war with a goal to assassinate the five remaining members of the V2 rocket program. Your mission is important, and the fate of the world depends on you and… ok. I never really cared. Cut scenes are presented during key moments, and for some reason they are really low resolution. The voice acting is passable, but nothing ever seemed to drag me in. I did like the actual missions you have to carry out, but the actual characters were just faceless drones used to propel my mission forward.
Sniper Elite V2 is a third-person shooter that plays much like any other in the genre with a solid focus on stealth and, of course, sniping. The main campaign is short and sweet with some intriguing DLC for people who pre-ordered. Hopefully, this content becomes available in the Marketplace after a little while. This mission actually has you attempting to snipe Hitler himself after stopping his convoy. This is a tense mission with you perched on top of a cliff, while the Fuhrer moves from cover-to-cover attempting to make it to a train. I won’t lie; the kill shot where I literally exploded his man-parts was viscerally satisfying.
The rest of the main game is broken down into missions that have a point A to point B mentality. What I liked about it, though, was the ability to approach it how you wanted. Not only does the game give you several ways to handle the situation, but an entirely customizable difficulty scale. If you want the physics of the sniper bullets to be realistic, you can. If you want enemies to act like they can’t see you even at close range, you can customize that. There are sliders for each standard difficulty letting you tailor the game how you want. You can play this game with as little or as much challenge as you want.
Of course, one of the most appealing portions of the experience comes from the kill-cam shots. These Mortal Kombat-esque portrayals of human torture are the definition of “visceral.” In order to achieve one, you have to nail a target from at least 150 meters away. If done correctly, you will be rewarded with a slow-motion shot of your bullet penetrating the enemy and destroying bone, tissue and, of course, vital organs. Simply put, these shots never get old. Every time one occurred, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. I am simply one of those people who really enjoy things like this in gaming.
I also have to admit that I was a fan of the little touches in the game. Things like using environmental sounds to mask your shots, or holding your breath and emptying your lungs to perform better shots. I also love that I can snipe grenades off of soldiers belts for explosive results. A level or match never went by without one of those “holy crap” moments, and I really appreciated that.
Playing through the campaign was a delight for the short period it lasted, but it wasn’t without faults. At times the game feels cheap and broken having you get stuck on weird objects as well as some truly awkward animations. Stealth also feels broken at times simply because running head first into the action often works just as well. Presentation issues also abound with music simply dying out at times while the visuals went from impressive to hideous at random intervals.
In addition to the campaign, there are also a host of co-op modes that you can dig into with another player. You can take on the single player missions together, which is actually really cool. It was nice being able to collaborate on a lot of these missions. Then we have Kill Tally, which is essentially horde mode with a count after each round to spark competitiveness. Next up, we have Bombing Run where you and your partner have to find various parts scattered around the level and bring them back to the base while avoiding enemy troops. Finally, we have Overwatch, which splits you up with one person on the ground tagging enemies and carrying out objectives, while your partner snipes enemies for you.
The modes are fun and diverse enough to keep you playing minus one important aspect in both Overwatch and Bombing Run. At the end of both of these modes, the game decides it wants to punish you. So after all that careful planning and sneaking around, the game throws a horde of enemies at you without much warning. This removes the strategy behind the mission and forces you to simply try to survive. I am sure it sounded good on paper, but after the stress of some of these missions, completely changing the dynamic of the game really throws a monkey wrench into the formula.
Speaking of visuals, this is not a bad looking game. I like the subtle things such as bricks toppling from the destroyed buildings and the lighting was great at times. Then there are weird omissions such as water that doesn’t react to your footsteps and watching your character contort in weird ways. The ragdoll physics would also go wonky at times. I sniped a guy point blank once and watched him do a magic cartwheel. While humorous, it was disorienting seeing him tumble. Sound is equally hit and miss with lots of repeating German dialogue and an orchestral score that wouldn’t be missed if it weren’t there. Effects are good though, with some solid ambience and a nice attention to detail at times.
Sniper Elite V2 is a solid game that is surprisingly more fun to play than it should be. There really isn’t much like it, and Rebellion has done an amazing job of piecing it all together. The X-ray kills are deeply satisfying, and co-op mode will have you playing for hours on end. Still, it is not for everyone. There are plenty of quirks and odd design decisions that may hamper some people’s enjoyment, but if you can find a buddy to tackle the co-op, the game is definitely worth playing through. I might suggest waiting for a small price drop, but I definitely recommend checking out Sniper Elite V2. It is much more fun than you think it will be.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.