‘The wind whistled as I clicked the focus adjustment on my scope – click’ click’. My unsuspecting target puffed on his last cigarette as he stares at the warplanes in the distant sky. Holding my aim I slowly squeezed the trigger… with a far off explosion and my final inhale of breath held, I squeezed a little more – Boom! Headshot! Half a mile away a Nazi’s helmet fills with thick blood and leaks slowly from the new bullet hole before he slumps to the ground amid the bombed out debris of this cursed Berlin. I put another notch on my belt and find that I’m running out of room’. – That is what it feels like to be a sniper during World War II in Rebellions Sniper Elite V2. Welcome to the past in this atmospheric sneak-em-up come third/first person shooter where one man makes all the difference.
I have to be honest, this wasn’t one of the games that was high on my list to play during 2012. With so many good games released throughout the year and a good handful of big name titles coming before the summer, Sniper Elite V2 kind of got overshadowed and I nearly missed it completely. What a shame that would have been! For those of you that like me who had played a bit of the original Sniper Elite (on the Original Xbox) but had forgotten about it since then, let me fill you in on what to expect from this new and improved remake.
We take on the role of an American OSS Officer – Karl Fairburne. He is a one man army with only a few weapons and his wits to rely on. Our mission is to recruit, or in most cases, kill German scientists that are fleeing from a broken Nazi regime. Ultimately you have to stop them defecting to the Soviets and developing a V2 rocket that the Ruskies intend on using against their former allies. This puts you in several different locations around a war torn and bombed to hell Berlin fighting Germans and Russians alike. Just you! No support, no backup, no help. The lack of a strong story becomes secondary as the actual missions provide the depth needed to immerse you into this war scenario.
You start the game armed with some fancy named American sniper rifle, this will be your main weapon throughout a lot of the campaign with slightly better ones acquired as you progress. You also get secondary weapons such as a machine gun and a silenced pistol, both with limited ammo. Along the way you can swap out your secondary weapons for ones dropped by dead enemies but you only need to do this when you run out of ammo, which can happen quite a bit. You always seem to have plenty of sniper ammo however, which is a clever way of forcing a balance between long distance shooting versus the run and gun approach. There are also a range of explosives on offer in the form of trip wired bombs, land mines, dynamite, and good old fashioned grenades.
Some areas are too small to use a sniper rifle properly and you will have to rely on your other weapons. Sneaking up quietly behind an enemy soldier puts you in a position for doing a silent takedown, then search the body for useful items and finally pick up and deposit the carcass where it won’t be found – or leave the body where it will be found, place a land mine or tripwire close to it and poof – you have enemies splattered all over the place. This leads to some nice splinter cell type stealth play and for the most part it is very satisfying. Creeping around with your silenced pistol is also fun and if things go wrong then you just pop a few silent caps in a baddie’s ass… and head. Do this before they shoot you or cry out and you remain a shadow, mess up though and you will be running for cover and whipping out that machine gun as every nearby enemy will come barrelling for your blood to your last known location, displayed as a ghost figure of Karl. This is where we encounter the first flaw in the game. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) is inconsistent. Enemies for the most part are either very stupid or have bionic vision. When you do disturb the hornets nest and dig into a nice spot by a doorway the ding-dong square-heads come flooding around the corner looking for you as you systematically mow them down – they don’t seem to notice that all the guys in front just got ventilated so they almost form an orderly queue to get shot. This isn’t annoying or anything, it’s actually quite useful and can save you time in trying to clear a level, but I doubt it is intentional and it certainly doesn’t compare to an enemy that will run for cover or even wait silently for you to make a move. It just makes things a little predictable. What is also a bit disappointing is that your whereabouts seems to be judged by an enemy’s line of sight and not by the shadows or poorly lit areas that should hide you, it is a missed opportunity to make this a true sneak em up stealth game.
That said, this is not a title based around close quarter combat, it’s all about sniping and this is what the game does best. To begin a long distance battle you use the binoculars to scope out the environment and then tag any enemies you find. These little red tags remain on screen when you whip out the rifle and you can then choose what target to pick off first. Depending on how skilled you are at plotting a strategy you could potentially pick off half a dozen dudes before anyone knows that you are even there, but when alerted you will have gangs of baddies running towards you or diving for cover making them more difficult to kill. This is where Sniper Elite V2 excels and is at its most fun. Frantically picking off distant enemies before they reach your position gets the fingers twitching and the adrenaline pumping.
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