Snipe's away in the follow-up to Rebellion's memorable WWII sniping masterpiece
Many gamers won't remember the original Sniper Elite. Originally a PC game that made its way to various consoles including the Nintendo Wii, the Playstation 2, and Xbox, Sniper Elite was a break from the standard-focus WWII shooter, placing heavy emphasis on tactical sniping from long distances, planned approaches, stealth, and most significantly of all, a supremely realistic ballistics system.
Since the original was released way back in 2005 - nearly a whopping ten years ago, which is why many may not remember this gem of an original - it felt like there would never be a follow-up, but Sniper Elite V2 was released in 2012 for the PC on Steam, much to the elation and delight of hardcore Sniper Elite fans who cut their sniping teeth on the original, as well as new fans of the uniquely realistic and surgical approach to war-based sniping situations. An identical time setting, a familiar approach, and highly specific sniping scenarios are juxtaposed with V2's new and improved ballistics, increased emphasis on close-quarters combat, and the all-important and brand new X-ray kill cam to make for a remake/sequel hybrid which no-one will likely forget in the near future.
With around 7 years since the original, big things were of course expected from Sniper Elite V2, though hopes weren't raised too highly since it was made clear that while the game is technically a sequel it is also effectively a remake of the original and not a full departure from it. Thankfully, Rebellion Developments had a substantially impressive original title to build on and add to, essentially guaranteeing fans a second taste of the tactical sniping experience that is at least as entertaining and thrilling as the first. And that's what one gets with V2: an experience that is substantially familiar yet one that is sprinkled generously with some new features to spice the whole thing up a bit.
The gameplay will be hugely familiar to anyone that has experienced the original Sniper Elite, and a far cry from the relatively simple nature of even the best flash-based sniping games such as Tactical Assassin . You assume the role of Lieutenant Karl Fairburne, an OSS officer and highly skilled sniper whose sniping activities centre around the reconnaissance and combat surrounding the V-2 missile. You are inserted into Berlin during the closing stages of the war in 1945 and, with references to several historical operations including Operation Overcast and Operation Paperclip, the latter involving the extrication of scientists from Germany. As is the case in the original Sniper Elite, the action takes place in a third-person perspective with frequent call for arming your sniper rifle and engaging in highly-specific, long-range sniping scenarios that are shaped by the physical environment around you including realistic physics, hyper-realistic ballistics, and biological hindrances such as breathing patterns affecting the accuracy of your shots.
And this is essentially what Sniper Elite V2 is: a game that engineers extremely specific sniping scenarios around a fairly shallow storyline, as opposed to fitting sniping scenarios into a more in-depth plot. Sniper Elite has never been about the intricacies of character or dramatic plot twists anyway: it's a game that excels in the art of allowing you to eject bullets from your sniper rifle in a realistic fashion with more style and satisfaction than any other game has ever managed to achieve, including the mighty Hitman: Sniper Challenge.
The campaign offers ten levels, packed with lengthy missions that all involve engineering specific situations in which you are likely to have the advantage, which is at long-range armed with your sniper rifle. Missions are spent performing reconnaissance and carrying out tasks such as planting bombs which you can detonate later, setting traps for enemies, and trying to figure out the location of enemy snipers. The health system has always been the biggest reprieve, offering regenerative capabilities instead of a finite health bar. This makes is a little too easy to draw out enemy fire by simply running about in the open and ducking for cover however, though this is a minor complaint. One of the major flaws of the game is definitely in its attempt at delivering more close-quarters combat scenarios, a department which the game - unlike the game's long-range combat - doesn't excel in at all. One can only hope that the awkward and overwhelming nature of the close-quarters combat is addressed in the much-anticipated Sniper Elite III which is due for release in June.
Any of these flaws can be ignored almost completely when you consider the merits of the ultra-realistic ballistics however. Realistic physics such as gravity causing bullet drop, wind direction considerations, and distance from the target itself are all factors that make the sniping experience superior to any others; then there's the X-ray camera. A new feature in V2, the X-Ray kill cam turns the already-incredible slow-motion kill shots into a gruesome (yet hugely impressive) first-hand lesson in the effect of projectiles on the internal organs and skeleton of the human body.
To enjoy Sniper Elite V2 therefore, you must be willing to let a shallow plot and lacklustre (also frustrating at times) close-quarters combat scenes slide so that you can focus on what Sniper Elite V2 does best: stylish sniping that satisfies with every single pull of the trigger, and this is the focus of the game; everything else is simply secondary, a means to delivering these sublime tactical sniping scenarios to you on a plate. You can search far and wide for other sniper games that are superior to Sniper Elite V2, but you're unlikely to ever find one, unless you wait for Sniper Elite V3, that is.