This is the anti Call of Duty/Battlefield game. It’s also technically a third person shooter except for when sniping, which is what the bulk of the gameplay involves. If you’re itching for something completely different, and arguably the opposite of those types of first person shooters, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Sniper Elite V2 on the platform of your choice. If you’re only interested in first person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield and other run and gun types of games then avoid this like the plague because you’ll probably hate it.
As you might intuit from the title, V2 suggests that this is game is the second of its kind and you would be correct. The first Sniper Elite came from this same group of developers, Rebellion, back in 2005 on both the original Xbox and the PC. I don’t recall how well it was received by console gamers but would hazard a guess that it probably didn’t perform very well there, but I do know that the game quickly grew to cult classic status amongst PC gamers for being brutally merciless and realistic. Every aspect of physics truly mattered and it wasn’t just “aim the crosshair at a target across this huge map and the bullet goes in a straight line no matter what” like we see in most other shooters.
That concept returns with this game albeit less brutal in terms of merciless difficulty, although I’d contend if you play this game at maximum difficulty you’re going to have an experience not too terribly far removed from the first game in terms of all around difficulty and physics.
V2 is more user friendly without throwing out everything that makes Sniper Elite what it is. PC gamers typically see wording like that and run away screaming “dumbed down console port!”
I can assure that is most certainly not the case here and the developers themselves have made it known publicly that the game wasn’t ported from the consoles to the PC as well.
Each platform was given due attention.
The developers, Rebellion, have made all the right moves with this game in terms of excellent communications with fans before and after release and as realistically prompt of responses to issues as possible. PC gamers had a day one glitch with some bonus DLC and they got it fixed within a handful of hours. Impressive.
The other important thing they did is release a demo of the game on all platforms before the game was released. This practice should be an industry rule or standard by all rights without exception.
If you take the time to skim some of the feedback out there across the platforms, I think you will find that you come to the same conclusion that I did, which is the PC version is clearly the best version of this game to get if the choice is available and is the one I’m reviewing here. Most of what I’m going to write essentially applies to all platforms. For the PC version, keyboard and mouse controls are excellent once the auto aims and accelerations and things of that nature are turned off. This is the kind of game that needs a keyboard and a mouse.
The game actually uses DirecX10 which allows for some nice eye candy that the consoles can only dream about if one has the necessary hardware to run it. The graphics aren’t shock and awe but with all the eye candy maxed out I enjoy a number of nice details in the game and every detail counts when trying to see targets before they see you, believe me! There are some nice lighting and shadow effects in the PC version of the game that are nowhere to be found in the console versions.
Overall, though, we’re not talking about quantum leaps here in visuals but certainly a nice bump up where any casual viewer would easily see the differences between the PC version and the console versions.
The audio is excellent albeit not remarkable. I found the music to be somewhat generic and turned the volume down on it fairly early into the proceedings. The voice acting is middle of the road and you can choose to have subtitles on or off to see what sort of trash the Nazi and Russian enemies are talking about you.
The most important aspect of the audio is environmental directional sounds and that’s superb here where it counts and where it needs to be. Sometimes your enemy makes a mistake and makes some noise and you need to hear every little last detail and what direction it came from.
The most important element of any game is, of course, the gameplay and this is where this game shines for me most especially when the player is using their sniper rifle. You’re also able to choose a secondary weapon, typically a machine gun of some sort, and also a sidearm. From there you get a limited selections of traps and grenades. Use them sparingly! Making noise is bad! It could be just my personal preference but I find that using the pistol feels a little bit better than using one of the machine guns. Sniper rifle is clearly what the gameplay has been centered around so it behooves the player to use it as much as possible and save the other weapons for close encounters and hit and runs.
As in the first game, if you run around you increase your breathing and your heart rate. This can make your aiming more erratic. In V2, when your heartbeat is down low enough you gain an ability to hold your breath for a limited amount of time and on lower difficulties a light red marker shows you exactly where your bullet is going to go. It’s a neat touch that spoiled me quickly and had me making stellar money shots in a relatively short amount of time.
Once you get the gameplay down, it’s basically videogame crack. For me it never gets old hitting a great shot and having the dramatic kill cam show me the gory details in Micheal Bay style slow motion. The player is given a menu option to control frequency of kill cam. The game is all about slowing down, being methodical, and getting that perfect shot and when you do it’s a great feeling. Rebellion really made the sniper rifle gunplay fun and satisfying.
Starting out prepare to die. A lot. You’ll die a lot until the gameplay suddenly “clicks” for you. In multiplayer that “die a lot” phenomenon lasts a lot longer and arguably will never really go away.
I can’t stress enough how far removed from run and shoot this game is. Attempting to play that way will lead to anger, frustration, and futility. It will also show some of the weaknesses in this game since it was designed for players to take their time in. The game does not play terribly well when trying to run and shoot. The mechanics simply weren’t catered in that direction.
The player has a certain level of freedom for taking on targets and challenges. You have large areas to explore and use how you see fit to eliminate targets. Exploring is rewarded with bonus items and do make a point of looking around for these hidden bottles to shoot for more bonuses. The game uses a leaderboard for player scores for both single and multiplayer components.
There are times in the game where it’s actually beneficial to not use the sniper rifle, although ultimately it’s all up to the player, which is what makes it fun.
For example: In interiors I like to usually go Silent Assassin Agent 47 style up close with my suppressed British pistol otherwise it’s all sniper all the way. I rarely if ever use the machine guns.
You get an ever growing list of real life weapons from the era as you progress. The better shots you make, the more points you make which go on leaderboards against other players and I’m pretty sure contribute to how fast you unlock weapons and other goodies. I tend to toggle back and forth between the Mosin Nagant and the Gewehr 43 as my favorite sniper rifles.
Sifting through all the feedback and matching my own notes from my own experiences there are two overarching complaints that people have with the game and I’ll co-sign them myself albeit not heavily weighted:
1.) Enemies spawn up out of nowhere if you pass a checkpoint in the game and that can tend to jar a person out of the immersion.
I have to agree with that to a point. It’s lame. It’s kind of hard to swallow in the year 2012 on any game. If you’ve played like Left 4 Dead or Payday:The Heist, those games show you examples of what it can be like to move past nonsense like that.
The PC version might be a little faster and more subtle on this “spawn out of nowhere” concept but it’s there. No getting around it. It’s a little disappointing considering how much the devs got right with this game.
Here’s a perfect example of where the lameness bites you: It’s pretty lame to be sneaking along, having killed everyone and then you pass that task checkpoint and suddenly some enemy sniper that wasn’t there 2 seconds ago when you thoroughly scouted the roofs out starts picking you off because he materialized out of thin air.
I will say this: The devs have been mightily impressive with communications and responding to issues promptly. Skim the Steam forum for this game and you’ll see proof of that on the PC side at least.
I don’t know how feasible or complicated it would be, but it wouldn’t halfway surprise me if they figure out some way to put out a patch that would make this concept less abrasive and lame.
Hand in glove with that complaint is:
2.) Enemy AI. It could stand to be better. I can pick a spot and pretty much make it where I can wait them out and they’ll all eventually charge me and get killed. Increasing difficulty helps this out a bit although some people have complained that enemy snipers become near god like and “cheat.” I haven’t experienced that phenomenon myself, but in a way that’s a good thing. I like what I’ve seen. These enemy snipers are supposed to be direct rivals and peers of your character so they damned well better be good and they are.
These two complaints weigh differently with different people. For me, they’re issues but they’re not egregious enough from what I’ve experienced to ruin the game by any means simply because it all somehow comes together as a nice, cohesive package anyways. The mods have already put out a robust patch that addressed a number of multiplayer issues and more support is on the way. They’ve already demonstrated they’re serious about this title and want it to succeed to the point that they did an interview with Eurogamer talking how badly they want to make a Sniper Elite V3.
Despite these two issues, which are not glaring in my own experience, the overall game just comes together really nicely. You can even play the game in co-op with other players which is just outstanding in addition to multiplayer options.
Game length/Replay Value
For my first playthrough on the single player campaign, I chose the second to easiest difficulty, Marksman, and it took me 15 hours from start to finish on a fairly thorough playthrough although I did poorly on exploring and finding the hidden gold and found barely any of the hidden bottles you shoot in levels. I couldn’t imagine having blazed through this in 6 hours like I’ve seen some people say out there but everyone’s different. There’s a good value in the single player but the good news is there’s plenty more to this game after you finish the single player component.
Here’s a major area where the consoles and PC versions part company: 505 Studios published the console versions and for budgetary reasons and some such, the console versions do not have the competitive multiplayer mode that gives you deathmatch and team deathmatch. Only the PC has those in addition to the co-op mode that made it into all versions of the game.
I’m thrilled to see co-op and I wish it were in more games.
The co-op for this game has four modes.
Kill Tally – You’re put in levels against endless waves of enemies to rack up points and see how long you can survive.
Bombing Run – Beat the clock. You have to find parts to repair a broken vehicle and get it done fast enough before a bombing run gets called and you get wiped out. Not a game mode for wanting to keep the blood pressure down.
Overwatch – One person is a sniper and the other person is an operative. They have to work together with their respective skills in concert to survive.
Campaign – Two human players in the single player campaign mode.
Past this there’s the more traditional multiplayer component for the PC version only. This means deathmatch and team deathmatch. These in addition to the co-op obviously guarantee many more hours of gameplay time for the PC version. I hope there’s a way that these modes can be added to the console versions before long.
Remember those two complaints with the single player I cited earlier? They don’t exist in competitive multiplayer for the obvious reason that CPU AI is out and it’s all human players. This is when you can really start appreciating what this game really has to offer with virtually no real weaknesses as far as I’m concerned.
My experience playing multiplayer, despite playing poorly most of the time against far better players, is that I keep coming back anyways. That’s a good sign.
Most of these sessions have been nail biting suspense and tension. It’s downright sublime. You’re afraid to move because at any time BLAM! Except you HAVE to move at times and you have to be quiet and smart about it.
You’re an awesome player if you get a dozen kills in a 20-30 minute session. Like I said: Call of Duty this is not. There’s a few amenities that need to be added to multiplayer and I suspect they will be in the near future: Ability in game to change teams and have an auto team balance function for the server. These are basic staples in most of these types of games and they’re needed here. Those are really about the only quibbles I can come up with on the multiplayer side of things.
I find that most of the negative feedback I’ve seen out there about this game and some of the suspect low scores have been from people that are used to playing fast run and gun first person shooters like a Call of Duty and went into this either expecting something like that and/or simply not wanting to try and learn something new. I can’t stress this enough: If you want something like Call of Duty or Battlefield you will hate this game. If you’re willing to try something new and are a little patient with yourself and this game you will be richly rewarded as I have been.
I’m wary of the most of the major review outlets as well. Payola rumors or not, let’s face it: Call of Madden 5000 gets an 8 or 9/10 sight unseen without batting an eyelash but something like this gets slagged and when someone like me who’s actually played the game thoroughly reads some of these “reviews” I’m left wondering what game some of these people even played.
Thankfully there’s a demo for all the platforms so people can make their own minds and they don’t have to take anyone’s word for anything. The way it should always be.
I tried the demo and liked the game and knew I was going to buy it. I didn’t expect to end up outright loving it but that’s what happened to me. At year’s end I won’t be surprised at all if I look at this game as my Dark Horse of The Year and possibly even somewhere past that. I know I’ll still be playing this game by that time.
Try the demo. Scour YouTube. Give this thing a chance but come in with an open mind and no preconceptions. I’m glad I did!
Sniper Elite V2 gets a three out of five: GOOD.