Duck! Duck! Boom! Sniper Elite V2 Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360
Confusion and panic immediately take to the air as the explosion rips through the German halftrack down the block. Nazi soldiers file into the streets, wildly wielding their MP40s as they wait for the impending attack they know not from where. A balding gentleman steps out of a truck wearing a brown suit and black tie, holding a pistol tightly to his chest as he desperately searches for a place to hide. My target. I bear down my rifle, looking through the scope over 100 meters away from the third floor of a bombed out building. My breath slows, time pauses, I focus my crosshairs over his chest, and I pull the trigger.
There are many moments like these in 505 Games’ Sniper Elite V2. The title, developed by Rebellion Studios, takes you back to World War II in this fairly unique game of stealth. You are Karl Fairburne, an officer in the Office of Strategic Services for the United States. As Allied forces push their way through the streets of Berlin in 1945, you head behind enemy lines to secure or eliminate scientists of the German V-2 rocket program. As an elite sniper, stealth and a keen eye are your best weapons; your rifle and silenced pistol your choice tools; and if you’re caught, they’ll be your only allies between you and the full weight of the Third Reich.
This third person shooter with stealth elements reverses the typical primary and secondary roles in similar games, taking the run-and-gun action and putting it in the back seat while the long range rifleman role takes the wheel. And while the premise of the game is solid, there are some issues that really keep Sniper Elite V2 from achieving greatness.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward: sneak from one end of a target zone to the other, avoiding detection any way you can. You do this either by sneaking past enemies or killing them as quietly as possible. There are a number of ways to eliminate an enemy stealthily. You can either take them out with your silenced pistol, or perform a stealth kill simply by walking up behind them and pressing the appropriate button. You can also use your sniper rifle, which normally alerts other enemies to your presence; however, if you time your shots to coincide with a loud noise such as the crash of thunder or a loudspeaker blaring overhead, these chances are reduced. You can also distract enemies by throwing a stone in a direction away from you to divert their attention from you and your intended path.
Of course, there’s always the potential to be seen, and you have a fairly diverse toolset for those circumstances as well. Tripwire mines can be strung across the door to blow unexpected guests to kingdom come, or land mines can be placed in areas where you think a guard may pass by. You can even use them to booby trap dead guards so if a live one happens upon your handiwork, he won’t live long to tell the tale. Naturally, if the moment calls for a louder solution, you can always use your Thompson machine gun to get the point across – which you will find yourself doing pretty often throughout the game.
If you’re discovered, the eagle-eyed guard will very quickly call in the troops who’ll swarm down upon you in droves. Except this is where one of the problems with the game rears its ugly head: the AI. Unfortunately, the enemies in Sniper Elite V2, aren’t terribly smart and will often charge towards your position one or two at a time, allowing you to easily dispatch them with your sniper rifle in rapid succession, or if they get too close, knock them down with the old reliable Tommy Gun. Even in situations where you’re perched on top of a building, I found myself disappointed that I went through the trouble of setting up my landmines and tripwires, because the enemy AI never thought to storm into the building I was in to take out a sniper in close quarters combat. What’s worse is that if I did decide to take out a Nazi with my rifle at range for all to hear, his buddies would seemingly decide to walk right up to the very spot where he was shot to investigate. While initially amusing, it became quickly boring as I just sat there and waited for the bad guys to line themselves up for me.
It doesn’t help that Sniper Elite V2 fails to maintain is a sense of suspense. After the initial realization that, in most cases, prepping your line of defense of mines in a building was pretty much pointless, finding creative ways to sneak past and/or take down enemies quietly quickly becomes boring. By the third act, I was instead opting for my trusty sniper rifle and just picking the idiots off one by one as they came out into the hall to investigate what the racket was all about. Without any real consequences to getting caught, the suspense goes away, and all you’re left with is Duck Hunt where the ducks are Nazi storm troopers.
Sniper Elite V2 does have some interesting mechanics behind it. When you take a shot that hits a vital organ, an X-ray view of the enemy is shown as the bullet passes through them. You also have the ability to tag enemies, which can help you keep track of everyone on the field of battle if you decide to weave your way through them undetected. However, these features don’t really do much to mitigate the oversights in the artificial intelligence or the lack of excitement.
The story doesn’t really seem to add a whole lot to the game either, especially in the beginning. With a lone character, it’s difficult to really convey a compelling narrative to draw the player into the experience. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Halo work around this by bringing other characters into the mix via a comm system or an AI implanted in their brain to add dialogue; however, Sniper Elite V2 has none of this, leaving much of the dialogue to the main character in between missions as he recalls the events. Even an internal monologue (à la Max Payne) would have helped to move things along rather than just having the noises of war and an occasional tuft of script during the intermission.
One thing that Rebellion does a fairly decently is make a good looking and great sounding game. While not on par with your Call of Duties or your Battlefields, the characters and environments do look pretty darn good. This mixed with excellent sound makes the setting of World War II Berlin a believable one with bombed out houses, V2 rocket facilities, and the like. Sounds of gunfire and explosions off in the distance draw you into the world, while minute details such as the random radio or Victrola playing period music really go a long way to make the game realistic in both look and feel.
Multiplayer is available in Sniper Elite V2 as well, with a decent variety of modes including online cooperative campaign. Other modes featured are Kill Tally, where you continue mowing down Nazis until they overwhelm you; Bombing Run, where you must repair your escape vehicle while taking out incoming Nazis and flee the area before Allied bombs start raining down; and finally, Overwatch, where one player will take a sniper position and watch over a friend while they run around completing a variety of tasks such as blowing up enemy communications or stealing plans. Unfortunately, all of the game modes are co-operative, and while they are challenging, the lack of a competitive game mode leaves a lot lacking.
Sniper Elite V2 is a game that had some solid ambitions, but falls short in a lot of categories. While the X-ray features and enemy tagging are clever tricks, it would have been nice to see them invest in some of the aspects that really make a game great, such as a story. I’d recommend this title to someone if they were between shooters and had some time to kill, but only after it hit the bargain bin first.
Sniper Elite V2 receives a 3.0/5.0
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