Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sniper Elite V2 review


Sniper Elite V2 is exactly what every fan of the original Sniper Elite desires it to be: a true sequel.  Rebellion completely understood that this game wasn't supposed to take on the likes of Mass Effect or Call of Duty, but rather it needed to further explore and expand on what made the first Sniper Elite a unique experience. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that Sniper Elite V2 is a superb game, I'm just saying that it's a proper sequel to the first game.  Plus it doesn't have one of the STUPIDEST endings imaginable in a sniper game (yes I'm referring to Sniper:Ghost Warrior's ending and no I'm never letting that go).

Sniper Elite V2 places the player in the role Karl Fairburne, an officer of the OSS who was deployed behind enemy lines in Berlin near the end of the European Front in World War II.  Now let's see if we can predict the plotline of this game! Given it being set in World War II and being done by Rebellion, it shouldn't be too difficult a challenge to figure out but I'll go ahead and list out some cliché options to help you along:

1.)  Hunt down the top Nazi and/or Wehrmacht officers to throw the German army in chaotic disarray.
2.)  Shoot your way through the defensive lines of the main Germany army encampment to single handedly stealth kill the final assault force.
3.)  Take out Hitler from 400+ yards and plant evidence to blame it on suicide just to make him look like an even bigger wuss.
4.)  Shoot a Soviet officer with a German rifle, thus personally creating the real reason for the Soviet Union to turn against Germany.
5.)  Kill an assortment of V2 rocket scientists for some cockamamie "if you don't, the world could end" James Bond-esq story arch.
6.)  None of the above, this game has an intriguing and thoroughly detailed plot with tragic literary elements that could rival that of Christopher Marlowe.

If you chose option 6, feel free to smack your own face right now.  Otherwise, it's a tough call to make since all other options would make a great movie or comic book, but since this is a game with V2 in the title, looks like the dart has hit option 5 with this game, though option 3 is available should you have purchased the pre-order DLC.  So as described above, this game puts the player in a race against time to take out the majority of German V2 rocket scientists before they are captured by the Soviet Union and allowing them to get weapons technology that could be used against the United States in the Cold War. But the important thing to focus on is the double meaning in the title. V2 is both the rocket based weapon of the age and the 2 signifies this game being a sequel! Get it? It's a double meaning! Oh you clever Rebellion writers. And by clever I of course mean apathetic but you get the idea.  *spoilers* You win both World War II and the Cold War. Congratulations, now go have a drink. I certainly need one.



The main strengths in this game are all around the gameplay itself, and this is where I find the game to be truly entertaining and unique. With taking on the roll of a sniper, one would expect to utilize stealth, observation, planning, accuracy and precision. In previous titles that have sniper focuses or even just sniper based missions, this option is available but it's not your only option. You could grab an enemy AK-47 and run into a building wearing your ghillie suit and shoot up an entire army if you wanted. Entertaining notion and even more entertaining image in your head, especially if you replace all those in the opposing army with a formal wear dinner party, but still incorrect in what makes a sniper different from a one-man army commando. V2 instead forces the player to use their head and actually think like a stealth sniper. Sure you have a submachine gun as one of your weapons, but you only start with one magazine worth of ammo and should you find ammo on dead soldiers, you can find up to a magazine of one additional clip.  This pretty much makes it impossible for anyone to be tempted to run and gun, something I greatly appreciate from this game. Your other weapons only include a backup pistol and your rifle. Sure you have your trip wire grenades, frag grenades, and other support weapons but ammo is still limited and you still have to be somewhat smart in using them. The point is, you have to plan out each attack and that's something I absolutely love. There's a fair amount of missions in the single player campaign and each mission can take anywhere between 2-5 hours to complete, depending on the patience of the player. For myself, I took my sweet time. You achieve better camouflage from the enemy in prone than just crouched so often I crawled to my desired shooting position like a drunk...well, anything.

The main focus of a sniper game should the shooting of the rifle itself, and this game fine tuned what the first Sniper Elite game achieved so well. The player can set the difficulty to not have as much of a challenge in using the scoped rifle with pretty much just aiming at a head and pulling the trigger, or they can have it at a high difficulty setting that makes one need to focus on heart rate, altitude, distance, wind, and movement of the target. One thing I really love with V2 is how you can even create a custom campaign that has the highest difficulty in sniper physics but the lowest difficulty in the AI of the enemy, allowing someone who wishes to hone their skills to do so without fear of messing up one shot equaling their instant death by a volley of 10,000 enemy bullets. The different rifles in the game also have slightly different physics, that being different power scopes, muzzle velocity, the crosshair style of the scope itself, or even semi-auto rifles over bolt action  There really is a lot of customization allowed in this game and that's never a terrible thing to have.  But there's a cherry on top of this sniper flavored sundae and that's the bullet killcam.  When you have your distance shot lined up and it indeed is a killshot, the game rewards you with one of the most brutal killcams I've seen yet in a game and certainly the most brutal in a sniper game. The game follows the bullet the moment it leaves your rifle, much like it did in the first Sniper Elite. However, instead of just following the round until it hits your target, often times the moment it hits your target, a circular x-ray path is provided to show exactly what the bullet does to the bones and organs inside said target. In other words, not only did you get a great headshot, but you actually see the bones in his skull shattering into pieces as the bullet passes through his forehead.  This killcam is something that never got old and even though its brutality could make others squeamish, I found it to be done rather tastefully (as far as slow motion x-ray head shattering sequences can go at least).



Overall the game is simple, sometimes frustrating, but overall a game any true fan of sniper games would thoroughly enjoy.  The way Rebellion actually forces a player to use stealth and planning for each kill makes me appreciate their efforts to continue the tradition of the first Sniper Elite game, and all without that horribly STUPID "limited times you can save during a mission" crap that the first game had.  Sure there are some minor complaints to be said with the current game, such as it having only a checkpoint save system and the AI's aim with submachine and machine guns being so accurate you question why you're even bothering trying to snipe them at all. But those complaints don't ruin the experience of Sniper Elite V2 and if anything they just add to the challenge the game brings.

Oh and that "Kill Hitler" DLC? It was very short and frustrating and had one of the laziest lead ins I've read in a long time (basically saying "I found out somehow that Hitler was nearby so I'm putting my time sensitive mission on hold so I can go shoot him"), but in the end seeing a bullet enter through Hitler's abdomen and puncture through his liver was very rewarding. Why his abdomen? I wanted to see if the game had a way of fixing history prepared should you not shoot him through the head. *more spoilers* It didn't.



Verdict: It's not a stupendous game on its own and its story is laughable, but if you look past those you'll realize that this game does exactly what job it was supposed to do and that's provide a challenging and thoroughly rewarding stealth sniper experience. With incredibly simple yet smooth controls paired with great gameplay, I honestly feel this game is underappreciated and should be enjoyed for what it is. This isn't Mass Effect with a sniper character, but it certainly isn't Ghost Warrior and that's something anyone can be proud of.
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