Sniper-Elite-v2---Xbox-360-Review Sniper Elite v2 - Xbox 360 Review

   22/05/2012 at 15:01       Jason       6 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Sniper Elite v.2, FPS, Remedey, Bullet Time, Nazis

Money shot

Rebellion have an interesting reputation among gamers. They’re purveyors of some rather impressive titles from over the past few years, with several considered classics by their fans. I’ve always had a real fondness for the company, as they created two of my favourite games from the last gen of consoles: the original Sniper Elite and Rogue Trooper (sequel now please). They also distinguished themselves by being one of the very few developers who made an extremely competent shooter (Miami Vice) on Sony’s PSP. This gen they’ve given us a long awaited sequel to the Aliens vs Predator franchise, which was very playable and atmospheric (especially when played as a fragile marine); Neverdead, where you play an immortal that easily devolves into kit form (sometimes a little too easily, annoyingly); not to mention Rogue Warrior, “starring” Richard Machinko, and Shellshock 2. Sadly the last two names on this list linger in the memory like the taste of fried excrement does on the tongue.

Anyway, the original Sniper Elite was fantastic. A genuine sniper sim which brought new parameters to the TPS genre. You had to play by its rules. Some couldn’t adjust from our traditional run and gun policy and so found it frustrating. The rest of us found an absolute gem of a game – which still plays fantastically well now.

The original was superb, in my opinion. The wait for this sequel (or reboot, or reimagining – however developers explain away revisiting old product) has felt like the longest I’ve endured in my history as a gamer.

Good job it’s fantastic then, hey?

War. What is it good for?

The setting is Berlin, in the last moments of World War 2. You’re a US sniper, Karl Fairburne, buried amid the rubble and chaos of a city in ruins. The Russians are swarming across the landscape like angry bees and some of Germany’s top scientists are likely to fall into their hands. Your mission is to aid those few men who wish to defect to the Allies and eliminate those who might choose to aid the Russian weapon programme – one bullet at a time.

My girlfriend, who is German, had some questions for me on this one. Why the WW2 setting, for one, which is fair. It’s a playground we visit with incredible regularity in gaming (certainly at the outset of this generation of consoles). What’s the attraction? I think from a developer’s point of view it’s an intact fiction (bear with me). Good and evil are clearly defined, it’s a moral and physical landscape we can jump into and we have an innate understanding of this world. The war has penetrated our psyche and even our language, even if the articulation of some of the actual history is beginning to diminish. And then there’s the mechanics of the era: the weapons. Kills came with skill (and some luck) using these geriatric rifles. Modern warfare (and I mean that as an all-encompassing reference to current game titles) is a little sterile, a little dull, in comparison. Future warfare, and you know the titles I refer to here, has always struck me as… well, silly.

The joy of this era, and this game especially, is that you’re not some indestructible avatar bestriding the landscape. You’re a vulnerable man, armed with a rifle and scope, binoculars, a machine gun and pistol capable of as much devastation as a rape alarm, and whatever explosives and bric-a-brac you can scavenge from the fallen. You’re put into the mind-set of the character by the developer’s well-defined limitations. You play their game, or you pay the price.

“Say goodbye to your Nazi balls.”

There are ten missions (and a prologue), in total, with each beginning with a briefing, look at a map of the area, and a chance to customise your loadout (although I was on mission seven before I realised two taps of RB got me to a customisation screen). You will scavenge new weapons as you play through the campaign: various pistols, machine guns and new sniper rifles, along with grenades, mines, trip-mines, dynamite, et al. You have a limited number of accessories to choose from, but can loot any corpse for extra equipment or ammo. (So nice of Jerry to carry spare bullets for my sniper rifle, I thought.) Whilst the mechanics of gameplay don’t vary greatly through the campaign, you find yourself tasked with a variety of objectives: assassinations, rescues, sabotage, etc.

So, you’re dropped behind enemy lines. The first thing you need to do is find some cover, maybe even go prone straight away. The enemy are everywhere; one wrong step can be fatal (especially on Sniper Elite difficulty, which also does away with any player assists and prompts). You grab cover with the press of a button, another button press brings up your binoculars. On regular difficulty, the player can tag enemies, to keep track of them (much like in Splinter Cell: Conviction). This means you remain aware of where the soldiers are, even if you lose line of sight. And then it’s time to creep or crawl to your objective, break a few necks or use the silenced Welrod pistol to take down a lone patrol. Or, of course, bring out the big gun. Each of the available sniper rifles have distinct characteristics: muzzle velocity, scope, effective range, etc, and each will affect bullet trajectory and wind resistance. When you bring up the scope, the science of sniping begins. Bullets are effected by distance, rifle power, wind, etc. The player has to adjust his aim to compensate for all these factors. If you’ve had to run for cover, you need to wait for your heart-rate to slow, calming the shot. Finally, you can hold your breath for added focus – and an additional target reticule on regular and lower difficulties will predict where your shot will land.

And then you squeeze.

A good shot is rewarded by a brilliantly gory kill-cam. The camera tracks the bullet in slow motion, until it reaches its target, at which point the player is frequently blessed with an x-ray of the hapless victim. These are the games raison d’etre, they are the bullet porn, which will make you wince and cheer (and apologise to the missus). And, much like Benjamin Button, they never get old.

Graphically the game veers between functional and smart, with the ruined beauty of Berlin captured effectively. The soundscape adds to the atmosphere – and can even be exploited. Whilst no rifles support a silencer, the player can mask shots by timing them with background disturbances, maintaining your cover for as long as possible.

I never played the original game online (the original Xbox version is not backwards compatible in the UK despite what Microsoft say and my PS2 wasn’t primed for such), but I’m delighted to see multiplayer functionality supported here. The whole campaign is playable in co-op mode, with further online modes allowing for an extended life span. There’s Kill Tally, the ubiquitous horde mode; Overwatch, in which one player snipes whilst the other spots targets and completes objectives on the ground; Bombing Run, in which both players have to scavenge parts for a vehicle to make their escape, before the area is flattened by ordnance. (Deathmatch is limited to the PC version, although who knows what the future may bring?)As always, friends add to the fun, but all of the modes are robust and very little feels tacked on. In fact, nothing in the title feels like an afterthought. Rebellion really are at the peak of their powers here.

The game has already seen some support with downloadable content. If you pre-ordered (and I did about a year ago), you already have access to the free assassinate Hitler mission (again, the missus not happy about that one…), and a couple of new sniper rifles, including my beloved Kar98. Hints suggest this (and presumably new) dlc will be available to all in the near future.

The whole nine yards

In my heart, this game gets full marks; it’s just lived up to every hope and expectation I had. That’s not to say it’s a flawless experience, of course. One of the things I have missed in v2 is that occasional lack of range for my battles. The longest kill I made was 530 metres (and it was the last trigger-pull of the game). You’re going to be averaging between 100 and 300 metres typically. In the original, you were capable of longer ranges – certainly on the airbase assault it was possible, if you knew what you were doing, to land at least one shot well over 1000 metres away). The concession may be to do with realism, or it may be to do with programming limitations – but I hope this broadening scope is something that can be offered with future downloadable content.

Should you buy it? Happily, that’s an easy decision. I was a fan before the first video clips were released, reviews mattered not a jot to me. (I even bought Sniper: Ghost Warrior, such was my desperation in filling that Rebellion-sized hole.) If you have any fond memories of the first, this game is essential. It is everything you loved about that game, through a polished, modern lens. And then there’s the demo. A generous chunk of the second level is sitting on Live. Every gaming forum has been besotted with the thing in the run up to the release. Look in any thread and see the excited chatter and competitiveness (there’s a great, unobtrusive leaderboard/score mechanic attached to the full game). Give that a shot, it’s representative of the full game and, hopefully, will get you very excited for the full thing.

For me, Rebellion have finally delivered everything I always believed them to be capable of. So there’s one in the eye (or the kidneys, or the spleen, or the balls) for the doubters.

 

Stars
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