Cart: Sniper Elite V2 Cab: PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC Coin: Rebellion
For how long can you hold your focus? A few hours? A few minutes?
How about thirty seconds?
You see, Bungie were once famously quoted as saying that Halo was nothing more than the same thirty seconds of pleasure recycled over-and-over again. Detractors were quick to ridicule this comment, using it as apparent proof of Halo’s shallow nature and overrated status. It was certainly a brutally honest assessment from the developer; the thing is that it pointed to the heart of the game’s immense strength, not its weakest flaw.
But what if thirty seconds is too much pleasure? How about a single second?
It’s a question that Sniper Elite V2 dares to ask, with the pleasure in question being stalking prey – from a very long distance. The experience of watching an enemy several hundred metres away, who is completely unaware of your presence, is wonderfully empowering. As you fight against your breathing, patience, concentration and judgement, the tension builds to a knife-edge climax where failure is as just as real a possibility as reward.
Bungie conspired to force-feed you the same thirty seconds of pleasure, over-and-over again; Rebellion were brave enough to ask you to painstakingly plan and savour a single second’s worth.
The whole experience is something truly special. Gruesome, but special.
After the first shot has thundered out across the environment, your cover is blown and all hell breaks loose. You find yourself the immediate focus of any remaining troops, who react intelligently, dashing to cover or towards a better firing position. Nearby enemies move to flush you out and gameplay can switch rapidly back-and-forth between sniping and close-range combat – the former being far more accomplished than the latter. On the hardest settings, this is every bit as challenging as it sounds and whilst trial-and-error is impossible to escape, it never out-stays its welcome.
Although the mechanics of the game allow for stealthier options such as a silenced pistol and diversionary tactics such as throwing rocks, I never found myself using either a great deal. Neither did I make great use of the land-mines, trip-wires or grenades at my disposal. That may simply have been my preferred play-style, but I still sense that the design of the game could have done more to encourage variety from me – or even just force my hand on occasion.
But make no mistake: this is as close to a full-blown sniper-simulator as any game has ever come. Realistic ballistics, environmental factors and the strategic timing of shots all come into play to make-up a seriously engrossing experience. A rather graphic x-ray-bullet-cam even tracks the path of your greatest shots from rifle muzzle through to bone and tissue. Even after several hours of play, its gratuitous nature still warrants a sharp intake of breath and a furrowed brow.
Aside from being a commendable re-imagining of the original 2005 Sniper Elite, V2 comes equipped a whole host of multi-player options ranging from co-op to adversarial, with each one being a well-crafted and rather unique experience. The sense of camaraderie when working together is palpable given how vulnerable you are alone – something that feeds brilliantly into the tense and challenging deathmatch variants. One particularly pleasing addition is the No-Cross set of games where the map is split into two zones, occupied by opposing forces equipped with sniper-rifles only. It’s great being able to fully absorb yourself in the experience against real opposition without having to worry about some smug bastard with an SMG sneaking-up on you.
To complement the existing range of multi-player options (which had already been bolstered by a substantial, free update), Rebellion launched a PC-only, zombie-themed stand-alone expansion pack for V2 this February. Whilst some might bemoan yet another WWII zombie-fest, the sniper slant, as ever, makes it feel fresh and engaging and the fact that it can be purchased quite separate from the core game is a hint at Rebellion’s sense of good-will and forward-thinking business mind. A refreshingly honest approach in the age of IAPs and DLC (one can only imagine EA including pay-per-shot mechanics were they to ghillie-up).
Despite some clear old-school roots and the slightly clunky feel to the third-person controls, it’s difficult to fault V2. A sniper-fan’s dream; a challenging and deeply engrossing simulator; a varied and unique multi-player and an honest-John approach to doing business: here’s a game that’s more deserving of your attention than most.
Provided you’re willing to focus on it.
Stay-tuned for our impending Interview with Rebellion as we explore the development of Sniper Elite V2, the possibilities in the highly anticipated Sniper Elite 3 and Rebellion’s other numerous spheres of responsibility including stewardship of the much-loved 2000 AD comic.