Digital life is cheap. The average gamer has racked up countless enemy kills, from Nazis to aliens, and everything in between. While most shooters offer nonstop action, the original Sniper Elite put a premium on strategy and patience. If you're not killing your enemy with a single bullet, you're not doing your job. This characteristic once again rang true in my recent hands-on time with Sniper Elite V2, and the new x-ray kill cam had me contemplating the consequences of pulling the trigger.

The mission I played involved infiltrating the Mittelwerk Facility, a real life factory the Nazis used to manufacture V-2 guided missiles during the war. I had already killed a Dr. Gunther Kriedl in the previous mission, who was carrying intel that led me to the location. The bullet that killed Kriedl earned me my first "2 for 1" bonus, by tearing its way through the midsection of a fleeing Nazi soldier before lodging itself in the crouching doctor's chest. Like many shots to come, these kills were highlighted by a slow motion view of the bullet traveling along its path, before triggering an x-ray view of the internal damage the projectile caused its victims. Score one for the Allies – or two, as the case may be.

The x-ray cam shows the effects of a sniper's shot in gory detail

I start the Mittelwerk Facility mission behind the base of a watchtower overlooking the main grounds of the facility. A second watchtower sits far in the distance to the east, and a handful of guards patrol the courtyard in predictable routines. This mission introduces the novel mechanic of having to mask the sound of your shots with a blaring radio message that intermittently plays over the grounds' loudspeakers – a symbol pops up in the corner of the screen when it's safe to shoot. I quickly take out the guard standing lookout in the tower above me, then sneak up to the top of the tower for the second shot. I try to avoid using focus mode, which slows down time and shows the precise location of where you bullet will hit, negating much of the challenge. In Sniper Elite V2 you can independently customize enemy skill, ballistic realism, and tactical assistance, allowing you to choose the amount of realism you prefer. I kept tactical assistance on, but try to use it as sparingly as possible.

Instead of using focus mode, I guesstimate the distance to the next tower and compensate by aiming a few marks down on the reticule. My first shot sails past the oblivious guard, but thanks to the unintelligible message barking across the PA, no one is the wiser. I reload and aim a little lower – overcompensating for bullet drop has already proven to be my Achilles heel. I wait for my inadvertent German accomplice to start rambling again and squeeze the trigger.

The game cuts away to another shot of the bullet exiting my sniper rifle, a sure sign I've hit my target. This time the projectile strikes the guard in the jaw, which erupts in a shower of bone fragments and teeth. His disfigured corpse falls to the floor behind the railing of the watchtower, out of sight of the patrolling soldiers. I reload and line up my next shot.

A gruesome, but not uncommon, sight in Sniper Elite V2

These slow motion kill shots prove to be the standout feature of Sniper Elite V2, a just reward for the methodical and sometimes unforgiving gameplay (made worse by sparse checkpoints in the levels I played). But despite being about as jaded towards video game violence as you can get, I couldn't help feeling slightly guilty for my enjoyment of the fetishistic level of detail these cutaway sequences display. The amalgam of bones and organs the x-ray camera reveals looks like the kind of model you might study in an anatomy class – only with a lot more gore. Eyes rupture. Organs tear and gush blood. Testicles explode. One of my shots rips through the hand of a rival sniper, shattering the bones in his palm and causing his severed fingers to fly through the air, as the wobbling shrapnel punctures his skull for the kill. Sniper Elite V2 is a media frenzy waiting to happen, but the more I thought about the level of violence on display, the more okay I was with it.

Sniper Elite V2 is gruesome, but not gratuitous. It penalizes run and gun tactics; every shot counts, and every enemy encounter can end your life. Whereas other games happily hand you weapons that can transform your opponents into blood geysers, Sniper Elite V2's deadliest gun is exactly what you'd expect from the title of the game. Hitting your mark requires you to correct for distance, wind speed, bullet drop (my aforementioned weakness), breathing, and even your heart rate. Why would the violence be any less detailed? The deadliness produced from an accurate shot is a spectacle inherently grounded in realism. Aside from the exploding nut shots, I suppose – although I can't testify what effect a high caliber rifle bullet would have on that particular part of the male anatomy.

Despite the realism, some kills are clearly meant to be entertaining

While I'm ultimate okay with Sniper Elite V2's graphic violence, others surely won't be, and the game brings up the larger question of glorifying violence for the sake of entertainment. There is no easy answer to that issue, and every player will have to determine what he or she is comfortable with. My best recommendation is to check out the demo and decide for yourself.

What I played of Sniper Elite V2 has its problems. Enemies are pretty clueless when it comes to the dying screams of their fellow soldiers, and every now and then the gameplay strays from sniping and becomes exponentially less fun (later in the Mittelwerk Facility mission, the game committed the cardinal sin of triggering an alarm sequence during a cutscene, negating all of my stealthy exploits leading up to it). Whether the final build of the game fixes these issues remains to be seen, but the Sniper Elite franchise continues to stand alone in how much detail it devotes to every bullet fired, as well as the deadly aftermath they cause.