Sniper Elite V2 Had Greatness in its Sights - shootist2600 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Sniper Elite V2 Had Greatness in its Sights

Rebellion Developments' first Sniper Elite game was an exceptional shooter that successfully mixed tactical gameplay with arcade elements in a world fraught with danger and opportunity. Its remake is a commendable and rewarding update, but whose tweaks nonetheless undermine the title's considerable potential.

Gameplay

The chief area where its predecessor excelled, gameplay in Sniper Elite V2 is excellent at long range, which is a blessing as that is its emphasis. At close range, however, it falters.

The marksman difficulty, chosen for the options of bullet drop and controlled breathing, was less than "a fair challenge" when considering short range weapons. Whether poor hit detection, unbalanced foes, scarce ammo, or a combination thereof, enemies indeed proved "unforgiving" but in a somewhat cheap way. In fact, it made me wonder whether their ability to absorb extreme punishment and the wild inaccuracy of shooting from the hip was by design to force an over reliance on the sniping element.

Thankfully, sniping is intuitive and entertaining. As in the original game, the scoped view allows zoom, visual cues such as puffs of debris help you adjust your aim, and a button press temporarily holds one's breath and steadies one's aim. Targeting is fluid and responsive, and the relative distance of foes feels properly accounted for when considering bullet drop or leading your reticule against moving targets.

However, it's difficult to predict when a lethal bullseye will result in the paydirt of an X-ray killcam. Snipers at times are treated to the same superficial, yet highly effective, killcam used in the previous title. At other times, the more invasive and gory X-ray killcam displays internal damage. But which one is warranted frankly seems random instead of based on particular criteria. That inconsistency can prove distracting at times.

In-game awards, trophies/achievements or a variety of statistics that are tracked and shown in real time add other welcome arcade elements to the otherwise realistic tactical warfare on display. The return of these features once again strikes a nice balance between seemingly disparate gameplay styles for an entertaining package that appeals on different levels. (The above headshot warranted one of my first trophies, below.)

Melee combat is an option though considering the emphasis on ranged combat it was an element I neglected. Likewise, collision detection seemed a bit off in terms of what position one had to be in to trigger a button press takedown. It's a welcome feature nonetheless but likely will be underutilized by most gamers. 

Enemy AI proves adept at honing in on your gunfire, advancing on your position and eventually finding your location provided you don't stay on the move. And when they do come, they arrive in numbers. Thankfully you're equipped with a few trip wires and land mines to defend your position but, once found, small arms and explosives can prove problematic.

In the heat of a firefight you might be tempted to shoot from the hip, however, that tactic is fairly useless given its inaccuracy. Aiming proves much more precise, unfortunately an inordinate amount of ammo is required to kill foes. In fact, I often ran out of small arms ammo. And wielding grenades, which follow an arc, can be cumbersome during close quarters combat.

There are some RPG elements that are appreciated. The ability to search enemies for ammo or explosives makes its return from the original game, though the quick search when under fire unfortunately was omitted. Likewise ammo or weapons can be scavanged from the ground. A few gold bars can be found in every area, encouraging exploration.

Every game has its glitches and Sniper Elite V2 is no exception, though they thankfully are few and far between. Still, somewhat annoying is the occasion when you're being shot even when behind cover. In the two frames below, bullets were emerging from where my crosshairs are pointed, despite the sniper having been on the opposite side of the building.

Presentation

Details help immerse you in a wartorn Berlin and, indeed, depict a kind of realword "destroyed beauty" that Epic Games famously applied to their fantasy Gears of War franchise. Damaged buildings are sometimes reduced to rubble and debris is littering every street. Textures have depth, flames give off heat distortion, smoke billows convincingly and flags wave.

Everywhere are examples of great care taken in recreating a war zone strewn with possessions and keepsakes abandoned in battle. The doll below, for example, was otherwise hidden behind a painting. Nearby, a broken flower pot lay on the ground with its soil and plant emptied onto the ground. Random papers, packed boxes, shoes and other items likewise could be found.

Lighting, perhaps more than most elements, can go a long way toward creating a realistic setting and this game employs some of the best I've seen. Whether rays of sunshine or light from fires, it convincingly illuminates any setting and casts believable shadows.

Interiors are no less impressive, including some that are relatively untouched from the horrors of war. Nearly every item bears exquisite detail and makes for some remarkable settings.

The screenshot below provides the best example of the often brilliant textures used to display various surfaces. Here, the wood table, floor paneling and wallpaper each benefitted from unique texturing that helped distinguish them as well as create an authentic setting.

Draw distance is not the best I've seen but does do a credible job of creating scope. Whether squadrons of planes flying overheard, smoke on the horizon or nearby soldiers combing the battlefield, the overall scene helps place you in the period and events taking place. Ambient noises such as the drone of planes, thunder of explosions or crackle of gunfire likewise establish the backdrop for your exploits.

Smoke and flames are ubiquitous in the environment and thankfully are among the most believable depictions I've seen (see below). Flames dance realistically, heat distorts nearby objects, embers float skyward and smoke billows in puffs large and small, black and gray.

The one caveat of the presentation, and it's a major one, is that each level was more linear than in the game's predecessor. The wide open areas of the original Sniper Elite, with its multiple paths for approaching every objective, meant more opportunity for improvisation. While V2 still offers a variety of interiors and perhaps an alternate route or two, it doesn't approach the expansive design -- and therefore gameplay -- so integral to the experience offered by the first title.

Most of my time was spent playing through the campaign in co-op with our own mojomonkey12 (jmb78). The cooperative gameplay was fun and by its nature allowed for greater strategy when approaching any objective, however, it too was not without its caveats.

In the screenshot below, an ally was taking mojo somewhere to sleep off his late night bender in celebration of our surviving another firefight.

The same campaign missions when played in co-op enabled some welcome coordination for taking out challenging objectives (see below). While the opportunity exists to take up separate positions, it's not always a practical choice as reviving one's partner proves crucial to surviving the level.

That said, the same issues from playing solo emerged during cooperative play. Namely, short range weapons were imprecise and unbalanced against relatively impervious foes, and dynamite was mostly ineffective given that it had to be triggered with a bullet.

As in the original title, killcams exist in the cooperative mode so both players can witness each other's sniping prowess.

Mission accomplished! That is, after a few tries to get a decent screenshot.

Waiting for Mojo. Jeremy often went off to search for gold bars, though he also tried to get himself killed a few times. He proved equally successful at both.

In reality, we both proved adept bullet sponges. The problem is that collision detection is poor and we often had to move about, under fire, to trigger the Resuscitate Partner option. This challenge is made more difficult when attempting to do so prone; even when successful at triggering that option, the resuscitate position is kneeling, exposing oneself to enemy fire. A few deaths, and failed objectives, can be attributed to this poor design (and, OK, our tendency to get shot).

By accident I found the Jungle Juice challenge, whereby you need to shoot all the bottles in a game. Each hit even comes with its own killcam! The inebriated sniper below apparently didn't stand a chance.

The game tracks you and your partner's stats just like in the solo campaign, and also shows how many bottles or gold bars were collected. This can encourage replayability for completionists, or even for those who want to improve their stats.

As when playing solo, glitches make an appearance every now and then but thankfully can be amusing more than frustrating at times. Take this spot (below) next to a column, where one can levitate to the ceiling.

In the sequence depicted below, mojo appeared to pass through the floor and float waist-deep here and there. At times he even fell chest deep into the floor, his head disappearing into his torso. Interestingly, from Jeremy's perspective, he was sniping foes in the street below the entire time and indeed cleared the area while I was watching his digital doppleganger dance.

It might not be surprising that the presentation was just as solid in co-op as during solo play given that you're playing through the same campaign. Still, it bears repeating what a gorgeous depiction it is. As far as level design, the one depicted below is one of my favorites given the free roam layout, which sadly was an exception more than the rule as in the previous title.

Even in death this foe's work ethic never faltered.

Bueller ... Bueller ...

Finally, a word about other co-op modes. Bombing Run (find vehicle parts) and Overwatch (one snipes, one completes objectives) are curious additions given the reliance on the game's poor short range combat for one or both partners. Kill Tally (hoard mode) thankfully was less frustrating and more fun once we figured out we had to run for high ground prior to each wave. Like CoD's zombie mode, keeping one or two foes alive to restock on the ground prior to the next wave proved essential.

After having played almost 11 hours in both single and cooperative modes, and having completed the campaign with mojomonkey12's help (thanks, Jeremy!), I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience overall and am grateful that Rebellion Development and 505 Games chose to remake what is, in my opinion, an exceptional shooter.

Sniper Elite V2 reproduces some of the best features of its predecessor, creating a sniping game that arguably has the most intuitive, deep and fun options of any such title. Also, the presentation has received a next gen overhaul for an impressive audio/visual display. However, it also falters in other areas of design, weakening short range combat, restricting free roam levels, eliminating the stealth gauge and fumbling co-op resuscitation.

Taken together, it's still an above average game that fans of the genre should explore, especially anyone interested in a good sniping game. Unfortunately it's an unbalanced game when it comes to combat as a whole, and in that regard pales in comparison to its predecessor. But if you can overlook those missteps, you might find an entertaining title provided you can keep foes at arm's length.

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