Sniper Elite V2 PS3 review

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Developer(s): Rebellion Developments
Publisher(s): Rebellion Developments, 505 Games, Ubisoft (Japan)
Platform(s): Playstation 3, XBox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: April 30, 2012

Big explosions, whizzing bullets, screaming comrades, and frantic shootouts are your typical ingredients to most military shooters.  It’s a rare treat when we take the battlefield backdoor and examine stealthier means to combat.  War torn Germany proves to be the perfect playground for sneaking around and lining up headshots.  It’s not to say that being a sniper is short of spectacles.  The newly introduced X-Ray cam shows the sniper’s .50 caliber bullet shred the targets’ insides in glorious slow motion.  The sniper’s approach might be subtle, but his executions are gruesome. The Sniper Elite franchise returns with a reboot, rather than a sequel, and brings surprisingly addictive gameplay, unique enough to hold its ground when facing veterans of the genre.

The Good
X-Ray Cam never gets old
Addictive gameplay
Be stealthy or shoot everything in sight

The Bad
AI has superhuman vision
Outside the sniping, controls can be clunky
Enemy AI can be frustratingly dumb

You play as OSS officer Karl Fairburne who’s sent to Berlin in 1945 to track key figures involved in the V-2 ballistic missile development.  The campaign references USA’s plan (Operation Paperclip) to recruit Nazi-German Scientists for employment in the aftermath of World War II.  Trite story elements bring nothing new to the table, but varied mission objectives provide plenty of sneaking and sniping opportunities:  infiltrating heavily guarded facilities, assassinating Nazi targets, and disabling military weaponry.  You can take the silent route or pick a hiding spot and let hell break loose. 


The levels follow your typical point A to point B format, but they provide several paths to flanking your opponents.  You’re equipped with a silenced pistol, a machine gun, trip wires, grenades, land mines, rocks (for distracting guards), and of course your deadly sniper rifle.  Your varied arsenal is a catalyst for creative bloodshed, but it’s a shame that stealth feels unrefined and clumsy.  Before making your first move, you can examine the environment with your binoculars and tag enemies for easier kills.  Unfortunately, regardless of your position, every soldier seems to know your exact location once the first shot is fired.  This oftentimes takes away from your careful planning and you’re left with a game of whack-a-mole

The enemy AI is aggravatingly inconsistent.  You’ll see enemies welcome your bullets with open arms while others have super human vision, spotting you from a mile away.  Sneaking though buildings is where stealth suffers the most.  Take a room with three guards for example, where one is looking out the window. You can easily shoot two krauts without the third guy ever reacting. Other times, you’ll hear enemies storming at you from the distance, even though you’re quietly prone on the floor.  This isn’t to say that stealth is entirely broken or useless.  You can certainly crawl your way thought the majority of levels undetected, but it’s a shame that random AI spasms break the gameplay tempo.


Sniper Elite V2 is a blast to play.  Critical shots are highlighted with a slow motion X-Ray Cam that showcases what happens when a bullet tears though an enemy’s body.  Teeth shatter, organs explode, limbs fly - it’s a blood bath.  The shooting feels precise and the realism of bullet ballistics is determined by the game’s difficulty setting.  Playing on casual removes environmental effects on the bullet. Your bullet will land exactly where your reticle points, so this is a welcome setting for newcomers to sniper simulations.  Raising the difficulty brings a whole new level of authenticity to the gameplay.  Taking gravity, velocity, bullet penetration, wind, and aim stability into account is quite challenging when you have a gang of Nazis breathing down your neck.  Furthermore, several levels have tanks and enemy vehicles patrolling the area.  They can be taken out by shooting their gas tanks, killing everyone in the blast radius.

As fun as the sniping is, using your machine gun for close-range combat feels gawky and buggy.  I know the sniper is all about, well, sniping, but you think he’d grasp the basics of using other firearms - sometimes it feels like he’s shooting with his feet.  Luckily, these encounters are seldom and you mainly rely on your sharpshooter skills.


Visually, the game has nicely rendered, authentic environments.  The streets of Berlin are filled with rubble and you get a detailed area overview when the camera shifts to slow motion as it follows the bullet to its target.  Character models look decent enough, but it’s the death animations that steal the show.  Depending on where you hit the target, the enemy reacts distinctively.  It’s reminiscent of the recent Max Payne game - bravo!

The audio is superb!  The high-pitched sound of your bullet catching speed and the grotesque shattering of Nazi skulls is thrilling.  Sound also plays a substantial role in how you navigate the levels.  Unless you are crouching, the echoing of your footsteps attracts nearby soldiers and can blow your cover.  When sneaking through a building, enemy chatter can reveal their location and give you the upper hand.  These are great little touches that complement the gameplay.

Sniper Elite V2 is a rare gem in the military shooter genre.  The single player mode is solid, clocking in at about 7+ hours, and you even have a multiplayer component that allows for co-op play.  Replay value depends on how much you enjoy the first playthrough, but considering that every mission gives you numerous ways to make your enemies’ brains explode, I’d say you have plenty of reasons to revisit the campaign.

Review by Tin Salamunic


FINAL SCORE


“Superb Shooter”

8.5

GRAPHICS

Authentic environments and fantastic death animations, but there isn’t too much variety in the scenery.

     
7.5

GAMEPLAY

One of the biggest surprises of the year. The game is an absolute blast to play and the shooting mechanics are spot on.

   
8.5

VALUE

While it’s only seven hours long, the different approaches to missions and the many, brutal ways to kill your enemies are more than enough reasons to come back for more.

   
8.5

SOUND

The sound of bones shattering is spectacular. It’s an otherwise quite game, but you have to rely on sound to navigate the environment stealthily.

   
8.5 

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