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Sniper Elite V2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Sniper Elite V2 (Xbox 360) review

"Karl Fairburne 2.0: allergic to headgear."

A lot of things can easily happen when a followup is being made for something that came out seven years prior, especially in the video game medium. The sequel could really just be recognizable in name only, offering a brand new experience that caters to whatever is popular at that particular moment, in a bid to maximize profits. This situation presented itself with 2005's Sniper Elite and 2012's Sniper Elite V2, with a large enough gap that the developers, Rebellion, could get away with drastically changing the whole design, and players likely wouldn't care. I mean, let's be real, how many people knew or remember the original game's existence before V2? To my personal surprise, the sequel decided to stay true to its roots, maintaining a large portion of its predecessor's template, either improving or fixing some of its problems, in a retelling of the original's plot about V-2 rockets in the closing days of World War II Germany.

For those bemused how a full game could possibly sustain itself purely on video game sniper mechanics, it's more simplistic than it sounds: the first two Sniper Elite titles kinda operate like long distance, third-person cover shooters. Being out in the open, or worse, up close to soldiers during a shootout is detrimental to your survival, and while you do have machine guns as secondary weapons, the main key to success is using your rifle's scope in a skillful, calm manner. Now, sniping in titles like Halo or Grand Theft Auto, where you basically put the reticle on a specific area and the bullet actually hits that part, makes it an easy, one-hit kill power, but the Sniper Elite series requires a bit of a learning curve to the mechanic. Important aspects are thrown in to crank up the guessing factor, like determining bullet drop, emptying your lung in limited bursts to steady aim, and taking into consideration the wind.

This is why cover has great importance in these battles to help with precise kills, and the reason there's even an element of stealth. However, the latter was a feature that was mangled in the first game thanks to enemy AI having absurd awareness of their surroundings. Whether it'd be hearing your barely audible crouch walk through louder noises, or knowing exactly where you are when quietly relocating to a different spot, the AI made stealth strategies in the original Sniper Elite nearly obsolete. Thankfully, this has been rectified in V2, making it one of the game's greatest improvements, and in turn welcoming opportunities for more diverse fighting outcomes.

You can go through chunks of a stage without ever being seen, sneak up behind soldiers for melee kills or with a silenced pistol, and even though there's no radar, which I think is a good decision, you can still have soldiers marked for a brief time through binoculars. With all that said, it's still surprisingly easy to get caught in V2, but what separates this from its predecessor is how you can successfully escape pursuers. No longer does everyone zone in on your location and find your exact hiding spot, instead just doing sweeps in the last place a sound was heard or your character seen, as marked by a ghost image. I've intentionally spent ages on stages where I managed to creep up on soldiers firing from the second floor of buildings, thinking I was still hiding somewhere 20 yards away. It's fun.

Though the sniping mechanics have remained largely unmodified, one interesting thing has been included with the ability to empty your lung; during the brief time you're able to relax movement, a red rhombus appears somewhere below the scope's center, indicating where the bullet ultimately drops to. If you're having fears that this makes the game really easy, then don't worry, it's still a challenge. The devs ensured the red reticle wouldn't be abused by attaching restrictions, regulating it to a special ability. There's, of course, the limitation incurred by the lung mechanic, meaning you'll have to wait for your heart rate bar to "recharge" to use it again. The bar also drains faster whenever you get shot, not to mention the rhombus gets smaller and the scope gradually zooms away when your heart rate bar is nearly drained. The one huge downside is how you can only remove it on the highest difficulty. Dunno why you can't just turn it off in the options...

So, I've made it through five paragraphs without talking about this next aspect: something very special has been included with the dramatic kill sequences, which V2 has infamously and inclusively been known for by tons of people.

Now, originating from the first game, the super-slow motion, multiple-angled sequences that track your rifle's bullet occurs when you make a specific shot to a vital body part, and in V2, it sometimes ends with a typical closeup kill of soldiers. But other times, with a new visual touch, you get an internal view of the bullet passing through your enemies. This isn't just a simple peek inside: there's a complete skeletal body with organs, and whatever your bullet pierces, gets destroyed. No matter how many times it happens, I always see something different, from skulls being shattered, eyeballs falling out, to fingers flying away, hearts exploding, and even seeing the bullet exit one soldier to another. They're brutal, disgusting to hear, amazing, and the persons responsible for making them so impressively detailed deserves major praise.

Some of you are probably thinking that I might be over-hyping some of these new features or fixes, but the thing is, when all these are functioning together within the original Sniper Elite's template, they create a very engrossing, entertaining product. While sniping remains a central theme of the game and the main way of handling trouble, you can constantly switch up your play style several times because of how smooth everything comes off. You can start a stage just carefully sneaking through ruined buildings, not knowing where soldiers are while narrowly being out of their sights, and then suddenly break out into a typical sniper standoff. If things aren't going your way, you can crawl out of their sights, but not before planting a land mine. A few yards later, just as you're about to snipe a small fuel cap on a tank, you hear an explosion in the distance, gaining points for a trap kill. Then you die, since you didn't realize the tank's turret had turned towards your sniper.

But that's okay, because it was fun.

I can spend an entire paragraph complaining about weird issues, like crawling being kinda awkward, or how you can't throw dynamite, unlike the first game, but they're so insignificant in the grand scheme. Outside the x-ray kills, it's not an epic game by any means, and the standard World War II Germany theme might just turn off gamers that thought that whole phase died off years ago, but I think V2's pretty cool for a full-length game based on sniping. In fact, for a quasi-cover shooter, it's one of the most entertaining releases I've played in quite some time. I've said in numerous reviews that a game could easily be more playable or fun had a few problems been rectified, and the contrast between Sniper Elite and V2 is a fine example of such a process.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (August 17, 2014)

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