Sniper Elite V2
Developer: Rebellion
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1, 2 player co-op online.
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Sniper Elite V2 is an update of the 2005 original that appeared on PC, PS2 and Xbox. Playing as OSS sharpshooter Karl Fairburne, V2 is a third-person tactical shooter quite unlike anything else around at the moment. Set in the dying days of World War Two, you sneak and snipe your way around a bombed-out Berlin in a lengthy and complicated mission to unravel the plot behind the German V-2 rocket programme, a weapon of mass destruction which if perfected could potentially swing the direction of the war back in the Nazi’s favour at the last moment.

V2 has a standard TPS control setup (movement on the left stick, aiming on the right) and also features cover mode and ‘stealth kill’ actions that work sometimes but not always, just to keep you on your toes. Karl moves and aims smoothly, has a sprint option and can clamber over and climb certain obstacles but gets stuck on annoying bits of scenery on too many occasions. The weapon select function could have been sharper and I often found myself selecting and unselecting a weapon as the response seems sluggish in the heat of battle

The bullet physics are truly excellent and include bullet trajectory (the effect of gravity on bullet’s vertical path, meaning you will have to aim high on a long shot) and wind (so you may have to aim off to one side), and you’ll also notice that rounds spin realistically as they leave your rifle’s barrel and fragment and tumble after hitting a target. The difficulty is customisable so you can add various visual aids (including a ‘where you were last seen’ ghost image similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction) and also make aiming as simple as you like and remove all the realism so the gameplay is more like Call of Duty and its ilk, although why you'd want to do that, God only knows. V2 even has, for only the second time I can remember in a shooter (and I can’t remember what the other game was) realistic ricochet physics and it’s even possible to kill a partially hidden enemy with a carefully aimed ricochet.

While it may not bring anything radically new to the gaming table and may even be considered a bit of a “one trick pony”, I absolutely loved [i]Sniper Elite V2's[/i] trick; the wonderfully gory X-ray killcam. When you shoot some enemies (the killcam seems to be a random event) you’ll get an “X-Ray killcam” view of the bullet’s flight from your barrel to the enemy and through the enemy and beyond. It's really quite graphic, you'll see organs, bones and teeth shatter (and even testicles get severed!) and there's plenty of blood spurting from arm and leg shots too. The game allows for such accuracy that you can even hit a grenade on a target soldier’s belt and take him and two colleagues out with one shot, or hit a weak spots on trucks, armoured cars and even tanks – kablooie!.

For review purposes I decided to play the game through on the hardest setting for most bullet-related realism as you have to allow for bullet drop, wind and aiming accuracy (due to heavy breathing after running). The enemies are extremely accurate shots to boot, although thankfully they don’t seem to be anywhere near as ‘psychic’ as enemies are in many games (including the original Sniper Elite and last year’s Sniper: Ghost Warrior on PS3), a thing that spoiled both games for me. On this setting every death really hurts because some checkpoints were extremely tough and at times unkindly placed. It feels a bit old-fashioned in places, like playing an old PS2-era Medal of Honor or Call of Duty game in third person. The thing is that you don't get the killcam with every kill so it's a gimmick that never gets tired and the gore never feels gratuitous. Some large maps make for some truly spectacular long shots as the camera follows the bullet all the way from the barrel to its gory destination and you get what is basically a fly-by of the map. Enemy bodies hang around and don’t disappear either, which is great especially given that developers of some of the latest big name FPS couldn’t be bothered to assign a chunk of memory to this most immersive of features.

On the easiest difficulty setting you can 'run and gun' as the enemy bullet damage is stripped right down, but the game clearly isn't designed to be played this way as submachine gun ammo is limited and it just doesn’t “feel” right. Having said that, the stealth aspect seems a little bit underused, you can pick up and carry bodies to hide them from view Solid Snake-style, but it never seems necessary. I found that Sniper Elite V2 played best on the 'Sniper Elite' difficulty setting with no aids turned on, this gives the game a dramatic, no nonsense feel, although the distantly placed checkpoints made a few missions a bit of a grind to complete.

Sniper Elite V2's graphics are very tidy and look their best on the bigger maps where the draw distances are vast and the impression of being in bombed-out Berlin is very convincing (parts of buildings even arbitrarily collapse around the map), apart from the complete lack of civilians-a few panicked Berliners running here and there would have added immeasurably to the overall effect. The character models are good, but the motion capture isn’t exactly ‘state of the art’ and the movement of enemies is sometimes rather sudden and jerky. Once an enemy is dead the ragdoll physics are pleasingly varied, which allows for some wonderfully random deaths, and badly wounded enemies will call for help, often bringing another enemy into view for an easy kill.

Most locations are very complex, and open out into expansive areas at some point, which allows for countless routes through a level. You'll often have a choice of a clear, direct route which will allow you easy shots, which in turn may leave you dangerously exposed, or working yourself into a better, more concealed sniping position. Once you find a good snipers nest, from which you can see a number of enemies, using the various booby-traps (landmines and trip mines) to ‘mind your back’ soon becomes second nature as the enemy will seek you out and flank you.

The game’s sound is a real mixture; the weapon sounds are good, and so is the music, but the enemy voices and other ambient sound effects (like your footsteps and distant gunfire and explosions) have a bizarrely over the top echo effect on them. There also aren’t enough different enemy voices and they give you little or no clue as to how far away they are or in what direction they’re coming from. You do however hear enemies’ footsteps so you’ll always know when they’re approaching and they can hear yours if you run near them so you’ll have to ‘crouch walk’ or walk slowly (by pushing the left stick gently) to sneak up on enemies or they’ll hear you, which will alert them and set them searching for you. At this point you can either try to take them out as they patrol and search, or find a place to hide and wait for them to return to their posts or normal patrol routes, and this makes nearly every situation dynamic and ever-changing. Only enemy snipers tend to stay in vaguely the same place (the sun glinting off their scope will often give their location away), although even they will alter their position from time to time too. Sometimes ambient sounds (like bombs dropping or artillery firing) will also give you the option to fire at the right time so they drown out the sound of your shots and allow you to remain undetected-a very nice touch.

There’s more than a little replay value in the form of well-hidden wine bottles to shoot and gold bars to collect, and some challenging and fun achievements to go for as well.

The weapon set is completely authentic with various pistols and submachine guns like the Thompson, MP40 and the PpSh-41, as well as a single shot silenced pistol known as the Welrod, a weapon that you’ll learn to both love and hate. Obviously most of the killing is done with the sniper rifles of the time such as the US Springfield M1903, the German Gewehr 43 and the pick of the bunch, the Russian Mosin Nagant 1891/30. Occasionally emplacement machine guns can be turned on the enemy for brief moments of mass killing, which is always gratifying.

There are four online modes; the full campaign co-op, Kill Tally (a survival game, like Gear of Wars’s Horde mode), Bombing Run (find vehicle parts to escape before the bombers arrive) and Overwatch (one plays sniper and one plays machine gunner & chief spotter). The ability to pull out your binoculars and spot or ‘tag’ an enemy (similar to Battlefield 3) means you can plan your attack and make your co-op partner aware of an enemy he may not have sighted. For some unknown reason only the PC version gets a full multiplayer PvP game, which is a shame as I could see it being extremely atmospheric and quite unlike any other multiplayer shooter.

Even with games we enjoyed immensely like Sniper Elite V2 we always like to complain about something, so on the downside, we found some scenery that you could pass clean through, and other objects that you might expect your character to just step over as impassable, and you can't even hop over them as there’s no ‘jump’ button, which is annoying, infuriating if it causes you to die when trying to evade enemy fire. We also had a glitch on one mission where the checkpoint marker disappeared, rendering it impossible to actually complete the mission.

Sniper Elite V2 is a highly competent update of a 7 year-old game and remains sufficiently different to earn a place in anyone’s third person shooter collection. A slight lack of polish and some annoying sound FX mean it falls just short of being a ‘must buy’ game, but if you’ve had enough of Call of Duty and its many clones, and fancy a game with a little more realism, or have simply always wanted to shoot a German or Russian soldier's testicles off then this is undoubtedly the game for you.

Best Bits

- Excellent bullet physics.
- Plenty of atmosphere.
- Big maps means longs shots.
- The X-ray killcam.
- Enjoyable co-op modes.
Worst Bits

- Sticky scenery.
- Some annoying sound effects.

by: Diddly

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