The original Sniper Elite, released back in 2005, was accredited with being a surprise success story. Developed by UK outfit Rebellion, the videogame was widely praised for presenting an original idea in a very unique fashion. Since then a number of similar titles have seen release on a variety of platforms, but very few have received the same amount of attention from both critics and consumer. This year however, Rebellion is back with Sniper Elite V2, and the team are confident that their modernisation of the formula will present another compelling, innovative videogame experience.
From that which Electronic Theatre recently experienced, we’d have to say that Rebellion seems very close to achieving their goals. While we were only able to sample a small cross section of the Sniper Elite V2 experience – a number of specific levels intended to demonstrate a range of action sequences – that which we did see promised a wide variety of tactical challenges, with players free to explore, plan and execute as they see fit.
The first level available an exercise in tactical variety: following a linear path through downtown Berlin, players would move from street level to vantage points, through buildings and leaping over barricades. Each new corner turned lead to a different arrangement of buildings, number of troops in varying levels of awareness. Taking in both what’s immediately obvious and the challenges that could still be out of sight, the player has a number of tools at their disposal to plan the best route of attack before ‘going loud’. In most situations, Electronic Theatre was able to recon the area and begin our assault in just a few moments thanks to the marking system and the gifted accuracy with the sniper rifle thanks to the many assists available, but things aren’t quite so simple later in the videogame.
The assists mentioned above allow player to customise their difficulty level. Sniper Elite V2 is a videogame that’s made to be enjoyed, not slaved over: there’s plenty of opportunity for challenge if you want it, opting for a simulation that includes reactionary, accurate enemies, realistic bullet drop and lessened player health, but for those who simply want to enjoy the action side of the adventure there are a number of options that offer an personally assessed difficulty setting. If mathematics isn’t your ting, you can opt to have a laser sight enabled that will plot exactly where your bullet is going to land or simply turn off that element of the design altogether.
Of course, this doesn’t prevent the difficulty increasing level-by-level. As the player becomes more skilled in the ways of Sniper Elite V2, there’s always a demand to provide more challenges situations and offer the player a chance to exercise their skills. In another of the levels witnessed, the player has once of their biggest assets stripped from them: higher ground. After nightfall the player finds themselves caught in the line of sniper fire, with enemies alerted to their presence not matter how careful your street level takedowns may be. It’s then a challenge to balance your swift accuracy with defending against closer ranged enemies, a scenario in which caution doesn’t offer as much of an advantage as decisiveness.
The variation in gameplay between these two levels is a perfect example as to how Sniper Elite V2 allows player to experiment with the assets to hand. Up to three weapons may be carried at any one time, intended as room for a sniper rifle, automatic weapon and pistol, and players will frequently have only seconds to decide which weapon is best for a given situation. When about to engage in sniper activity however, players are encouraged to use the traps available to them as warnings of encroaching forces. Even the simple landmine – which can be placed on the ground at any point – offers a signal for when your plan may not have been as meticulously planned as you thought, and enemy forces have broken your defensive line.
While it’s all well and good to offer an analysis of the level structure and action sequences, many gamers will be interested to hear just how gruesome Sniper Elite V2 is in its x-ray Killcam mechanic. ‘Extremely’ would be the answer, as bullets rip through flesh wit abandon. Killcams are automated sequences, for which the rules of attaining them are not entirely clear: during our time with the videogame clean headshots were accrued which did not call for a generated bullet-time sequence, while those which tore through limbs were given additional glory. Regardless of the apparent unevenness however, when all is said and done there’s no denying that the tech behind the Killcams is marvellous: able to calculate the shot and create an animated sequence representing it from trigger to impact in milliseconds.
Sniper Elite V2 presents a very interesting approach to the action genre, in which the videogame abides by certain overarching rules but then replaces many traditions with the mechanics that made the original title so unique. That Rebellion has the technology at its disposal to turn Sniper Elite’s arena style combat into full-scale linear level designs is commendable in its own right, but Electronic Theatre is confident that in the final product there’ll be many more circumstances in which the player can explore the many opportunities for outsmarting their opponents.