Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sniper Elite V2 PC Review

When people first saw Sniper Elite V2 they were excited by its impressive visuals, slick and brutal sniping system, seemingly open levels and multiple multiplayer modes. It was also coming out on consoles and PC. I was among the excited and after playing the game extensively, on PC, for a week I can safely declare its value and shortcomings. Sniper Elite V2 is the sequel to the lackluster Sniper Elite from 2005. Rebellion Developments, the original developers, remade the game into Sniper Elite V2. It is still based in World War II and even the story has a similar feel to it. This is mainly due to many of the locations being from the original game, like Brandenburg Gate (the first level in Sniper Elite V2), and because it takes place during the last days of World War II in Europe. Both games give the options to play as a stealthy commando or a gung-ho tommy gun wielding soldier, but they both have a definite lean towards action instead of stealth. Read on for a full review.

People generally care about gameplay more than any other aspect of a game. If a game has technical flaws or is ugly then it is often only a deterrent and not a game breaker, but unenjoyable gameplay is unforgivable. Sniper Elite V2 is easily forgiveable when it comes to gameplay. The three main aspects of gameplay for Sniper Elite are sniping, stealth and close combat. It succeeds greatly when it comes to sniping, but not so much when it comes to the other two aspects. Sniping feels smooth, seems vaguely realistic and is accompanied by some visually lovely kill-cams. If you come into sniper elite expecting not to snipe a lot then you are a bit bonkers, for sniping consists of eighty percent gameplay, that is unless you force-ably attempt to use the inferior machine guns or pistols.  Sniping is also very violent. If you've never seen anything for Sniper Elite then you may not know it, but the kill-cams show you where a bullet enters through an enemy in great detail, meaning it will show a bullet go through an enemies eye. Here is an non-gory of example of what it looks like when you are pulled into the kill-cam.

A bullet on the way to end an enemy soldiers life or blow something up

I'm not done with sniping quite yet. You are not only faced with sniping enemy soldiers, but you also often have to deal with enemy vehicles and tanks. Enemy vehicles have one or more fuel tank spots that you may shoot and if you are playing on the hardest difficulty, which has wind drift and bullet drop, then it isn't easy at all to hit enemy vehicle, especially if it is coming towards you and you are under fire. You can hold your breath to steady your shots, something incredibly useful for sniping vehicles or other snipers, and they handled that mechanic very well. If you run around your heart rate will be up and you cannot hold your breath all that well. If you get shot your heart rate will also go up, so they really reward you staying in a more cautious stance and not just brazenly running around all the time.

Tank in the process of exploding from a bullet that just hit its fuel tank

Now for a little bit on stealth. Sniper Elite V2 presents you with the option to be stealthy in every level, but there are times when you absolutely cannot be stealthy. Stealth is handled through sneaking up behind enemies and performing melee kills, or by shooting enemies with a silenced pistol. Melee kills are fine and dandy, no problems there, but the silenced pistol is quite tough to aim since it has no iron sights or aim-ing reticle other than a broad area where it might hit. All other weapons, other than the sniper rifle, have this same kind of aiming reticle and while it isn't unbalanced it does make using any weapon other than your sniping not so fun. I should mention that you can do some stealthy actions with a sniper rifle, like firing when loud sounds occur (ex. bombs dropping). If you do this the enemies will not know where the shot came from and may become alert, but not alerted to your position specifically and you will remain in stealth mode. Like I mentioned before there are a few areas in the game make stealth impossible. Sometimes it's reasonable, like when you have to defend an area or you must break stealth in order to blow up a tank, but most of the time it isn't. Unfortunately there are enemies who can and will instantly see you, which will break stealth, and there are times when you are forced to fight enemies who are already magically aware of your presence as soon as you enter the area. It isn't a broken system, it does have merit, but it isn't fantastic.

While I am still on gameplay let me address multiplayer. There is a lot to like about multiplayer. Especially with its breadth of options when it comes to modes. All versions of the game have two player co-op, which is broken up into four modes: Overwatch, Bombing Run, Campaign and Kill Tally. Kill Tally is your typical kill x number of enemies mode on a fairly open map. Overwatch is a mode where one player is the sniper and the other is a spotter who marks targets around the map and has to complete objectives while the sniper covers him. Bombing Run is a mode where you have a injured tank that you must repair. You go around a map collecting pieces of a tank and each time you collect a piece enemies will come and attack you, plus there are enemies are the map in patrols. Campaign mode let's you play through the entire campaign with a friend and it's a blast. Overwatch and Campaign are the most unique and enjoyable modes for those who wish to cooperatively get things done (those who like objectives, while Bombing Run is enjoyable, but very difficult and has no checkpoints. There is nothing wrong with Kill Tally, but it just feels very unexciting and generic compared to the other modes.

 The PC version of Sniper Elite V2 has team death match (TDM) and death match (DM) on top of all the cooperative modes, while the consoles version just have co-op. There was some problem with costs and technical issues when it came to putting TDM and DM on the console versions. These two modes are very typical modes, just like any other game shooter, but they do have dedicated and player run servers with quite a few options. They did put quite a bit of effort into these modes and they are inertly fun in their simplicity, but they aren't going to stop people from playing co-op or going elsewhere for PvP gameplay. Check out TDM in action to see how it looks and plays.

Let me discuss the faults, errors and shortcomings of gameplay in Sniper Elite V2. I already addressed how stealth doesn't work all that well all the time and in doing so I mentioned enemy snipers. Enemy A.I. is a problematic part of Sniper Elite. Enemies don't react as squads, they don't go searching for you when they find a dead body, they don't take cover enough, they often make themselves easy targets, they are too cautious, they often instantly know your location (specifically with snipers) and they overall just don't react in a believe-able or challenging manner. On the most difficult mode, Sniper Elite difficulty, it is tough, but that's because of how few hits you can take and how slowly your health regenerates (yup, regenerating health, but it's not that bad). It should be difficult because the enemy A.I. is good and they react intelligently to every situation. Rarely they perform actions that one would deem as appropriate or believe-able, but for the most part they leave you wanting a better and more consistent A.I.

As odd as the A.I. is for normal soldiers it is terrible for enemy snipers. Enemy snipers will instantly see you the majority of the time. They also instantly spawn many times. So you may be walking through a courtyard that you just cleaned out of enemy soldiers and you may have already looking around for any snipers, but found none and you can take a step toward an objective for two snipers to spawn and shoot at you before you have time to react. This isn't so bad if you are playing on a medium difficulty, but on the hardest difficulty it only take two shots and you are dead, plus enemy snipers will hit you 90% of the time if you are not in cover. Add the sniper A.I. onto the unpredictable soldier A.I. and you get a fairly disappointing result, but it doesn't ruin gameplay, merely hampers it.

The last bit of negative commentary has to do with the level design. At first Sniper Elite V2 makes you believe that most levels will be fairly open with a linear focus, meaning you always have an objective to head to and you will always have several ways to get there, but it's only a half truth. Sure many levels let you travel through side buildings or explore a large area, but it always funnels you into one specific area and the multiple paths feels fairly insignificant. I greatly appreciate that they tried to open the maps and sometimes they succeeded in creating open environments, but it is not consistent and most open areas are stinted by building that looks open and only contain one room to explore. There are bonuses to exploring, like finding gold bars or bottles to shoot, which are the two collectibles in the game, but it would have been great to have more thoroughly opened up areas. There are several levels that show that the capacity and talent is there to do this, but it just didn't happen for the majority of the levels. Check out this video of Overwatch mode to see co-op in action and some of the A.I. behavior.

Last Comments
Sniper Elite V2 looked great when I first tried it. Sure I was initially worried about the level design and A.I., both of which turned out to have problems, but I loved how sniping felt, how items worked, how vehicles exploded and how much you could tweak the difficulty. I still love those same things and my concerns turned out to be the major faults of Sniper Elite. The game has a ton of content between singleplayer, co-op and player versus player multilplayer, enough to please anyone, but the experience does get quite repetitive once you realize that nothing much matters except for sniping. Thank god they made sniping feel so good in the first place otherwise there would be some serious problems on top of the inconsistent A.I., poor secondary weapons and deceivingly open level design. This game is still a very fun and I recommend it to anyone who has a friend to play it with. Even by yourself the game is enjoyable, but without delving into the extensive multiplayer you are unlikely to feel that you got your money's worth from the $50 price tag. Thanks for reading and check out the links below to see more on Sniper Elite V2. 

  Violent Score: 7.5 (out of 10)

Main website: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/
Steam Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/63380/
*Sniper Elite is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Any questions or comments? I'd be glad to address to them.
-Written by Sean Cargle


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