“You’re doing this again?”, you moan. Yep, I’ve gone and played a demo. Sniper Elite V2.
“What’s that about then?”, you cry. This is the tale of a sniper in WW2 Germany. He goes about shooting people in the head and just generally trying to stop those evil nazis.
“Was it any good?”, you ask.
“Click on”, I command.
The demo doesn’t go into too much detail with the story, but from what I could gather, it’s pretty standard fare. Germany’s V-2 rocket program needs to be stopped. How? By shooting scientists in the head from a great distance. It would appear that the story isn’t going to be the biggest selling point of the game.
The game plays like a standard third person shooter. A cover system allows you to crouch behind walls well enough and the only real concern with the controls would be some issues I had when going prone. It sometimes led me to sticking out at odd angles when lying on pieces of geometry, such as rubble. With the game being set in WW2 Berlin, there’s plenty of rubble to be found. This is nothing game breaking, mind, just a little jarring sometimes. Part of going prone means you’re able to remain silent and unseen, allowing you to observe your enemies from a distance. You’re not some super-hero with eagle vision, you’re a sniper, so it’s only natural to have some binoculars on you at all times. By using the binoculars you’re able to ‘mark’ your enemies. This a real help as it sticks a great big red arrow over the soldier’s head, meaning you can easily track their movements, even if they’re not in your line of sight.
Using binoculars, laying about on rubble and hiding behind walls isn’t what the game’s about though. Sniper Elite V2, as you’d imagine, is focused on shooting and luckily the demo has some satisfying bullet flinging, trajectory considering, wind speed calculating action. The sniping feels challenging without being imposible. Like riding a bike, you’ll have to get used to it. You’ll fall off (get shot), graze your knee (die) and get back on a couple of times (restart), but you’ll pick it up fairly quickly. Getting good at sniping will see you rewarded with cutaways to the satisfying ‘kill-cam’. Often in games these ‘bullet time’ sequences can feel scripted, but in the demo they felt more like a reward for a job well done. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing particularly new, as it happened in Max Payne years ago, but there’s a few new tricks being pulled with this tried and tested trope. Sniper Elite V2‘s ‘kill-cam’ features an x-ray view meaning you’ll see bones shatter, lungs puncture, hearts burst and brain dribble out of bullet wounds.
Apart from the sniper rifle there’s a few other pieces of equipment on offer. Mines can be set to blow people up and rocks can be thrown to distract your targets. I have to say, there didn’t seem to be too much of a need to use these items within the demo, though the full game could see them being very useful indeed. On top of these items you carry two sidearms, one being a sub-machine gun type thing and the other being a pistol. These aren’t particularly accurate, nor are they powerful, but this makes sense to me. Your character is a sniper, he’s not too hot with pistols or sub-machine guns. This game is about sniping people, so why would the developers make it feasible to run and gun through the levels with an AK? These weapons are more of a last resort, not an alternative, and are only to be used when the enemy know your position and are closing in on you. Luckily, or rather cleverly, Rebellion have taken a cue from Splinter Cell: Conviction and have a ghost of your last known position pop up whenever nazis are hunting you down. This helps you plan where to hide and therfore ambush the enemy.
Speaking of planning, this is an important part of the game. Without surveying your area with the binoculars supplied, you could end up in a sticky situation. This sounds great in theory, though I often felt that there was a ‘right way’ to tackle the scenarios. Where I was hoping for a more open Hitman-esque experience, Rebellion seem to be happy funneling you through somewhat tight streets and creating what could pretty linear levels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like some people who think that linearity is a completely horrible thing that must be removed from all games, in fact it could work well in the full game. By having a more linear structure to the levels Rebellion could implement more set pieces that are memorable and breath taking. Uncharted is one of the most linear games I’ve ever played but gets two thumbs up because it realises that people don’t mind being funneled from one huge action sequence to the next. In the demo, this didn’t happen. The end sequence seemed quite anti-climatic to be honest. After forcing you through several streets, an alley, one burnt out building and finally onto the roof of a bombed out house, the grand finale involved… shooting some C4 with a sniper rifle and then shooting someone in the head with a sniper rifle. Like you did 20 minutes ago.
I’m willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt though. This is the demo and, as a result, you don’t really want to be giving away your best sequences up front. Here’s to hoping that the retail version has plenty of set pieces to give the player a ton of boom, bang and kablow. Either that, or the levels open up and give the user more ways to tackle its scenarios.