The premise and character of Rebellion’s 2005 original Sniper Elite have barely been altered for this snipe ’em up, once again following a man on a mission to sabotage WWII-era Germany’s plans for dominance. With the feel of a remake as much as a sequel, then, Sniper Elite V2 also retains many of its predecessor’s problems, including poor AI, uneven production values, and clunky controls that affect everything from character movement to your inventory.
Rebellion isn’t renowned for creating free-flowing AI-driven epics, instead tending to cloak alien species in darkness (Alien Versus Predator) or put the focus on otherworldly nasties (NeverDead). In Sniper Elite V2, the confused AI at least serves to heighten your sense of power – the sitting ducks that populate its world make your rifle feel like a finger of God, a tool able to pop heads and snap femurs with the pull of a trigger. But that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer because of the game’s punishing difficulty: let an enemy get within 20 paces and you’ll be spread over the cobblestones of Berlin like a fleshy pancake.
It may be rough around the edges, but Sniper Elite V2 excels in glamorising its sensational long-distance kills, all delivered via slow-motion bullet cam. Apparently inspired by the depictions of bullet wounds in the 1999 movie Three Kings, Rebellion shows your shots puncturing skin, shattering bone and rupturing organs, going one step further than Max Payne’s gory bullet-time. The end result is stylish but heavy on fist-bumping cringe factor.
Even so, the precise collision detection of your long-range bullets, allowing you to zing an enemy solider’s grenade belt and send them to the afterlife in a plume of smoke, is an achievement. The anatomy of your victim is revealed via X-ray as the bullet enters – and exits – the body in slow motion. It may be a base thrill, but the sight of your bullet rupturing someone’s testes retains its stomach-churning power every time.
Mission design is varied, but stages are linear in construction, aiming to give you lots of bullet cam moments and to avoid plunging you into the nightmare of underdeveloped close-quarters combat. Levels are also dense with cover and provide stealthy shortcuts, but if the erratic AI gets wind of you then missions devolve into pop-and-shoot affairs that just highlight the unresponsive controls and jerky animations.
So while Rebellion successfully executes its one, gruesome technical trick throughout the course of Sniper Elite V2, it fails to capitalise on its best game loop: that of you and a rival sniper exchanging shots across vast chunks of beautifully rendered locales in a crumbling Berlin. A player vs player multiplayer option would have been the obvious opportunity to emphasise and focus on this strength (tailored co-op modes are offered instead), and its omission stands out even more when there’s so little in the way of replay value to the campaign. Occasionally gripping but frequently unfulfilling, Sniper Elite V2 comes in at a heavy price for a package that’s all gore and little reward.