As far as we’re concerned, sniper rifles have always been the most satisfying weapons in games. There’s something rewarding and morally profound about picking off an unsuspecting target from long-range distance, and the original Sniper Elite on PS2 captured that sentiment spectacularly.
Since Rebellion’s original stealth shooter released in 2005, there have been a number of threats to its scoped sovereignty. Sniper: Ghost Warrior proved a huge success across multiple platforms in 2010 due to its high production values and low price point. Furthermore, sniping has become a key component of almost all first-person shooters, with long-range combat proving an essential skill in Call of Duty, Battlefield and more. So how does Sniper Elite V2, a current generation remake of the PS2 original, stack up against the current crop of shooters?
If our short hands-on is anything to go by: extremely well. The game puts you in control of Karl Fairburne, an OSS agent inserted into Berlin during the final days of World War II. Sniper Elite V2 isn’t the best looking game, but it captures the period well, with bombed out buildings and a considered sepia colour palette emphasising the historical tone.
Like the original, the game plays from a third-person perspective but switches to a scoped viewpoint when you ready your rifle. Predictably, it’s when using the game’s period weaponry that it comes into its own.
Depending on the difficulty you select, the game is powered by a realistic bullet ballistics system which takes into consideration wind direction, distance and gravity. This means that on the game’s hardest difficulty, you’ll need to aim your shots slightly above and to the side of your target in order to land a perfect hit.
Calculating the bullet’s trajectory is easily one of the most satisfying things about Sniper Elite V2, and it’s accentuated by the gratuitous cut-scenes that accompany every direct hit. Kill cams are not especially new to shooters (though the original Sniper Elite helped pioneer them) but rarely are they used to such dramatic effect as here.
Every successful shot is accompanied by a cinematic replay of your bullet’s journey. As the build up crescendos – aided by the inclusion of orchestral swells – Rebellion closes in on the target, bringing up an X-ray view designed to showcase the physical damage caused. While it’s a thematic contrast to the historically accurate style, the mechanic invokes the intended emotional impact. If you don’t cringe at the sight of a soldier’s testicles being shot clean off, then we’re not convinced you’re human.
The result is one of the most satisfying shooting mechanics in games. While other titles can grate with their excessive waves of enemies, Sniper Elite V2 leaves you salivating for more – and that’s a real testament to its top-notch gunplay.
A customised difficulty setting allows you to pick and choose from the game’s simulation aspects, tuning the challenge to your liking. And it’s worth noting that the combat isn't strictly limited to the sniper rifle either, with a selection of period appropriate pistols and submachine guns included in your inventory.
But while Sniper Elite V2 gives you the option to experience the action in a variety of ways, picking off distant targets with the simulation settings turned up is the real purpose of the game. With a few weeks left until release, it’s unlikely Rebellion’s reboot will be the most polished shooter on PS3 – but it could very easily be the most satisfying.
You’ll be able to give the title a shot for yourself when it's released next month.