Rebellion’s no stranger to virtual reality. Having remade Atari's classic Battlezone as a PSVR launch title and publishing Arca's Path two years later, it’s teamed up with Just Add Water for Sniper Elite VR. While PlayStation owners haven’t lacked for Sniper Elite entries — we’ve previously seen III, 4, V2 Remastered, and the Zombie Army spin-offs — this VR-exclusive entry is a series first, dropping third-person shooter mechanics for a first-person approach to better fit. Thankfully, Sniper Elite loses nothing in this transition.
Rather than Sniper Elite’s usual protagonist, Karl Fairburne, VR’s story is told from the perspective of an Italian war veteran, remembering his time as a Partisan. Taking us to Southern Italy in 1943, our goal is simple: free our Sicilian homeland from fascist occupation. This isn’t a barebones demo like we’ve often seen in VR, Rebellion’s brought us a fully-fledged campaign split across 18 new missions and though the opening stages won’t take long to complete, it’ll keep you busy for around 10 hours.
Sniper Elite VR isn’t trying to be a realistic simulator, though several elements require manual handling. Using your body like an inventory screen, weapons can be grabbed at a moment’s notice, ranging between rifles, SMGs, pistols, shotguns, grenades, and explosives. Once grabbed, you need to pull ammo from your pouch, discard the previous clip, and manually reload your weapon (if you’ve opted for motion controls), authentically simulating how these World War 2-era guns were handled. Oh, and you’ll likely come under enemy fire while doing so, while harder difficulty modes increase the accuracy of weapons ballistics.
If that sounds stressful, that’s because it is. When you’re standing in a firefight with minimal cover, you feel that pressure to act quick. Handling items can be fiddly, requiring a steady hand, and all it takes is one clumsy reload to seal your fate. Success requires physical discipline, but when you load up your rifle, look down the scope, take aim at a Nazi skull, and activate one of Sniper Elite’s famously brutal X-Ray kills, Sniper Elite’s never felt this satisfying before.
There’s a genuinely rewarding experience within and better yet, the game caters to different playstyles. While the guns blazing approach is tempting sometimes, stealthier strategies can be adopted through silenced weapons, crouching to avoid alerting enemies, and picking off Nazis one by one, earning “ghost kills”. You can set up distractions, too, throwing glass bottles to draw guards near an explosive barrel, making for easier kills. If discovered, the game issues a “Cover Blown” message, but successfully hide again and another message pops up telling you when your enemies have given up their search.
While this isn’t especially in-depth, the versatility lends itself well to replayability, providing you don’t expect Hitman 3 levels of creativity. Granted, shooting Nazis is reason enough for many to keep coming back, but Rebellion’s taken that a step further by implementing an arcade-like scoring system. Missions are ranked based on total kills, headshots, accuracy, completion time, and more, earning up to three stars for hitting set goals like “land a headshot from more than 25m away”. Backed up by collectible items and online leaderboards, you’ve got incentives to keep returning.
For those liable to motion sickness, you’ll be pleased to see Sniper Elite VR performs smoothly, though the resolution isn’t as vibrant as on PC or Oculus Quest counterparts. There are several adjustable comfort options, such as tunnel vision when sprinting, setting your dominant hand, and snap/smooth turning choice for the camera. As for the signature X-Ray kill cams, you can decide how frequently they occur (if at all), and whether you’d like to ride the bullet or just watch the impact animation.
As for movement, there’s two choices that hold their own advantages. Teleporting offers greater comfort, while smooth movement is more immersive. Between our three controller choices — PSVR Aim Controller, PS Move, and DualShock 4 (DualSense won’t work if you’re on PS5, as it lacks a light bar) — the PSVR Aim Controller is easily superior thanks to its joystick input. However, PS Move’s lack of D-Pad or joysticks makes them a nightmare to handle as walking’s mapped to the face buttons, which is really awkward during combat. It’s an inherent limitation of the tech, and while DualShock 4 doesn’t do the VR concept justice, that's a much more tolerable alternative.
Rebellion and Just Add Water’s made a fine effort at bringing Sniper Elite to PSVR. By offering a full-sized original campaign, more authentic weapon handling, and ample replayability, it’s a strong debut for this established series into first-person territory. Though motion controls feel fiddly at times and the PS Move controllers do the experience a disservice, it’s a great adaptation worth looking into.