Sniper Elite V2: Remastered

After last time, here’s something a bit lighter.

I played the original V2 back in the day, and the game still holds up really well.  If you’re unfamiliar, Sniper Elite V2 puts you in the bombed-out fucked-up streets of Berlin, during the closing days of World War 2, when the Germans were losing and putting all their hopes for vengeance into their V2 rocket program, launching over 3000 rockets in a desperate bid for… some kind of something.  You go through a series of levels revolving around various objectives related to eliminating their top rocket scientist team and destroying their production, deep behind the shrinking enemy lines.

It’s a really unique stealth game in that your primary means of eliminating enemies is not stealthy at all.  There’s no silenced rifles or SMGs in WW2, and even your silenced pistols are accurate in that they still make a lot of noise (like real weapons do even when “silenced”), just not full gunshot levels of noise.  Not all your pistols are silenced, either. You choose your loadout between missions from a mix of real WW2-era weapons from all the involved countries, like the Mosin-Nagant M91/30 or the Springfield M1903A4, or the Gewehr 43.  There’s a ton of weapons, each with their own tradeoffs and feel.

Each level is like a mix between a puzzle box and controlled mayhem.  It’s not like Thief or Hitman.  You wanna sneak around because you die really fast, but you also want to kill a whole lot of nazis, and the moment you pull your first trigger, all hell breaks loose (unless you wait for loud noises to mask the sound).  So you use your binoculars to spot and mark targets, you plant land mines and trip mines and dynamite, planning out your kills well in advance and defending your chosen nest.  Once you pull the trigger, you try to snipe as many as you can quickly before they get to cover, then most of the time you get ready for close-quarters cat-and-mouse with your SMG or pistol and explosives as they flank you and close in.

If you can manage to slip away and hide, you can try to go back to sniping, and your rifles are accurate in that they’re still just rifles.  There’s not really such thing as a “sniper rifle”.  Sometimes rifles have scopes attached, and some people are really really good shots with them, that’s all.  The ballistics model is extremely realistic on the highest difficulty, with wind and gravity being major factors.  Default difficulty mostly just has bullet drop, and it’s toned down.  Rifles have different muzzle velocities that affect this as well.  The game has slow-mo gory x-ray kill shots where it follows your bullet and it never really gets old.

There’s some trigonometry involved in real modern sniping, which this game thankfully avoids due to its historical setting.  Your shot ranges will generally be between 1-300 yards; impressive but not insane.  You can empty your lungs with a button press, which makes a red diamond show up with exactly where your shot is going to go.  If your heart rate is low enough (essentially a second meter that goes down over time spent out of the action), you’ll get a slow time effect when you do this as well.  This basically instantly makes you the best sniper in the world.

Technically you do have a silent melee kill, but it gives you 10 points (as opposed to thousands for long-distance headshots).  It’s also extremely difficult to do; the game only very rarely gives you good opportunities to get that close to enemies without someone spotting you.  Mostly what you’ll be doing is picking off one or two enemies and then getting the hell out of Dodge to a different position and then picking off one or two more and repeating.  The levels have a nice mix of scenarios and layouts.

The remaster adds more weapons to choose from, a bunch of selectable characters with good mix of men and women (I like the Russian amateur markswoman lady), cleans up all the textures and models, and includes all the content from the original’s dlc, including a mission to snipe Hitler.

I’m not really a fan of war as a concept, or the idea of the lone hero one-man army soldier fantasy.  In reality, snipers work in teams anyway (something that the Overwatch multiplayer mode actually does capture), and unless they’re Marine scout-snipers they’re there to support other troops as a specialist in a larger force.  But there’s something incredibly satisfying about killing a whole lotta Nazis.  Just reaching down like the finger of Death Herself from 100+ yards away.  I also appreciate the old-school level design and structure here.  Not every game has to let you loose into an “open world” to be fun or interesting.  I feel like the time is ripe for World War 2 games again, or at the very least, I’m okay with this one.

Reading other reviews in the professional gaming press for this game is a bad idea.  I don’t think people understood what they were getting, here.  Not really sure what they wanted, or what game could possibly satisfy that desire.  It’s telling just how many reviews only refer to the default player character, or talk extensively about features that only figure into the first two maps.  SE3 and 4 are not automatically better games just because they take all the pressure off of you and let you snipe indiscriminately and quietly in an open world.  Cut V2 some slack, it’s like a million years old.

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