Sniping must be a hard business. All that waiting around, in cold and drafty piles of rubble in the hope of seeing just one specific person; the paranoia that your every movement is being watch or will give you away. It can't be easy at all, we reckon.
Oxford-based developer Rebellion has clearly come to think otherwise, however. In its eyes the sniper is a versatile juggernaut, a sub-machine gun slung on his back and enough spare organs in his pocket that even tank attacks don't slow him down. What need is there to be paranoid when your health regenerates faster than most enemies can reload?
This awkward balancing is setback enough for a game that you'd expect to be more about patience than firepower, where success comes from carefully choosing targets and approaches. The reality of Sniper Elite V2 is that it often feels more like a standard third-person shooter where the sniper rifle just happens to be the best weapon, rather than a sniping game in itself.
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The second level of campaign forms an excellent example of this in fact, starting you off at night above a German rocket-testing site. It's immediately noticeable that frequent calls on the PA system are blanketing the base in noise, allowing you to disguise the sounds of your shot and quietly eliminate most enemies in the base. This feels good, snipey and undeniably cool.
But it doesn't last and, as you squint closer, you see there's only a handful of soldiers to take out. Minutes later the field is clear and you discover the rest of the mission takes place underground, in long tunnels which the AI seems bafflingly unable to locate you in until the last sequence, which becomes a matter of repelling waves of spawning enemies. It's a set-up we'd expect to see more in Call of Duty than a sniping sim.
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What's worst of all is that this tone ends up reinforced through the wider game design too, with nearly all but the most token nods to stealthy approach removed; there are no disguises to deal with, and light doesn't seem to affect your visibility either. Instead, the world is littered with supply crates that dole out trip-mines and landmines which would be useful if only enemies would actually move around the map enough to make traps a possibility. As it is, we only found ourselves using them once - to stave off another wave of constantly spawning enemies.
The shooter-centric tone is unfortunately manifested in how the game handles too; a snap-to cover system appears where we'd have instead preferred to have been able to open doors. Levels too, while undeniably pretty if you push the PC settings to maximum, feel far too linear for the sort of expressive sniping Rebellion has aimed for - only specific walls can be hopped over and most areas are deceptively small once you've cleared them of enemies.
Thankfully though, the level-clearing itself is still heaps of fun...