While Sniper Elite's levels and design nuances are shot full of problems, there is one area of the game where everything comes together like a plan formulated by The A-Team; the sniping itself.
For starters, Sniper Elite lets you customise the difficulty of the game in a number of ways, one of which is deciding how realistic you want to ballistics model to be. Do you want bullet drop to factor in to your murdering or would you prefer to operate on a more arcade click-and-kill system? It's up to you and this alone elevates Sniper Elite by letting you customise the accessibility level.
When it comes to actually making shots, Sniper Elite V2 introduces a new gimmick too, called the X-ray camera, which comes into play automatically when you're attacking certain kills. What it does is pretty self-explanatory, showing you how the bullet travels through the body and which bones break, but that doesn't diminish how cool it is. In fact, the more we saw it, the more we found its presence dictating how we played, to the extent that we'd often aim for specific organs just to see the effect.
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Best of all, once you've started down this track of bullet artistry, Sniper Elite V2 does all it can to subtly encourage it by attaching points to every shot and giving bonuses for headshots or moving targets. The biggest rewards come from more obscure methods of execution, however; shooting two targets with one bullet or detonating the grenades that hang from enemies' belts.
One time, when a plan suddenly backfired on me, I found myself staring in horror as a German soldier started to throw a grenade in my direction. With less than a second to spare, I reloaded my rifle and with two clean shots managed to knock the grenade from his hand and shoot him in the knee before he could run. The blast incapacitated a nearby soldier, whose ally slung him over his shoulder and tried to escape. I killed them both with a single shot.
Moments like that make Sniper Elite V2 worth playing no matter how little stealth is woven into the wider game design.
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While stories extracted from actually playing the game are often pretty good however, the story of the game itself is best described as a boring irrelevance - and much of it won't be explicitly explained unless you turn on enemy subtitles either. The basic pitch is that you're a US sniper tasked with killing or extracting (but mostly killing) Nazi scientists who may be co-opted by the Russians.
On the upside, this places the entire adventure in a suitably grey area of the war, with a character as unburdened by morality as you'd expect an assassin to be. On the downside though, the tale is trite and dull, which makes it a good thing that it can all be disregarded without impacting too much on your enjoyment of the game.
And Sniper Elite V2 is enjoyable, even despite of itself. We'd hoped for more than we'd got admittedly and this is far from the WW2 Hitman or Death-to-Spies-but-decent, but at the same time it's still a decent game for what it is. The sniping works, the X-ray camera is gruesome, the thrill of scoring an impossible shot palpable - though it's also a shame the list of positives doesn't reach beyond that