Attack of the Fanboy

Sniper Elite V2 demo and its “bullet cam” offers invigorating take on the WWII genre

by William Schwartz


Any game that offers us the opportunity to put one right in-between the eyes of Hitler automatically gains our complete and undivided attention. Sniper Elite V2 did just that when its pre-order bonus was announced a while back, but now that the game’s demo has become available for download, it’s safe to say that this shooter offers a fresh and unique take on the WWII genre and will surely not disappoint when it hits store shelves this May.

Most shooter fans this past generation have been so ingrained with a particular style of gunplay by their FPS and TPS purchases that Sniper Elite V2 will initially cause you to be filled with an infuriating sense of frustration, but will then reveal itself to be one of the most refreshing experiences available on the market today. Chances are you’ll primarily attempt to play the game the way in which you play every other shooter you own: running, gunning, occasionally finding some cover, tossing a grenade into a congealed group of AI bullet magnets. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Such a strategy in Sniper Elite V2 won’t even get you across the street, and after you’re done breaking and tossing nearby objects in aggravation, you’ll realize that the authenticity and difficulty the game presents makes it a rare and wholeheartedly addicting visit to the WWII era.

Sniper Elite V2 will have players take the role of U.S. sniper Karl Fairburne as he must rescue or eliminate members of a team of scientists working on Hitler’s deadly V2 rocket program before they fall into the hands of Stalin’s Red Army. The demo begins after Fairburne receives intel that a Dr. Kreidl is carrying classified documents that could lead to the V2 production facility. You learn that he is traveling across town in an armored convoy. After you identify places on the convoy’s route that are optimal for planting explosives, you begin your hunt.

The demo begins as you survey an elongated street from the vantage point of a dilapidated building, clearly the victim of an aerial bombing run. German soldiers patrol what remains of the street before you. Lucky enough, one Nazi leans up against a doorframe in a nearby building, giving you a clear line of sight and a glorious opportunity to test out the game’s controls as well as the ever-entertaining bullet cam sequence.

Firing your sniper rifle is as rewarding as it is challenging. Whereas other games often allow snipers to be used almost as long-ranged shotguns, Sniper Elite V2 will force you to time your shots very carefully, attempting to be as accurate as possible with each and every pull of the trigger. Just a single miss may determine whether or not you survive the trek to your next target. If you’re playing on the 360, holding RB will allow you to hold your breath to steady your aim. Depending on your heart rate (which is displayed in the lower left hand corner), you might not be able to utilize this option. Actions like running, climbing, and of course, getting shot at, jack your heart rate up. In these instances, you won’t have the option of holding your breath and will have to rely on pure aim to take down enemies. When you do have the advantage of holding your breath, you’ll see a red diamond appear in view which will decrease in size the longer your breath is held. The smaller the diamond becomes, the more precision you’ll have when you fire.

Sniper Elite V2 includes a number of gameplay elements that are worthy of anticipation, but none of them come close to the game’s “bullet cam” which quite possibly offers some of the most gratifying kills in all of gaming. Skillful and fatal shots activate this slow-motion sequence which shows your bullet running its full trajectory from barrel to target. Once the bullet enters the enemy, its passage through the body is shown including the damage it causes to organs and bones. Can it be graphic? Absolutely, and it is nothing short of awesome. You’ll be hard pressed to find a virtual kill more satisfying than watching your bullet travel through an enemy’s torso, shredding his internals and exiting out the back. Kills earn you points and the more skillful the shot, the more points you’ll receive. A headshot over a long distance for example will get you more points than if you were to shoot a target in the chest from 10 ft. away.

After you clear the street of Nazi patrols, nav points will direct you to your next objective, which in this case is locating explosives and planting them at the strategic points. As you maneuver your way across town, attempting to be as subtle as possible, you’ll discover that surveying your surroundings and environment before ever firing a shot can be key to having a successful mission. Utilizing charred cars, chunks of rubble, and key vantage points in buildings are all necessary if you wish to remain undetected. The “bullet ballistics” mechanics present a further challenge when having to compensate for bullet drop and even elements such as wind speed and direction.

One gameplay component that will assist you in staying as stealthy as possible is the ability to throw rocks. Though tossing a stone at a Nazi soldier probably won’t help you out much, throwing one into a group to divert their attention or toward one who is walking out of your line of sight will alert them and allow you to lead them into the perfect firing area. Also, the game includes a feature that will allow you to see a transparent, apparition-like outline of your character that notifies you of the last position the enemy has seen you. It can be invaluable when dealing with a large group of soldiers who are firing at you as it encourages you to find a new position. It’s also worth noting that the AI in the demo are generally intelligent, worthy opponents. As soon as you fire your rifle, they’ll get down into cover and begin firing in the direction in which the shot came. They’ll also revive wounded allies and carry them off of the street in an attempt to get them to cover.

Once your explosives are placed, you’ll need to get to a safe vantage point, but first you’ll have to clear the Nazi occupied building. Coming across a German soldier asleep in a chair lets you have a little freedom and variety in the sense that you can take out the sleepy fascist in any way you see fit. Enact a “stealth kill”, shoot him in the face or groin, throw a grenade underneath the chair – all will do the job. When you finally get to the building’s attic, the demo will enter a cinematic that will show Kreidl’s convoy coming down the street. When the timing’s right, you’ll place a direct shot on the explosive you’ve planted on the front grill of a parked car. What’s perhaps most gratifying is the fact that you are not forced to kill Kreidl in a single fashion. If you can perfectly time your shot as Kreidl’s vehicle passes, you can incinerate him, completing your objective. If you decide to go the more personal route, you can choose to blow the charge early which will stop the convoy and send Kreidl fleeing for cover. It’ll then require a well placed shot through whichever vital organ you so choose to take him out.

Sniper Elite V2 drops in less than a month, and from the impressions the demo presents us with, the game will offer a wholly unique and engaging experience even amidst the oversaturated and trite setting of WWII Europe. It’s not often that a demo with no multiplayer component has seemingly endless replay value, but Sniper Elite V2 nearly hits that territory. I found myself going back multiple times to try and top my best shot “score” as well as to navigate the war-torn streets as covertly as possible. Finding different ways to approach separate scenarios will undoubtedly keep players absorbed long after the primary campaign is finished. Add the game’s diversity and array of gameplay options to a solid “score challenge” multiplayer, and Sniper Elite V2 could very well prove to be nominated in the Best Shooter category by year’s end.

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