Sniper Elite V2 Interview

Published on January 29th, 2012

GamerZines: How has the AI been ramped up from the first Sniper Elite?

Steve Hart, producer: What we found was that sniping has almost a voyeuristic nature to it. It’s weird, you almost have an attachment to the target before you squeeze the trigger. This is why snipers back in the day always ate alone in any war, conflict or whatever. They just aren’t liked, particularly because everyone understands they are a bit loose in the head. They can delve into the emotional side of it and do what they do. That’s employed in a number of things, the Kill Cam for one, but AI reactions was an area where we didn’t want to break the believability, so we had to have them behave in a way that you would expect, but they also need to preserve themselves as valid targets. They can’t be too good!

So you get an initially aware period where you go loud essentially; at that point they respond in terms of the noise, they don’t know direction unless you’ve chosen a particularly bad position. They become initially aware for as many shots as it takes for them to realise your position. What they may do is bind to cover in any direction, as they don’t know where you are, so they may present themselves as a valid target. As soon as they know what direction you are in, they will recalculate their position, perhaps find new cover, some may charge at you, others will panic, but all will fear you. Ultimately once they know your position it’s all about them closing in on you. The high-ranking AI will provide covering fire while the others move, so there’s support play between the two of them and we have various classes which behave in different ways. The rifleman will be keen to engage from longer distances, he isn’t as accurate as a sniper but he has a weapon optimised for that, whereas the MP40 soldiers will close in and flank your position. They know if you’re within thirty metres of them, you’re in their kill-zone.

GZ: Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway had a similarly gory depiction of war, with limbs being removed when soldiers were exposed to explosions, but Kill Cam elevates that aspect to a whole new level. It almost reminds us of Blitz: The League II in a way but obviously nowhere near as comedic…

SH: Yeah it was influenced by a number of things. We wanted people to understand what they were doing to their victim. We were briefed to bring the Kill Cam to this generation of consoles and PC, so you are looking at distance, the cameras used, and full screen effects to make it feel as nice as possible, but we really latched onto this voyeuristic emotional attachment that the sniper has with his or her prey. We felt by watching exactly what your actions have done to your victim, that would kind of support that notion. It’s a bit sick really, but I’m entirely desensitised to it; I could do it all day, but I really like the fact that it achieves what it sets out to do. It makes you go, “Oh my god!” Okay it’s a cool feature and many gamers out there will be laughing their heads off, but we would hope that we would reach the more serious gamer which would think ‘Crikey, I’ve just ripped that guys lung out of his chest, or his heart has just burst in front of me’. We want to tug on emotional heart strings in a way that you can’t really get away with in a game, but we’re going to give it a go. Hollywood has tackled this level of detail a number of times, and one film we looked at when we wanted to implement something like this was Three Kings; that film starring George Clooney where he puts a slug into his body and you see the damage with bile filling the wound – that’s where the artistic vision came in.

One of the AI behaviours is to be incapacitated, so if you were to clip an AI he’s going to fall to the floor and call out to his buddies. Now this is inspired, in part, by Saving Private Ryan, with Vin Diesel getting shot and first calling out for his mum and then calling for his team-mates hidden behind the cars and they want to come and help him. This was a viable tactic of a sniper during WWII. Unless it was an officer they wouldn’t want to kill a target outright, they would want to lure other targets out of hiding, so we support that in here. There are some great scenarios where you wound a guy, and the AI are caught in two minds as they know there’s a threat, but they need to help the guy in harms way. They can pick him up and take him into cover and get him back on his feet or they can fix him where he lays. There are some really cool aspects to that and we don’t know per scenario what is going to happen. You’ll see guys running for cover, but then they stop mid-way and save their buddy who’s been downed, and pick him up and then he can only walk back sluggishly. But this leads to a scenario where you have a choice on whether to kill this guy or not.

GZ: Like a predator toying with their prey!

SH: Absolutely! We wanted to take that further, but we haven’t been able to because of our initially alerted states. The AI would detect ricochets and where they were, so you could see the fun that could have been had there, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to work on that. That’ll be for a sequel, if it ever happens.

GZ: Are adjustable scopes in Sniper Elite V2?

SH: We didn’t want that functionality because we aren’t just a PC title, we’re console as well so we have that to think about. We didn’t want any quick scoping shenanigans in there, but we wanted enough to keep sniper fans happy without having to go to that level of fussiness. This is a game about killing people at long distance, we deliberately kept within the WW2 setting, so we didn’t have to involve computers and the like. We’re low-tech, but we didn’t want people to have to clean lenses, adjust focus and things like that. We have different levels of zoom based on the rifle that you’re using. Each one obviously has their own attributes with regards to power, muzzle velocity and things like that. There’s plenty of stuff for people to play around with, but in certain areas we didn’t go too far.

GZ: Speaking of which, as soon as the Sniper Elite sequel was announced, fans were very happy that it was going to be set during WWII, but at the same time many were perhaps hoping for a different era, like Vietnam, Korea or pretty much any other theatre of war…

SH: Absolutely, every conflict suits this! Snipers were first formed in the sixteenth century, or something like that, so they’ve been around for a long time and part of every major conflict. So for us, we really wanted to reboot the original with a fresh story set in the same timeline. It couldn’t have been a sequel, because the war had finished. So we took it back a couple of weeks and experimented with what we could do in that time again. Jason Kingsley (owner and CEO of Rebellion) is very fond of this two to four week period towards the end of the war and in terms of reference there is so much! When we were briefed we went for realism and authenticity which worked very much in our favour. Amazon did a good trade from us!

Sniper Elite V2 will be released on PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 on May 4th.

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