A patrolman guards an entrance to a communications outpost. In one hand he holds an MP40, his fingers gently wrapping around the pistol grip, and in the other a cigarette. He lifts it to his lips, inhaling the smoke to keep warm during the cold breeze of the spring evening air. The bell of the St. Olibartus Church can be heard ringing in the distance. Once a site for prayer, it is now a venue for war. The man treads carefully over rubble and leans up against the wall behind him.
Suddenly, a crack as loud as thunder pierces the air and for the briefest of moments, a flash in the corner of his eyes appears like a shooting star in the sky. It’s the last thing he sees. The bullet penetrates his forehead, piercing his skull and shattering the bone into tiny fragments. The exit wound is horrific – an explosion of claret creating a hole big enough to fit a man’s fist. The bullet lodges into the wall behind, the brickwork now painted red with blood. As the cigarette continues to burn, the patrolman drops to the floor, the smouldering glow of the tobacco gradually dwindling beside his lifeless body. His killer calmly reloads. One more Nazi down. Another hundred to go.
In Sniper Elite V2, every kill has their own story to tell; each one feeling like a small personal victory following the moments leading up to the final squeeze of the trigger. Rebellion’s sequel is no run and gun shooter – rush an enemy and your chances of survival will be minimal. Instead, success is reliant on patience and strategy, although never enough to bore, stalking your prey from afar to line up that perfect kill shot and take them down without their allies ever realising.
That’s no different to the 2005 original of course, but for the sequel things are slightly different. Whereas Rebellion’s first Sniper Elite was the Hitman: Blood Money of WW2, essentially a series of sandbox environments in which you could achieve your goal in whichever way you wish, V2 is the Hitman: Absolution equivalent. It’s far more linear, with the game guiding you along set paths and triggering specific sequences at key moments. You’ll take down tanks by blowing up their fuel reserves, or make a hit on rocket engine experts from miles away – except you won’t have much say on how the hit goes down.
ENEMY AT THE GATES
Modernisation and accessibility have been key to V2’s production, and to give you a sense of just how modernised SE has become there are even online leaderboards to track your most impressive kills, a new cover system and an additional Horde-style wave-based mode. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Rebellion’s modernisation, of course – in fact, V2 is arguably far more exciting than the original ever was – but the reduction in player choice can be disappointing. Why can’t you climb that tower to get the drop on those enemies or execute an approach from another angle? Because Rebellion doesn’t want you to.
But that’s a small blight on what seems like an otherwise immensely refreshing package. Much of the rest of V2 does stay true to the original formula, with difficulty and assists that can be completely customised – turning on realistic bullet ballistics (including bullet drop and wind) can provide an entirely different experience to the most basic ‘Cadet’ option. And that famous kill-cam, the slow-motion camera which tracks the bullet’s flight path, is back and better than ever, now revealing the extent of the injury in gory detail via an X-ray view of the target’s skeleton and organs.
It’s the ultimate sniper game, then… authentic yet fun, and with a disturbingly satisfying mechanic that refuses to ever get old. And with the prospect of assassinating Hitler thanks to some superb pre-order DLC, what more could you possibly want from a WW2 shooter?
Sniper Elite V2 launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on May 4th. For the full interactive feature, check out issue 65 of 360Zine.
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