Rebellion has a new third-person shooter in the crosshairs
I slowly advance through the rubble, the sound of gunfire and explosions ringing out around me. Finally, I reach the spot. I take out my binoculars and survey the area. A patrol of four soldiers comprised of three privates and one sergeant round the corner, probably trying to secure the area before the convoy arrives. Slowly I pull my rifle out and peer down the scope. There’s about 200 metres between us, with the slightest hint of the wind blowing westwards. I raise the crosshairs above the sergeant’s head and edge it to my right. I exhale and the world seems to slow to a crawl. The sound of my shot rings out as my bullet enters and exits through his skull.
Sniper Elite V2 is a third-person shooter set during the final days of World War 2. You take on the role of Karl Fairbrune, an undercover American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) who is tasked with tracking down and eliminating different targets during the Battle of Berlin. Developer Rebellion has stated that unlike other shooters, Sniper Elite V2 is a much more realistic experience – where tactical planning is crucial to your success. This is a contrast from other shooters such as Call of Duty and Gears of War, where you can merely run into the thick of action with a shotgun and blast your way to victory.
Neither is Sniper Elite V2 a return to conventional WW2 shooters, where you’re a faceless soldier in the middle of the war. Instead, the game is set during a period of the war that very few WW2 games explored – the end of the war in Europe and the beginning of tensions between the Soviets and Allies.
At the beginning of the demo, we learn that Karl has been assigned to track down and eliminate a V2 rocket scientist, who is being escorted in a convoy by German forces. As such, Karl must navigate his way through the bombed-out streets and prepare an ambush.
As you make your way to your objective you’ll encounter different soldiers on patrol. To get past them you’ll need to use both stealth and careful, precise shooting to proceed forward. Running up and gunning down your foes isn’t a viable option and will only get you killed. Luckily you’ll have a different set of tools to help you deal with them. By using your binoculars you can survey the area and mark all the targets you see.
Fairburne is at his most effective when he’s looking at his targets from afar through a scope. However, the greater the distance between where you fire the shot and where you want it to land means that bullet will be much more affected by both the wind and gravity, thus making it very important to predict where your shots could land. You also need to monitor your heart rate. If your heart is beating too quickly, your rifle will sway about, making it even more difficult to be accurate. Lying on your stomach or crouching will prevent this however. Running around and getting shot at will increase it.
These features really make you appreciate the skill it takes to fire a weapon at long range. When you do manage to line up your shot correctly, you’re shown the trajectory of the bullet and the gruesome effect it has when it hits its target. You’ll see skulls smash, organs explode and bones snap. If you don’t want to have realistic ballistics, however, you can switch it off. Similarly, you can also switch off parts of the UI that would help show you where your shot will land. You’re also rewarded with points on how you do take your target down. A headshot at 250 metres will give you much more points than merely firing at someone at close range.
Sniping at long range is the game’s primary focus, but you’ll also have access to a Welrod (A silenced pistol) and SMG to help you deal with foes when a sniper rifle isn’t all that useful. You can also lay traps like trip bombs and landmines.
The AI is intelligent enough and will work together to try to take you down. If you take a shot more than once, they will take cover and return fire. If you manage to sneak away without being seen, your silhouette will appear, indicating where they last saw you. At times one of the soldiers might walk around like nothing is amiss while his friends scramble about, but they’re generally rather competent.
One of the most striking features of the game is its depiction of war-torn Berlin itself. The entire city has been utterly destroyed, with buildings now being shells of their former selves. Abandoned cars are strewn about, sunlight spills through the dust and wardrobes lay buried amongst the rubble. All around you is the sound of barking dogs mixed with screams, gunfire and explosions. The atmosphere really creates the feeling of what a city being destroyed by war is like.
Even though the demo is subject to change, the game already shows a lot of potential. Aside from some minor issues with the AI, Sniper Elite V2 looks like it will deliver on its promises of being a thinking man’s shooter.
Sniper Elite V2 releases on May 1 in the US and May 4 in the EU for the 360, PS3 and PC.