Sniper Elite V2 is a depressingly drab shooter. The controls are awkward, the mission objectives are repetitive, the enemies are brain dead, and it habitually checkpoints progress at the worst possible moments.
But every once in a while two patrolling soldiers will wander into alignment. You'll take a deep breath as time slows, carefully place the crosshair on the target's head, and squeeze the trigger. A bullet will erupt and the camera will dart after it, swooping and spinning around it until it pierces the target's skin. The view will switch to X-ray mode to show the skull shattering and the brain puncturing as the little piece of metal bursts out the other side and lodges itself in between the second soldier's eyes. Brief, fleeting moments like this will provide a sense of enjoyment, but little else in the game will.
Sniper Elite V2 stars WWII marksman Karl Fairburne, a lone soldier on a mission to rescue and recruit German rocket scientists to aid the US in its missile programme and, should he need to, put down any boffins not in the mood for defection. The majority of missions involve trudging across streets, factories and missile silos to either secure a point or plant a bomb.
Although you have the option to slink past enemy patrols using stealth and engage in cover-based close-quarters firefights, the implementation of both is too unrefined to rely on. Karl isn't very good at staying incognito and the slightest sounds send all the telepathically-linked enemies into a suicidally aggressive attack pattern, so trying to be sneaky isn't a good idea. Firing anything other than a sniper rifle is a clunky mess and enemies are also crack shots, so peeking out of cover will usually get you tagged with a bullet.
Unsurprisingly, your best method of attack is to stay back and use binoculars to mark ground-level enemies and any snipers hiding in vantage points. Unless you're on a mission where sounds in the environment can be used to stifle your rifle, your first shot will almost always alert nearby troops. At this point, it's just about sitting back and picking off soldiers as they bounce from cover point to cover point, occasionally throwing self-preservation to the wind and wandering out into the open.
Fortunately, disposing of fodder from a distance is quite satisfying. On higher difficulty levels you'll have to compensate for bullet drop and factor in winds altering the course of your shot before squeezing the trigger. However, on the Marksman level your only concern is lining up the shot. Nail the trajectory and you'll be treated to the shower of blood, bone and guts we described earlier.
Sniper Elite V2 is an unremarkable shooter by modern standards, but the satisfaction of its cinematic kills is hard to deny. It's just a shame that these moments are encased in a generally shoddy gameplay experience.
Satisfying sniping but poor overall
- Cinematic X-ray kills are cool
- Picking off enemies is satisfying
- Very little mission variety
- Stealth mechanics are shaky
- Muddy colour palette