In this week’s Breaking Down the Backlog, I watched a bullet enter a man’s head, shatter his teeth, explode his eye and come out of the other side.
The sniper rifle is a weapon I don’t use in video-games, generally speaking. I find it difficult to hit something when the target is so far away and is so minute. I do, however, like shooting people in the head – there is nothing more satisfying than killing someone instantly. I also enjoy stealth games. So I came to Sniper Elite 2 with some excitement and was actually mildly disappointed.
The biggest problem is the stealth. Technically, it works. Enemies have a line of sight that you can avoid, the game tells you when someone is looking in your direction, it is never GAME OVER if you get caught and you can hide if someone sees you. But it feels totally superfluous and sometimes downright impossible. 95% of my time with Sniper Elite 2 was killing everyone in front of me, albeit quietly, and running away to heal if a firefight got too hairy. It is especially weird since you are given grenades, which aren’t particularly stealthy by any means. It also does what all bad stealth games do: if someone sees you the entire map is alerted and knows exactly where you are. It can get very frustrating at points, especially when enemy snipers can see you from a mile away and will nearly kill you with one shot. Sniper Elite 2 is a half way point between Stealth Game and Action Game and it doesn’t really work.
The stealth may be a bit crap, but the shooting is really good…to a point. The loop of finding someone to kill, aiming down the sights of your sniper rifle, breathing in, shooting, the camera following the bullet and watching the bullet ventilate someone’s skull – in Mortal Kombat 9 style x-ray vision – feels utterly fantastic. I also love that you can do the same thing to vehicles and even the grenades some of the Nazi soldiers are wearing (which, hilariously, explodes when you hit them). It is the purest form of gratification a game can have, beyond solving a difficult puzzle or finishing a story. The gun-play doesn’t carry over to the other weapons, however. The machine guns and the pistols you collect over the eight hours of campaign are terrible. They feel like pea shooters. The former are wildly inaccurate and deal very little damage whilst the latter are useless because you are given a silenced pistol right at the start of the game. Yes, this Luger may do more damage but it isn’t silenced so who cares? I get that the developers didn’t want you running and gunning everywhere like an Uncharted game, but I would’ve appreciated a bit more ‘oomph’ behind the other weapons.
Sniper Elite 2’s graphics are average, I would’ve liked some more variation with the enemies you face (Russians and Nazis look very similar, turns out). But bombed out Berlin looks very good at points, so long as you don’t look too hard. Whilst the story is borderline pointless. Something about killing Nazi scientists so the Russians don’t get their hands on some chemical that would destroy London? I don’t know. The fact that every bit of story was shown in loading screens and not cut-scenes meant that I barely paid attention. There was a bonus mission where I got to kill Hitler, which was cool.
Despite all my problems with the game, I find it difficult to say I had a bad time with Sniper Elite 2. Shooting dudes in the face from over a kilometre away was always fun and there was just enough variation in the locations, although they were all brown and grey because, you know, World War 2, to keep me engaged. It also didn’t over stay its welcome, which is a big plus. I’d call it a B-tier game. If you find it for cheap, like I did, then totally pick it up. Leave you brain at the door, mind.
Next time on Breaking Down the Backlog: Tiny and Big – Grandpa’s Leftovers