Make no mistake, Sniper Elite V2 is a game that’s intended for adults only. Whether you warm to its wares is a different matter, because its attitude towards violence is deliberately galvanising; in summary, it’s downright pornographic. The mechanics of play are beyond rock-solid, which means that executing a perfect head-shot from an improbable distance couldn’t be much more satisfying; whether or not you feel comfortable being jubilant about your own skills whilst some poor sap spits his own teeth out in garish slo-mo X-Ray vision, will determine how enjoyable you end up finding it. Aside from the violence the game is a bit of a goof, with a silly plot, an even sillier protagonist and a sense of realism that’s cartoonish and inconsistent at very best. It’s certainly imperfect, but more often it’s just fun: a trademark of its creators if ever there was one.
Although it would like to be primarily seen as some sort of simulator, you’re never once stopped from behaving like John Rambo. There are countless stealth dynamics in place – you can lay trip wires and land mines, hide bodies to avoid detection and use environmental sounds to disguise the tone of your rifle – but outside of a couple of instances, you’re never really forced to use them. Playing through on the harder difficulty settings means that playing by the rules is certainly preferable, but if you want to be reckless and impulsive, you can. It’s like many of Rebellion’s recent releases, in that the tools are there to be used if you want to use them, and there to be ignored if you can’t be bothered. That flexibility may leave some people feeling confused, but it’ll be a boon to the breed of gamer who’ll attempt to play through the entire thing using only hand grenades and land mines.
The best thing about the package (hands down) is that there are four online co-op modes, including one that allows you to play through the campaign with a friend. The fact that this isn’t being trumpeted as a cooperative game is a bit of a mystery, because co-op – with its pacier gameplay and the abbreviated death-cams – brings out the best in it. One mode in particular, entitled Overwatch – a title shared by a Call of Duty co-op mission that seems to have been its primary source of inspiration – is downright fantastic. One of you fulfils brief objectives on the ground (armed with a feeble pea-shooter of a machine gun) whilst the other snipes enemies from high above; enemies that really need to have been spotted first (Battlefield 3 style) by your on-foot compadre. It’s derivative but often massively rewarding, which is a sentiment that pretty much summarises the game as a whole.
Sniper Elite V2 obviously works best as a sniper game, so it’s a little odd when it starts to deny you the pleasure of long-distance combat during its final stages. But this is really an online score-fest underneath anyway, and replaying earlier chapters (both alone and on co-op) is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. There are some truly terrific ideas in it – for instance, the sound of your footsteps is amplified so that you actually get a proper sense of when you’re making too much noise – and enemy AI is thrillingly predictable almost as often as it’s hilariously dunderheaded; so if you want consistency, for the love of God look elsewhere. If you’re prepared to turn a blind eye to its shortcomings, Sniper Elite V2 is a perfectly serviceable and frequently entertaining adventure. Just keep it away from the kids.
Sniper Elite v2 is currently due for release on the Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3 on Friday, May 4th 2012.
Watch the trailer for Sniper Elite v2 below: