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Sniper Elite V2 [Interview] – Testikills, Stealth and Sniper Rifles

Sniper Elite V2 is a tactical shooter. Unlike other tactical shooters, however, this is one in which you must tackle your problems alone. There are no squadmates (AI or otherwise) to help you here.
That’s a very rare thing for this genre.
We speak to the game’s developers, Rebellion, about exactly that sense of the unique, as well as the idea of a sandbox shooter, the advantages of third-person over first-person and the ability to shoot someone’s testicles from between their legs.
It’s called a testi-kill, apparently.
Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley and Sniper Elite V2 producer Steve Hart talk us through it.
IncGamers: Looking back at the first Sniper Elite, what do you feel could be improved/added?
Jason Kingsley: It’s very difficult to say what could be improved because the game uses technology that is six or seven years old; you look at it now and the polygon count, texture mapping and the general level of detail look out of date.
The things we were dead set on retaining were the long-range shooting and the atmosphere of being alone in a hostile environment trying to survive with just wits and a simple sniper rifle. Those are the key pillars. We always wanted to improve the kill cam because that became a bit of a unique signature for Sniper Elite. Of course, the realism and authenticity were important as well.
Steve Hart: We identified a bunch of areas that the team got right with the first game, and then tried to expand on those. The kill cam is a good example of something we’ve taken to the next level. The increased polygon count also allows us to improve the atmosphere as we can put so much detail into the environments that when they’re under the scrutiny of a player looking down a scope they still look great.

IG: Why do you think there are not many games of this type? Not just tactical shooters in general, but tactical shooters in which you’re alone and without a squad?
JK: That’s a very interesting question, and I don’t actually know what the answer is to that. I like playing as a lone wolf… a me against the world kind of thing. I think it provides a great sense of immersion.
I’ve never been particularly keen on AI buddies because, unless they’re done amazingly well, they usually end up becoming very annoying. We very much wanted to push the fact that you’re alone, up against it, and having to complete your mission; you don’t need to kill every enemy, but you do need to achieve your mission.
Then of course, after you’ve completed your mission, you need to escape. There aren’t many games that ask that of you. So, yeah, combine that with the lone wolf aspect and I think we’re unique.
SH: And I think the fact that we are unique is not something we need to be scared of.
IG: Just how tactical is Sniper Elite V2 and how difficult does it become?
JK: Well, the difficulty is another key component. The original game was hard as nails and similarly, we don’t want to design this game around stopping people making mistakes. We want to guide players and, if they choose to, we want to watch and laugh as they run out into the crossfire and die.
We teach you in a harsh way that that’s not how to play and it’s not something you’d do in real life. I’ve played the whole thing through on Cadet mode (read: easy), it took 22 hours but I was playing very slowly and carefully and I found it sufficiently challenging.
Tactical gameplay makes a huge difference. To begin with I wasn’t really bothering to use the scope to scout out the area, the was just shooting the first target I came across – if you do that, you can sort of survive early on but it’s really not easy. So you do learn that to complete the levels, certainly on anything other than Cadet, you need to play tactically.
SH: It’s just about being able to learn. If you go in and run and gun then you end up failing very quickly. But once you’ve realised that crouching or crawling prevents the enemy hearing your footsteps, and you’ve got to grips with silently breaking necks and using the silenced pistol as well as the rifle you can get through much more safely.

IG: Would you class Sniper Elite V2 as a ‘sandbox’ game?
JK: I call it a ‘semi-sandbox’ game. We  haven’t created Berlin and allowed you to explore it however you want, we have tried to guide the player through each mission. There are many, many ways of achieving your objective.
It’s very interesting to watch people playing through the missions and see how they take different routes and use different tactics than we might expect. I think that shows our AI to be very good in that it reacts to what you’re doing, it’s not simply a bunch of pop-up targets.
SH: You adapt to the AI, the AI adapts to you. It’s kind of like a sandbox in that respect. Early on in development one of the key mission statements for the game was “if it looks like you can get there, you should be able to get there.” If a player wants to go to the top of a building then let them, if that’s how they want to play. We really try to open up as much of the world as we can and the same applies to the AI; take them on as you see fit.
IG: Did you design the levels with a particular style in mind? i.e. This level will be stealthy, this level will concentrate on long-distance combat etc…
SH: Kind of, but not really so much distance combat as we’ve got various ranges of engagement in every level regardless of how you choose to play. We would look at the narrative at that point and determine what was required within that part of the story and that level.
There would be a lot of design into where to place enemy snipers, should this building be a church or a six storey town house and how do we worked those things around each other. There’s a lot to consider and there’s a lot of departments that need to work together to make it happen. A lot of art designers are not involved with the gameplay but they want everything to look great. In that case it’s a matter of finding the middle ground between what works for a certain level’s gameplay and looks stunning at the same time.

IG: Why the third-person perspective over first-person?
JK: We wanted to emphasise the sniping element as being the bit that happens in first-person, but it’s fun to have the third-person viewpoint as well. One of the things is that you’re able to see yourself taking cover, which allows you as the player to be slightly abstracted and see your objectives around you without having your view obscured as it would be in first-person.
It kind of promotes a thinking approach to the gameplay, rather than making you want to just run out and shoot everything you see.
SH: That’s exactly it. The fact that you can see yourself within the camera’s view allows you to make all the decisions you need to make. There’s that element of ‘cheating’ that you don’t get in first-person games where you can bend the camera around corners, but that really enforces the stealth-based gameplay that we’re going for. Third-person is perfect for that.
IG: And just when did you decide to include a slow-motion, x-ray shot of enemy soldiers having their testicles being blown off?
JK: [Laughs] Basically, I can remember having the conversation “bollocks or not.” In the end it was, “fuck it, put them in.” We’re shooting people in the head, so why shouldn’t we shoot them in the bollocks as well. It might make you wince, but shooting them in the head is spoiling their day too.
So, on my head be that decision.
I think it’s realistic, it’s ‘fun’ and it makes you wince. One other time I’ve shot an enemy in the game where the bullet went in through his nose, down his spine and out of his arse. That’s horrible but it’s not really any worse than shooting them through the heart. It’s just not something we’re used to seeing so we’re not desensitised to it so much. 
*Our Sniper Elite V2 hands-on preview can be found here.


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