I was in a prone position overlooking a halted enemy convoy. My goal was simple – to kill Hitler. First, however, I needed to shoot my way through a dull series of enemies in order to get my shot. After dispatching a tank by shooting its gas tank (I know that’s redundant, but how else can I say that?), he finally ran out of cover, dashing to a train he could use to escape. But I fired a shot at his abdomen.
The killcam kicked in and followed my bullet before culminating in an x-ray shot that showed it blowing through his intestines. Only, once this ended, he kept running and got on the train. The killcam only rolls if you get a fatal shot, so I know that I did what I was supposed to. The game then told me that, despite the fact that I killed him, Hitler had escaped and I had failed. This made me like Sniper Elite V2 Remastered even less than I did before.
Eye of the beholder
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is an update of a seven-year-old game. It adds new textures, lighting, and geometry alongside new stuff to the multiplayer mode. But as the title states, this is almost exclusively a visual overhaul and not a remake. The new textures and lighting do look very good, though. The question is: does the game warrant this visual upgrade?
The game tells the story of a sniper named Karl Fairburne as he tries to stop a missile launch and assassinates various Nazis involved with it. The storyline is completely forgettable and doesn’t really insert itself into the forefront. Each of the game’s missions opens with a voice monologue where Karl explains what he aims to accomplish. The game then throws you in, and you get to work.
Snipe ’em all
The absolute star of Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is, as you would likely guess, the sniping. Shooting with the game’s sniper rifles feels really good, and it’s quite satisfying to pull off successful shots, even after hours of doing so. The game has three difficulties that allow wind and distance to affect your shots. The higher the difficulty, the more you’ll need to compensate for this in order to hit your targets.
This is simplified by the fact that Karl has a meter tied to his BPM. If it’s low enough, he can hold his breath and an onscreen indicator will show you exactly where your bullet will go with pinpoint precision. If his BPM is too high, you merely need to go prone until it lowers. I mostly didn’t use this, as I preferred to get a feel for how to adjust my shots without it. This allowed me to take out foes faster and more accurately.
As mentioned earlier, sometimes when you fire a fatal shot at an enemy, the camera will follow your bullet all the way to its destination. It often shows you an x-ray of your enemy as the bullet hits them. Bones shatter and hearts are blown in half in vivid detail. It turns kills into a violent, visceral affair that made them the high point of the game.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing the game does well. For starters, the movement is wonky. Karl can run, crouch, and go prone, but none of these feel good. He has what is possibly the shortest sprint time of any video game character I can recall. Once you tell him to run, he can only do so for a second or two before he stops. This makes running practically useless. Crouching and going prone is also not particularly useful, as the enemies will spot you pretty much no matter what.
Karl can also go into cover and pop out to shoot, but this works fairly poorly as well. There’s no way of knowing if you’ll actually be able to take cover behind something until you try it. Oftentimes, I’d find myself tapping the cover key, only for Karl to do nothing. This was frequently against surfaces that were more than good enough for taking cover behind. On top of that, once you’re in cover, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to pop out of it.
It’s a frequent occurrence to plant yourself in cover, only to realize you can’t shoot from it, which requires you to exit cover. This is a great way to get shot. Health regenerates, so this isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s still annoying. Also, it’s strangely difficult to leave cover sometimes, as I had to wrestle with the controls to get unstuck. It’s also worth mentioning that you can’t switch from one piece of cover to another. Gears of War came out six years before Sniper Elite V2 and has an infinitely better cover system. And even given the additional time, the developers didn’t think it necessary to fix for the remaster.
Aside from a sniper rifle, you can have a machine gun and silenced pistol on you. These don’t feel anywhere near as satisfying to shoot as your rifle. The game also doesn’t like to give you much ammo for either during levels, so you must be careful not to use too much. Most enemies will drop machine guns, but they bafflingly only ever have a few rounds on them. Trying to take bullets from a foe’s gun would frequently net me around four bullets, even if they died without firing a single shot. It’s an arbitrary and illogical way to keep you from relying on machine guns too much.
Hive mind hijinks
As problematic as all that is, the biggest issue with the game is the enemies. They’re simultaneously insanely stupid and magic. If a single enemy spots you, every nearby enemy will know exactly where you are. They’re also obscenely good shots. I constantly got sniped by enemies 150 meters away who were using machine guns. But if they don’t try and use their magic guns to snipe you, you better believe they’re going to just run straight at you.
It didn’t matter if there was a pile of dead Nazis in their way, they’d just go ahead and stand on their fallen comrades and get killed just the same. This is specifically why the game’s insistence on you not being able to grab much additional machine gun ammo is such a problem. Despite the fact that you’re playing as a skilled sniper, enemies don’t seem to have any interest in safeguarding their lives whatsoever. Luckily for them, the amount of damage that kills them can vary wildly.
Most of the time, a shot to the abdomen would kill or incapacitate an enemy outright. But at multiple points, I’d shoot them with my rifle and they’d flinch and keep shooting like nothing happened. This is especially funny if you shoot them in the abdomen when there’s a loud sound that covers your shots. Sometimes, when you shoot them during these they’ll flinch from the shot and then immediately stand up straight again. While it’s very common to not get a kill or incapacitation from a gut or chest shot, I found myself very frequently getting kills from mistakenly shooting them in the hands or feet.
To go along with the laughable AI, the levels are mostly extremely linear and not open to much in the way of movement. During the tutorial, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered tries to convince you that you can play this as a tactical game where going stealthy is a good way to play. This is a lie. It tells you to booby trap dead bodies with mines and place tripwires by openings, but these almost never prove useful. Why is this? Well, because completing objectives frequently throws swarms of enemies at you who all know your exact location no matter how stealthy you were. And playing stealthily generally just doesn’t correspond to the way the game was designed.
Every now and again, you’ll find an enemy that has his back to you, which naturally beckons you to walk up behind them for a stealth kill. However, another enemy will be placed nearby so they can just see you, so this is mostly for show. You can throw rocks to distract enemies, but unless you feel like restarting checkpoints over and over again, you’re probably going to get seen more often than not. There were a lot of times that the prompt to perform a stealth kill wouldn’t appear, even if I was undetected and standing right behind my enemy.
There are frequently enemy snipers in the area, and they’re so good at their jobs that they don’t even have to be looking at you to see you. Once, I walked into an area and no one had eyes on me. I got my scope on an enemy sniper with his back turned to me. But before I could take my shot, the red indicator showed that I’d been spotted by the very enemy whose back I was aiming at. I then watched through the scope as he turned around, raised his rifle, and pointed it at me.
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered also really likes to spawn snipers into existence based on where you are in the level. I surveyed an area with my binoculars in order to find enemies to mark if they were in vantage points above me, only to find nothing. Once I made my way higher, enemy snipers blinked into existence. Real tactical. The game is just basically a standard cover-based third-person-shooter in linear areas that force you to go one way. It also has invisible walls everywhere.
Lied open spaces
The devs attempted to rectify this with some wider areas later on, especially in the DLC. But due to how far away enemies can see you from and their use of a hive mind, this doesn’t fix anything. It also doesn’t help that enemies can spot you through certain objects that you yourself can’t see through. One DLC mission tasked me with sneaking through a large field with a ton of foliage. Naturally, I attempted to crawl through said foliage, as it was taller than Karl while prone. Unfortunately, enemies see right through it. They can also easily see through smoke that obscures your vision and sometimes banners too. It’s just bad all-around.
Then there are the aforementioned noises that are supposed to block out the sound of your gunfire. They’re an arbitrary-yet-interesting attempt to give you more stealth options. Of course, I found that, much like every other system the game had in place, this only worked as intended part of the time. As I said earlier, shooting an enemy during these can end with them getting shot and not even knowing it. But it can also result in an enemy getting alerted, even if the sound is still going on. Despite the fact that they shouldn’t be able to hear where the shot came from, that doesn’t stop them from frequently knowing exactly where you are, just like every other time practically anything happens in this game.
You can’t save me
Also, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered doesn’t allow you to save manually. You have to use checkpoints. This would be fine in a better game, but sometimes the checkpoints can be pretty far apart. There were multiple times I made it through entire sections, only to be surprised by a single guard at the end that stayed put despite the commotion. I then had to start the long section over from the beginning. This is made worse by the fact that the game can just be very frustrating.
The game isn’t very long either. The main campaign will take most people six to eight hours, with another two to three for the extra missions. There’s a multiplayer mode as well that includes characters from this game’s popular zombie spin-off. The thing is, I don’t understand who this game is for.
Sniper Elite V2 was a mediocre game when it came out in 2012. Even then, it felt like a game from the mid-’00s. Seven years later, I just can’t see any reason for anyone to want to play it at this point. There have been two more entries in the series that have massively improved everything about it, so this seems more like a placeholder than anything else. There is some enjoyment to be had here from the shooting and killcam alone, but the game is just too dated, badly-designed, and subpar for me to recommend it. If you want a sniping game, get Sniper Elite 3 or 4. $34.99 for a game this underwhelming just for some new textures and lighting effects is not a good use of money.