Sniper Elite V2 Remastered Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Disclaimer: The review's content has been updated to reflect the multiplayer and Xbox One X version of the game.
With Sniper Elite VR and Sniper Elite 5 on the horizon, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered serves as an entry point for newcomers. Itself a reboot of the original, does Rebellion Development's 2012 effort leave a positive first impression for the franchise?
Sniper Elite V2 follows a skilled sniper toward the tail-end of World War 2 as he tracks down and tries to stop the spread of Germany's deadly V-2 rocket launches. With such a namesake, referring to its status as a reboot as well as Germany's devastating guided missiles, there's room for strong storytelling. It fails to capitalize on this potential, though.
After finishing the campaign and all its dlc missions, I couldn't tell you a single plot detail. Even the protagonist's name escapes me. Despite an interesting narrative backdrop reinforced by its clever title, Sniper Elite V2 is a very traditional video game.
By the end of the prologue mission, there's a clear sense of the game's direction. This is a trial and error stealth game built on simple objectives with clearly defined checkpoints, tiny segmented levels, and an arcade-like scoring system.
Trial and error stealth is the name of the game. If you've never played Sniper Elite, be prepared to die many times until you settle into its rhythm. Players are equipped with a sniper, silenced pistol, and automatic weapon at the start of every mission. While you may feel the urge to snipe immediately, the game's design funnels the player until it unleashes its main hook.
The first two missions provide few opportunities to snipe enemies without being alerted. While fighting your way through reinforcements is always a viable option, Sniper Elite is at its best when it makes you feel like a covert bad-ass. Early missions teach patience; Observing patrols and taking out enemies with the silenced pistol. The sniper is reserved for specific assassination targets.
By mission 3, though, the game introduces sound as a gameplay mechanic. Whether it's hiding gun shots behind nearby explosions or a tower's bell, sound becomes part and parcel with the experience. By this point, Sniper Elite V2 begins to overcome its weaknesses.
The game has a lot of issues. Its finicky cover system is only the start. Nothing ever feels quite right. Snapping to cover doesn't provide much feedback. Movement while in cover feels like wading through a pool of chunky peanut butter. Even though we'd already seen three Uncharted and three Gears of War entries by this game's release, it's missing basic abilities. Transitions from cover to cover don't exist. This highly trained covert operative also doesn't know how to wrap around cover. The game's cover system could have been improved with this remaster in a similar manner to Gears of War Ultimate Edition's refinements over the original release. It felt archaic in 2012 and it feels even worse in 2019.
AI isn't up to snuff either, often failing to react convincingly to fallen comrades. On more than one occasion, there'd be at least one guard just yards away from a massive firefight, patrolling as if I was still undetected. AI functions in stealth mode, immediately breaking apart the moment the player is detected. I lost track of how many times enemies ran in place as if caught on invisible geometry. It also wasn't uncommon for AI to run past me as it entered a room even after I gunned down multiple enemies from the same corner.
Luckily, Sniper Elite V2 gratifyingly captures the thrill of sniping. Making use of a relatively realistic ballistics model, which is even more realistic on the hardest difficulty, each kill feels earned. Bullet drop must be taken into account, though there aren't in-game indicators signifying the enemy's distance from the player. Judging distance on the fly is part of what makes Sniper Elite V2 so captivating. More intense variables like wind direction are factored into the most realistic setting, though players can set a custom difficulty, individually tuning AI and gun-play.
With such realistic ballistics and weapon handling, slow motion and X-ray kills reward players for taking considered shots. A slow motion camera occasionally follows a single bullet as it races toward its target. X-rays are the star of the show, though. The franchise has justifiably built its name on these visually arresting moments.
Watching bone shatter upon impact never gets old. Whether it's the explosion of a soldier's testicles or jaw shattering like shrapnel, Sniper Elite V2's slow motion executions stand up to many of the best moments in modern action games; Moments like the Doom shotgun and glory kills, Gears of War curb stomp, and Devil May Cry Triple-S ranking.
Visually, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered looks reasonable. The team could have gone a step further with improving certain assets, but it's not ugly. Environments are fine, but character models could have used more work. On the console side, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X offer resolution and framerate modes. Resolution mode locks the game to 30 frames per second at a higher resolution while the framerate mode targets 60fps. The resolution mode also offers a more subtle and accurate implementation of ambient occlusion.
The PS4 Pro's image quality in its resolution mode is decent. Indoor scenes and enclosed spaces look sharp. It struggles most in outdoor areas. Locations with complex geometry and detailed open spaces introduce heavy aliasing and shimmering. Image quality is a little messy for a conservative remaster of a last gen game. The Xbox One X offers a noticeable jump in image quality, though it's still not as good as it should be. Aside from resolution, Xbox One X might have slightly higher foliage density in some scenes, but it's hard tell. The fuller look in the scene I compared may be down to the higher resolution resolving more detail, giving the impression of lusher greenery in the distance compared to PS4 Pro.
Most platforms feature 16-player multiplayer (Switch is limited to 8 players). There's a whole host of modes across fourteen maps, though good luck finding anything other than team deathmatch. Anyone can create matches, setting various game rules. Want one-shot snipers with no bullet drop? How about headshots only, friendly fire, and snipers only in a single game? Want to toggle whether the sniper glint appears in matches? Sniper Elite V2 Remastered's multiplayer has the potential for unforgettable nights with a large group of friends.
The multiplayer's malleability calls back to a simpler time, whereby split-screen multiplayer with specific weapons and items disabled reigned supreme. It wasn't about having the most balanced experience. It was about having fun through breaking the game's intended design. Sniper Elite V2 carries that same potential, squandering it with poor map design. Most maps are segmented by some barrier at the center point, relegating opposing teams to their own sides of the map. This makes sense given the sniper-focused gameplay, but it doesn't make for very exciting multiplayer. It's a fun diversion, if nothing else. It's also worth noting that PS4 Pro and Xbox One X owners can toggle between performance and resolution modes on-the-fly in multiplayer.
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a decent purchase at its MSRP. Its lack of refinements are overwhelmingly made up for by the satisfying sniping. With short levels and an arcade-like scoring system, Sniper Elite V2 may hook some players long past the end credits. As a remaster, it could have gone further, but other publishers have also put out lazier releases. Newcomers will be pleasantly surprised after succumbing to its motions.