Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945 E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On

We check out a one-level PlayStation 2 demo of Rebellion's World War II-inspired sniper simulation.

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At a recent pre-E3 press event hosted by Namco we had an opportunity to play through a one-level demo of Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945, a game that we last saw running on an Xbox in September of last year. Although the PlayStation 2 version of the game was the only one on show on this occasion, the first thing we noticed was that the visuals had improved quite dramatically since our last encounter. Like so many recent games, Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945 uses light-bloom effects to soften edges, resulting in a look that's both easier on the eyes and more realistic.

All of the game's 28 missions can be played solo or cooperatively with a friend.
All of the game's 28 missions can be played solo or cooperatively with a friend.

In case you're unfamiliar with Sniper Elite's premise, the game will see you assuming the role of an American sniper behind enemy lines and disguised as a German at the end of World War II. The war-torn city of Berlin, in which the game is set, has been painstakingly re-created by the UK-based Rebellion development team, but the storyline that drives the primary mode of play is based on a "what if?" scenario rather than on historical facts. In a nutshell, Stalin's forces are waging war on the Germans in an attempt to capture scientists and gain control of the world's most powerful nuclear technology, and your mission is to stop them.

The story-driven mode in Sniper Elite: Berlin 1945 will comprise a total of 28 missions that can be played solo or cooperatively with a friend. The mission that we played started out much as you'd expect any mission that places you in the role of a sniper to: We were in a position at the top of a tower overlooking an area of Berlin, and there were plenty of enemy soldiers patrolling the area for us to pick off. We were playing on one of the game's more challenging difficulty settings, so when taking aim at our targets we had to take gravity and their distance from us into account--which basically meant aiming high above their heads. It didn't take us long to get used to the system, and the fact that every shot was challenging in its own way made the whole experience significantly more rewarding when we got it right. We were also pleased to see that Sniper Elite's slow-motion bullet cam is still in the game, although since its automatic use was no longer restricted to well-taken headshots, it was walking a fine line between being a satisfying reward for a particularly good shot and being overused.

After picking off a number of the more obvious enemies below, we were treated to the level's first set piece. Another undercover operative had been discovered and was fleeing a building that we had a great view of from our vantage point. Our mission was to provide cover for him as he attempted to escape--first by shooting his pursuers as he exited the building, and then by taking out other enemies (including snipers) who were alerted to his presence as he attempted to commandeer a vehicle. The pacing of the sequence was nicely unpredictable--we would be using our binoculars to scour the locale for enemies one moment and attempting to take out multiple moving targets the next.

Unsurprisingly, the fast-moving enemy soldiers were much more challenging targets than their sluggish colleagues, and as a result we'd often injure them rather than kill them outright with our first shot. After being tipped off by a Namco representative, though, we were able to use this to our advantage. Rather than hurrying to finish off the injured parties with a second shot, we could wait for them to call for help, wait for their buddies to show up, and then score two or three kills in rapid succession.

Sniper rifles aren't the only weapons that you'll be using.
Sniper rifles aren't the only weapons that you'll be using.

The danger of being a sniper ensconced in one area for a long time, of course, is that you'll be spotted by enemies. The tower we started the level in had only two viable sniping positions for us to position ourselves in, so it came as something of a relief when we were instructed to leave the tower and proceed to a new objective. Moving around the city was a very different experience from sitting at the top of the tower, and our trusty sniper rifle became useless when we were up close and personal with enemies. Thankfully we had other authentic World War II weapons at our disposal, and it wasn't long before we were augmenting our arsenal with pistols and rifles dropped by fallen enemies.

An enemy bullet brought our time with the playable demo to an abrupt end before we could reach our next objective, but not before we had plenty of fun exploring our surroundings and cleared out an enemy bunker. If all of Sniper Elite's levels are as challenging and enjoyable as the one that we played, Rebellion's next offering has the potential to be something quite special. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as its Q4 release date closes in.

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