A sloppy, unrealistic environment hinders gorgeous ballistics, keeping Sniper Elite V2 from changing the shooter genre.

User Rating: 6.5 | Sniper Elite V2 PS3
I love to snipe. I've always played the role of sniper in my games, whether Ghost Recon, Battlefield 2, and even archery in Oblivion. In 2005, tactical military shooters were waning to action shooter games, as were proper ballistics, and sniping was little more than putting crosshairs on a smaller target. Sniping was more about squinting than judging distance, windage and movement, and stealth was not much of a necessity either. That year, however, Sniper Elite hit the market and demanded we slow down and breathe before pulling the trigger. Despite lackluster graphics and audio, it was slow, methodical, and rewarded gamers with one of the best sniping challenges ever. Since the first Sniper Elite, the only comparable challenge I can find is Arma 2 for ballistic physics, but outside of the spectacular multiplayer, that game has enough bugs to make it worth forgetting. I was all too happy to pick up Sniper Elite V2 (SEV2) on its release date. I salivated at the opportunity to, once again, leave the bunny-hopping world of FPS behind and have to calculate each shot before sending lead down the field. My first headshot rewarded seven years of waiting as the game went to slow motion, following the bullet in its perfect trajectory as it surged through a skull plate, flattening on impact, and exited rolling out the other side of a Nazi helmet. Patience and deliberation yielded immense satisfaction and I moved quietly, yet eagerly to the next target.

Then, a couple of hours later, as I was stuck on the same spot of the same map with the same Nazi helmets coming at me in the same pattern, wonder and elation gave way to boredom and frustration. The first problem with SEV2, and most noticeable to me, is the linear playing field. Access is only granted down certain streets, inside certain buildings, with maybe one or two alleys of detour along the way. A laughable skinny pole with wire on it literally blocks an entire street at times, forcing narrow channels to be explored. Many of the maps are merely one large hallway of city, while others are the standard closed interiors with crossing paths. The exterior areas are the most disappointing because there are all these beautiful bombed out buildings but only a few places to hide. If a Nazi sniper draws a bead on me, he has me spotted until I kill him because the linear map keeps me from completely changing my position in true sniper fashion. I can change windows a few feet from each other, which doesn't help, go forward across the map to get closer, putting me in better range to die, or move backward the way I came which solves nothing. I can't completely change locations, attempting to flank the enemy or sneak past them entirely, because only one doorway or one alley is available at a time. There were a couple of places where sneaking past sentries was possible, but eventually they had to be engaged before progressing because preset path led me back to them.

Even worse, each area of a map has a set trigger for enemy spawns. On one map I cleared a street, moved forward in a parallel building, and heard voices behind me. I peered around a corner and two Nazi's were standing below a window I had just cleared. Every time I replayed that area, they reappeared on cue. On another map I spent several painstaking minutes making sure a courtyard was cleared before leaving my post. Upon stepping forward into the open, I caused five enemies to rush forward. This happened no matter how many times I started over. I was spotted instantly, blowing the stealth I had worked so hard to maintain, and thereby robbing me of any sense of accomplishment.

To me, this is the greatest downfall of SEV2. Stealth is demanded as sniper rifles shoot realistically slow and semi-auto weapons are inaccurate and carry little ammo. I'm given traps to set and opportunities for silent kills, but no matter how hard I try, eventually I'm forced into open combat. I remember clearing an entire map in the original Ghost Recon with a sniper (Jack Stone forever!) because I could move hundreds of yards between shots, throwing off my trackers and staying hidden. I could pass enemies in one area, wipe them out in another and then return to the first from another angle. This is impossible in SEV2 as the tight alleys of fire combined with the patterned back-and-forth movements of the enemies make it more of a glossy shooting gallery than anything "tactical". Sniping is about stalking prey and taking them out on your own terms. Sniping is about hunting. SEv2 completely robs the player of that experience by just creating an elongated shooting gallery.

The medium setting is way too easy, with a red dot showing you where you put the scope and enemies blind as bats. The "elite" setting is aggravating because, besides the boring tutorial, there is no shooting range to practice your long shots and gauge your scope. You're thrown right into the missions where each enemy is a different distance and elevation and you have nothing to go on for where to put the scope other than your last shot. It would be nice to have warm-up targets in a game where such precision is demanded. When a shot is missed, the Nazis close in relatively quickly like ants at a picnic. They move pretty much in the same illogical random pattern as well. The AI in elite is not much harder except for when the enemy are within small arms range and suddenly the game is another FPS (third-person but you get me). If they're not charging with guns blazing, however, they merely sprint back and forth from two points of cover, basically daring you to snipe them or step into the open. A tough shot at far range, deadly at close range in numbers, the game gets aggravating quickly merely because I didn't have an opportunity to just sit down and get comfortable with my rifle and scope. Switching difficulty causes the entire game to be reset so I can't practice a level on easier settings.

What's keeping me from completing the game in all my frustration, however, is the save system. The save checkpoints are reasonably paced after each major scripted wave, and each time I die I go to the last checkpoint. If I have to leave the game entirely, however, then I have to start the entire map over when I come back. To play the game properly, that is, to give the game the full stealth and sniping ballistics respect for which it was programmed, a level can take a good thirty minutes to an hour to play. The way I snipe, it takes even longer. That means, to play the game, no less than an hour of time must be blocked out in the day. I can't just log into PS3, play a few minutes for progress, then leave. One day I had the time, I sat down and made it almost to the end of a level, but then had to get up for something in real life. The entirety of my progress was lost. I do NOT want to play that map yet again. Who the heck approved this kind of save system?

I'm certain there are others out there that are more proficient and this type of gameplay, especially on a console, that can blaze through each level without the save system being a nuisance, but on top of the scripts, spawns, high-explosive gas caps on tanks, and shooting gallery enemies, moving faster in this game just turns it into Call of Whatever. The graphics are beautiful, the ballistics are perfect, but the gameplay hinders an overall positive experience from occurring. After only a few hours, I simply did not want to play anymore. That's major disappointment for me to say about a sniping game.