Rebellion’s desire to keep Karl Fairburne’s long range shooting exploits in the consciousness of gamers is commendable, it takes a lot of work to keep titles visible in the currently crowded market. With the Zombie Army Trilogy and Italia getting to put the distance in on current hardware over the last 4 years, and it being a little while before the next main line instalment lands in 2020, what better way of keeping it alive than remastering the game that (arguably) cemented the series in the first place. Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is the complete collection of missions, modes and DLC from the original 2012 release given a lick of 2019 resolution paint and adding a few new features. Does it do enough to warrant an additional squeeze of the trigger though?
If you’re not familiar with the series, the games follow the antics of the aforementioned American OSS agent, renowned for his skills with a rifle, as he stalks his prey through war torn cities, deserts, production facilities and countryside bases. The core mechanic is the sniping and how the player has to master not only aiming, but also factor in the distance, wind, bullet drop and velocity reduction. There are varying levels of support the game provides and it’s possible to tailor the way everything works to whatever is the most comfortable. With a successful trigger pull the game slows down and enters a cinematic bullet cam mode that shows the damage that’s just been done to an enemy in pretty gruesome X-Ray vision… and it’s immensely satisfying. Whilst this is the crux of the game, there’s a lot of third person stealth going on as well to navigate the terrain and enemy forces to get setup for the perfect shot; and with a host of booby traps and gadgets on hand there are multiple ways to even the playing field. It’s not open world, and the route through a level is fairly linear (at least in the early games), yet it does offer up some sandbox elements in the way a few of the objectives can be tackled.
For Sniper Elite V2 Remastered, the main focus has been on making Karl’s hunt for rocket building scientists behind enemy lines in Berlin during the end of World War 2 look prettier and run smoother. The tweaks are predominantly to manage the resolution bump to 4K – with options to favour performance or resolution if you’ve an X or Pro; HDR implementation, enhanced textures and running at 60 fps under the right options. Adding to the visual pizzazz are changes to the post-processing and rendering as well as the lighting solutions. It all sounds great technically, and it does have an impact when you’re creeping through the ravaged landscapes watching shafts of sunlight break through the gloom between buildings. If you’ve the option to run it in the performance mode then it’s buttery smooth as you line up your scope on an unsuspecting target before letting a round loose. There’s a benefit here on reaction time when it gets up close and personal, giving Karl a slight edge in dealing with multiple enemies converging on him, though it’s a bit disappointing that things are still a little clumsy.
On console at least, the original release was superb in the long distance shooting, but needed refinement in the third person side of things, and this transfers over into Sniper Elite V2 Remastered. Where the third and fourth iterations of the series have improved the close quarters combat significantly, it only serves to highlight how clunky this one is and it suffers a bit with its age. With a name like Sniper Elite and a heavy emphasis on sneaking around you might expect that cover based shooting should be an absolute last resort for escape, though it does actually make up a fair proportion of the action. It stands out from the rest of the presentation like a sore thumb. I suspect that it would have been a much tougher job to port the game into the latest engine and hence why we’ve got the staccato rhythm still present in this version. Of course, it doesn’t spoil the overall campaign because it’s built around the mechanics available, it’s just not as enjoyable to use the pistols and machine guns as it is the scoped rifles.
With this being a full and complete version, all the DLC is present from the original which includes the Assassinate the Fuhrer mission that has returned in several guises over the games, as well as the three additional standalone single player missions. What hasn’t featured before are the multiplayer characters from the Zombie Army Trilogy games and a photo mode. The former adds additional variety to the pretty comprehensive online offering where there’s something for everyone who likes to get a bit more competitive. Whether you’re looking for a simple Deathmatch or something more tactical like Distance King that scores based on bullet travel rather than just the kills, there’s an option that’s been pulled in to support up to 16 players this time around. For those that like co-operation there’s a whole host of modes from Overwatch, which sets scout and support roles to each player, to Kill Tally, which is a wave based score attack mode. Playing with a friend has always been a great way to enjoy the Sniper Elite games, and the improved performance and matchmaking adds longevity to what is already a highly re-playable game.
If you’re of the ilk that likes to really savour those kill cam slo-mo shots then photo mode is something you’ll use time and again. Most games have a standard “move the camera, set a filter” approach, and Sniper Elite V2 Remastered doesn’t throw that away. However, it does add the ability to frame advance at the touch of a button so you can really get the shot you want. In standard gameplay this means enemies will move position or foliage will sway in the breeze, so not really a huge deal, but during a kill cam moment it means choosing the exact point of carnage that you want to preserve. Having this available makes the horrific damage done from distance seem all the worse somehow as the image on screen is paused at the height of destruction. The games never were for the faint-hearted, and now there’s all the more reason to warn those with delicate stomach’s that this might not be for you.
It feels like Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a stop gap between Italia and the next game in some respects because we’ve had a new iteration every two years for a while, and there’s a lengthier gap this time around. Of course, it’s been quite a while since the original 2012 release and many gamers will have not had the pleasure of stalking around Germany and getting 100 m kill shots. As satisfying as the shooting is though it won’t hide how dated the third person movement is, and this is probably the biggest challenge with playing the game. It’s not as slick and geared towards being reactionary as Rebellion’s later efforts, and if you’ve played Strange Brigade it’ll feel very sluggish. Still, if you’ve no longer the hardware to play an old copy on, or haven’t seen the game that brought the series to a wider audience, then it’s definitely worth scoping out.
A PS4 review copy of Sniper Elite V2 Remastered was provided by the Rebellion PR team, and the game is available from the 14th May on Xbox One, Switch and PS4, and through a free update to the existing PC version.