World War II has been done in video games so many times before, it’s become a cliche. Rather than attempting to break new ground, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered, a polished-up version of last gen’s Sniper Elite V2, simply leans into that cliche. This is a World War II Video Game, and it doesn’t care who knows it. That means frantic German shouting from enemy soldiers, a range of period-appropriate weaponry, and as much brown and gray as you can handle.
Where Sniper Elite V2 Remastered differentiates itself from most of its peers in the World War II Video Game Club is its focus on stealth and sniping targets from a distance. At least, that’s what it purports to do. You play as Lieutenant Karl Fairburne, a sniper who is tasked with taking out a series of high-profile targets in the final days of WWII. One thing leads to another, and suddenly Karl finds himself hunting down scientists behind the Germans’ V2 rocket program. The story itself has the potential to be interesting, but most of it is unfortunately conveyed through text and disembodied narration before each level begins. That’s a bummer, because the underlying story here is actually pretty cool. It’s based on Operation Paperclip, which was a real initiative the US undertook to get certain German scientists to defect. As it is, there’s little character interaction and definitely not much that can be called character development.
If you’re a shooter fan, you’re most likely here for the gameplay, however, and what’s on offer ranges from fairly solid to clumsy and wonky. You’ll have access to a variety of weapons to take down enemy soldiers, though the game really wants you to focus on stealth and your sniper rifle. This is where I noticed the largest breakdown between the apparent intent of the developers and the game in action. Running through a level and simply gunning down enemy soldiers with a machine gun is often easier than taking all the care and precaution necessary to snipe them from afar or take them down silently. That’s not to say the run-and-gun action is particularly good. No, here you’re presented with typical third-person shooting action with cover that proves far too finicky to be useful. Things you should be able to hide behind don’t offer the Cover prompt, leaving you a sitting duck. Unsticking yourself from cover that you do manage to find is trickier than it needs to be, and unless you’re playing on the hardest difficulty, it really is just simpler to run through, take aim, and kill all the German soldiers en masse.
Which brings me to one of my main issues with the game. Look, I understand there is a subset of gamers that are all about the Ultraviolence, and honestly I’m not too bothered by violence in games. It’s fine. Even when it’s presented as realistic, as it is here, I can remain reasonably detached. What I object to here, though, is the way the violence is gamified. Aim and fire at an enemy’s soldier’s head, and text appears lauding your Head Shot and awarding you 90 Points! That… I mean, that feels weird to me. This isn’t a cartoony game. The violence is over the top, to be sure, but it’s still presented as realistic. To give me points so blatantly for killing people feels very off-putting. It’s 2019, and I’m squicked out by that. I feel like most soldiers in war aren’t jazzed about having to kill anyone, even enemy combatants. Assigning point totals for killing men in different ways belongs to a bygone era of video games.
When the stealth gameplay works, it works fairly well. A perfectly executed objective is satisfying. Staying out of sight and getting things done quietly is more challenging, but if you’re looking for that type of challenge, you’ll probably feel good doing it here. Unfortunately, the mission objectives on offer feel too generic. Assassinate this soldier, plant three bombs, and escape. It’s like Sniper Elite V2 is just using the standard template for this type of game, while everyone else has moved on to more challenging material.
As a remaster of a last-generation game, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered does a good job of lightly updating its content for series fans. For a newcomer to the game and the series, however, it doesn’t make a compelling case for itself. Particularly if you’re not into shooters, there’s no need to take a trip to Germany this time around.