Confession TIme: I played the original Sniper Elite V2 about ¾ of the way through, then never finsihed it. I just kind of got burned out by the way that they designed the levels, and often had very, very limited checkpoints. However, I would recommend the game to anyone looking for a good sniping simulation. Now, when I saw that they had DLC, featuring Nazi Zombies, I had to preorder that, if only for the name alone. So how does it fair?
I like sniping in solo games enough to have checked out Sniper Ghost Warrior, and Sniper Elite, and I have to say, Nazi Zombies is one of my favorite iterations on the ‘sniping simulation’ genre. To get a grasp on what makes NZ (not going to type that title out a dozen times this article) so special, you have to know what the other games are like. Generally in the other games you feel underpowered when you are detected, or in a close encounter. Standing out in the open, guns blazing, results in 5 guards giving you a mobster style brick wall treatment. The worst part is, the games usually force you into this situation. In fact, in Ghost Warrior there was an entire level where you couldn’t snipe anyone...you just had to use an SMG/Assault Rifle. If I wanted to play Call of Duty, I would. They have good mechanics for that. That isn’t why I play sniping games.
I play sniping games to feel like an all powerful deity, sitting hundreds of yards away, picking off heads like apples at an orchard. And the first two levels of Nazi Zombies KNOWS THAT. None of the bread and butter enemies have guns. At ten meters away, they are just as deadly as at 300 meters away. And that’s amazing! 75% of the time, you can sit back at the end of an alley/on top of a building, and take your shots, popping off heads. This is assisted by the bullet time mechanic, which is as rewarding as ever. If you didn’t play the original, the game’s gimmick is a bullet time system, that gives you an X-Ray view of your bullet piercing the enemy’s heart/lungs/head/testicles, or show the bullet shattering the femur/arm/spine, and each time is pretty damn awesome. But when facing the hordes of the undead, there is a secondary function: planning. When you make that headshot, you get to follow the bullet in super slow mo, and identify priority targets, often ones that you couldn’t see from your current position. This is something that was probably not a consideration from the developers, but is really cool nonetheless.
Now I mentioned back there that 75% of the time, you can sit back. The game usually trickles a few zombies at you, but at certain points you have to fight a horde off. The first time that a sizable zombie mod was introduced, my jaw hit the ground. Where they had previously thrown maybe five or ten zombies at one time, suddenly there was a group of upwards of fifty. There are not enough bullets, not enough time, and panic sets in. Suddenly your shots stop hitting heads, and start going for center of mass. Unfortunately, they are much more resilient than ordinary mortals, AND they can be resurrected from anything except a headshot. As the horde draws near, you find a use for your secondary weapons, placing quick shots with a pistol, or spraying the area with machine gun fire. Finally, you have land mines, trip wires, dynamite, and grenades. Often, the game tells you to ‘survive’ and you find yourself scrambling to fortify your position, and this is where all of the systems from the original game shine. Where the items felt like a throwaway “I guess you could have a landmine” in the original, fortifying against a horde feels fantastic. Especially setting up a dynamite chain in front of a trip wire, so that one zombie triggers an landslide of limbs and brains. My record is currently 17 zombies killed in one explosion, which kicks all of the asses.
There is a small variety of enemies in the game, mostly zombies, a suicide zombie, an Uber zombie with a machine gun, and the scariest skeletons I have ever seen. Seriously. While I was playing the game, I was less reminded of Call of Duty, and more reminded of Serious Sam, of all things. As waves of enemies appeared, I was swapping out weapons, navigating a battlefield, positioning environmental hazards, and prioritizing targets. It is this amazing sense of empowerment combined with a tense kind of panic.
The final thing I want to say is about the atmosphere: this is B movie through and through. The soundtrack has an 80’s, almost buzzy, synthy, horror sound track, and the achievments (tracked in game!) are named after horror movies, including Evil Dead. It is pretty campy, but I think that is part of the overall charm.
There are a few downsides: some of the weapons feel a little underwhelming. In the original, you only needed to worry about a small amount of soldiers, so a five clip magazine might be an acceptable tradeoff for higher accuracy, but I can’t come up with a reason why I wouldn’t pick a gun with 10 or 15 bullets when I am just one hit killing enemies. The pistol and SMG options are a little more diverse, but I think that there is still one preferred combination over the others. There are also some shotguns which due to the nature of ‘zombie horde’ aren’t incredibly useful. Checkpoints can be a little unforgiving at times, often setting you back to the start of a drawn out fight against a horde. The original version also let you craft your own difficulty by letting you toggle enemy AI, bullet drop, and wind effects independently, instead of bundling with the difficulty. It appears that this feature has been removed, which is slightly disappointing. There have been some strange animation twitches, where an enemy goes immediately from one animation to another, but those seem sort of rare. Finally, the character doesn't ever seem to actually use the scope to aim down the rife. His nipples apparently are guiding the bullets into brains, but that is a mostly cosmetic issue.
Overall, so far, the game is a blast. It is a tense, yet arcade-y shooter, with a B movie feel. For fifteen dollars, you can do a lot worse.