Attracted by the idea of killing Hitler (best pre-order DLC idea ever), I approached Sniper Elite V2 looking for a challenge, a game that required some precision and patience, unlike most other first person shooters nowadays. So, when the menu suggested the ďSniper EliteĒ difficulty (aka the hardest difficulty) as the ultimate sniper experience I obviously accepted the challenge. After all, Iím good at this stuff, or at least I like to think I am.
Another thing that made me want to play the game was the setting. An American sniper, in the battle for Berlin, behind enemy lines, making sure the Russians didnít get any German scientists to help them develop weapons of mass destruction. World War II has been present in videogames a considerable number of times, but itís been a few years since shooters moved away from that setting into the present era and near-future settings, so this seemed fresh and new all over again.
But it wasnít.
Berlin wasnít as impressive as it should have been. More importantly, it wasnít believable at all. Every now and then Iíd hear bombs falling down, but it was always somewhere else. I saw destroyed buildings, but not a single building being destroyed, I saw a lot of soldiers, but most of them were just hanging around. I saw a few battles, but there never were more than ten soldiers in each side. I walked through a number of destroyed buildings, but saw no trace of human life. Well, there were some sofaís turned upside down, but I wouldnít say that counts. Not a single person, no pictures or objects to make the scenario more believable. Just grey, burned walls, and a street full of enemy soldiers waiting to be shot.
The graphics were acceptable and the light effects were pretty, but the level design failed completely. Now, I donít exactly know how to make good level design for a sniper game, but I can tell you what doesnít work: Small corridors, underground tunnels, close quarters shooting areas, buildings with multiple tiny rooms. Itís pretty obvious isnít it? Well, apparently not for the guys at Rebellion games, because they made plenty of that. Most of the time, it made more sense to pull out the submachine gun and go Rambo all over the place. And the main reason that was the most effective possibility, apart from the inadequate level design, was the enemyís AI.
Every time I entered a new area, enemies were walking back and forth an empty street, if not just standing still, usually with their backs turned on the player. When one of them got shot, they didnít run away or call their allies in the next street. They ran from cover to cover, again, waiting to be shot at. When I finally cleared the area from enemies, I would walk onto the following street just to find another group of enemies, looking in the opposite direction and walking slowly like it was a sunny Sunday morning.
Stealth is a feature I always like in videogames, because it usually is the smart way out of difficult situations. In this game though, itís almost impossible to be stealthy. It doesnít matter if I was in a huge empty room or a street or the ruins of a building, my footsteps always sounded like those of a giant. So I had to walk slowly, crouched, from cover to cover. Sometimes the enemies would suddenly turn around and start shooting, sometimes they would see me from hundreds of meters away even if I was lying on the ground or behind cover, making stealth the hardest, less useful approach, specially taking into account the already mentioned lack of AI.
The story was practically nonexistent. Iíd read these two paragraphs at the start of each mission, which can all be summarized in ďgo there/kill that guy, but first kill all of the bad guys in your wayĒ
The elements already described wouldnít be so frustrating if they didnít come with terrible sound and save mechanics. Apart from the giant-like footstep sounds, classical music accompanied me through my sniper adventure. The music changed depending on the enemyís awareness of my situation, making for a total of 3 tracks that repeated nonstop through all the gameís campaign. One for when there was no enemies or they didnít know I was there, one for when they were looking for me, and one for when they were shooting at me. Now, the games is about 10-12 hours long, and itís the exact same music on every mission, without a moment of silence. How enjoyable can that be?
The real challenge on the maximum difficulty setting was not my skill as a sniper, my precision, nor my reaction time, it was my memory. I would go trough an area, from cover to cover, sniping everyone I saw, like a robot, for like 6 minutes, just to get shot from a window in a building somewhere, die, and restart the whole thing again. On more complicated levels, I had to memorize where every enemy was standing and kill them on an identical sequence until I knew where each and every one of them was. Also, the missions were at least an hour long, and the checkpoints didnít save permanently, so I couldnít play it for a few minutes; if I played it I knew I was gonna be there a good chunk of time or I would have to repeat everything once again. When a game that requires patience also requires multiple playthrougs to learn where all the enemies are, it can get really, really frustrating.
The shooting mechanics werenít bad (in fact they were fairly simple), the slow motion kill cams were awesomely gory and there was always a bit of joy in pulling off a 1000m headshot. But even then, the enjoyment didnít last long. The clumsy AI, the boring and inadequate environments and the repetitive soundtrack ruined the experience and made this game frustrating and forgettable. [3.5]
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