Publisher: Rebellion Developments / 505 Games
Platform: PC, PS3 Xbox 360
Genre: WWII Combat, Tactical shooter.
Normally I am handed a game and told to review it. This time, my editor handed me this game saying: 'Here, go kill some Naaazzzziiiis'. Little did I know how appropriate this was, for while there are many games available allowing you to eliminate members of the Third Reich, this sniper simulator may be the most graphically explicit and visceral means of doing so. You play a lone US assassin sneaking through Germany in the last days of the war, carefully picking off Nazi scientists who have had the audacity of ending up in Russian hands instead of good old Uncle Sam's.
This is a game that will divide. At its best, it is a gripping action adventure with a unique feel and some well implemented mechanics. At its worst, it is a casebook example of poor AI and repetitively linear gameplay. The levels can neatly be summed up in three acts: Infiltrate enemy territory, assassinate target and retreat. For the first and last act, the game features standard 3rd person action, but with a different emphasis than a lot of its competitors. Your avatar is durable enough but far less bulletproof than most games, meaning far greater care must be taken in each zone. Ammo and equipment like trip mines are stocked just enough to mean that firefights are winnable, but sparse enough that you would be advised to avoid doing so. Unfortunately each level has enough problems to cause frustration. Enemy AI varies, from superhumanly aware to so dumb you can practically dance in front of them undetected. Considering how you have to navigate your way through these 2 extremes, trial and error was the only realistic approach to take with the guards. Gameplay doesn't evolve between levels and relies far too heavily on checkpoint to checkpoint travel rather than exploration which compounds the problem.
The real selling point, though, is the middle act: the sniping. Once you get to your location you must control for your heartbeat, wind, gravity and other surrounding factors (such as using background noise to mask your shot). If successful you will get a slowed down footage of your shot with rather graphic Mortal Kombat styled footage of skulls being destroyed or organs punctured. It maybe somewhat crude but it remains a satisfying spectacle throughout. Unfortunately, this trick also happens when the sniper riffle is skilfully used in the other sections of the game which really breaks the flow of the action for good players. When the game works it is exceptionally satisfying to navigate a ruined German city to find a key vantage point, pick out enemy targets with binoculars before eliminating your target when they least expect it. The problem is to get that gameplay experience you may have to waste a whole lot of time learning the correct route through the level by crawling through the mud and hoping the next solider you face is really thick.
Some people may find the storyline underdeveloped but I felt the lack of cinematics between levels suited the solitary nature of the missions, with multiplayer available to increase replay. If you've wanted a game focused on infiltration and particularly if the sniper rifle is your weapon of choice in other games, Sniper Elite has a lot going for it. For others, like myself, the tedium of the repetitive levels took away from any pleasure of a successful kill. Despite that, it offers gameplay unique enough to warrant a purchase but you may want to rent first to see if it is for you.
Rent or Buy: Buy
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher