Thursday, 06 June 2019 16:44

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered Review

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Edited by: Jade Swann

Remasters and reboots are becoming a defining trend of our generation. In many ways, it makes sense — nostalgia is popular among our crowd, and people want to enjoy classics with the advantage of modern technology. But where should the line be drawn? Usually, it’s the most popular media being dusted off and brought back to audiences, but what’s wrong with something being remastered if it’s not exactly a classic? And what if it’s only a few years old? Well, nothing’s wrong with that exactly, but the real question is why would you want to do it in the first place? It’s a question I kept asking myself as I played through Sniper Elite V2 Remastered (SEV2R). (I’m kidding; that abbreviation is almost more clunky than the original title. I’ll just call it SE.)

Seriously though, why was this game remastered?

As far as I can tell, the only reason to remaster SE is to release it on more platforms. There are two other games in the original series, but the first one was skipped over for the remastering treatment. That means the second installment must have been the best, but it actually received mixed reviews. And if the remaster is any indicator, it’s just an average shooter.

From a technical standpoint, it doesn’t make all that much sense either. The original was released in 2012, only seven years ago, and it’s really not that torturous to play games from that time period. Wolfenstein was released in 2009, and it’s still a lot of fun to play today — not to mention the fact that the Wolfenstein franchise is cranking out modern sequels instead of remastering games that are perfectly fine just the way they are.

And yet, the remaster of SE doesn’t seem to do much to get rid of the slight goofiness that was common in the 3D animation of its time. In fact, the reason I brought up Wolfenstein is because this remaster reminded me of that feel, and that made me realize the 2009 Wolfenstein is probably better in every way — including the fact that they weren’t afraid of including Nazi imagery for fear of hurting sales in Germany.

This title seems muted in every way.

And where the Wolfenstein franchise leans into that crimson and black Nazi motif to add a satisfying edge to the experience, SE tones everything down. There are no bright colors. Everything is drab and blurry like the mounds of rubble you crawl over to get to your goals.

In some ways, this adds to the experience. You’re a sniper, hunting German rocket scientists during the Battle of Berlin. In the final days of World War 2, the capital city has been pulverized by Russian forces, and the absolute mess of buildings provides plenty of camouflage for enemies hiding in bombed-out buildings. There are some vantage points, like cathedrals and bridges, that are almost breathtaking when you crawl up to them to wait for your target.

But, in other ways, the drama of the most brutal war in recent memory is lost in the lifeless rubble. There are no civilians to be seen in the capital city — only row upon row of soldiers for you to shoot. And when you do shoot, your kill is scored. If it’s a good enough shot, the camera even changes to bullet vision and your enemy’s head is shown exploding into shards of bone in slow-motion x-ray detail. This is a great mechanic to give sniping a satisfying crunch as you pop one head after another, but wow does it ever feel disrespectful to the tragedy that was World War 2. The game’s refusal to show Nazi imagery in this context feels like a cowardly denial more than anything, and SE is filled with these kinds of immersion-breaking moral questions.

The plot is completely unaware of itself.

On this backdrop of thrill-seeking gore is a plot in which the squinty-eyed, deep-voiced (read: manly) protagonist (he probably has a name but nobody should be asked to care) hunts down German rocket scientists with no real sense of purpose or morality. The game skims over the fact that the US was actually trying to track down these scientists to recruit them at the time, but that’s fine — it’s just a game, after all. What kind of ruins the experience, however, is the fact that Russian soldiers are quickly introduced as obstacles in the Battle of Berlin, and you’re just expected to shoot them.

It’s not much of a stretch to expect some kind of justification for why this soldier would have no problem popping the heads off entire ally platoons just to reach his next objective, but you aren’t really given one. For most of the game, the justification is (kind of) “If we don’t get those scientists, the Reds will,” but that premise pretty much assumes the protagonist can see the future and the coming Cold War.

Eventually, the plot does realize the Russians should probably be evil in order to justify the literal mounds of bodies you’ve left around Berlin, but it’s too little too late. By that point, you’re a cold and mechanical killing machine. There’s no going back for you now.

Despite all its mediocrity, this game is actually really fun.

Just from the extremely dry title, I know I would never have played SE if I wasn’t reviewing it. But, the strange thing is, I actually really enjoyed it despite all its flaws. The mechanics and level design are set up for great sniping fun, and there’s no way around that even if the series is in desperate need of a change of setting.

Even the bugs are almost features. Don’t get me wrong, there are some game-breaking flaws — like once I managed to sneak past a group of enemies so well my objective (the officer I was supposed to kill) didn’t spawn. For a game with stealth mechanics, sneaking too well definitely should not be a thing. But there are other flaws that are charming. For example, the perfectly straight line of over a dozen dead Nazis is a pretty satisfying trophy for a sniping job well done, and it’s all thanks to crappy enemy AI. Or, the fact that enemies instantly spot you and start firing no matter how well hidden you think you are, which can actually be pretty helpful for locating targets (and then exploding their heads).

And did I mention how cathartic it is to explode a ton of heads in slow-motion, close-up detail? The cinematic tracking of that spinning bullet as it flies across city blocks and hits your target dead on is satisfying up until the very last Nazi. As gratuitous as it is, the effect is undeniable. It’s a ready-made climax every time, without fail — his head explodes, roll credits.

In other words, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a lot of fun. It won’t make you a better person, by any means, but it’s a lot of fun.


The Verdict: Good

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is tone-deaf when it comes to respecting Holocaust survivors, or using bright colors, or vibrant characters, or constructing an engaging story, or understanding when and why games should be remastered. The plot doesn’t care much about explaining questionable morality and motivations to the player — you are just expected to kill often and efficiently. Despite all of these things and some annoying bugs, this title is a lot of fun for just the right amount of time.

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Nicholas Barkdull

Nic is a writer and narrative designer with a PhD in Social Research and Cultural Studies. He thinks real time strategy games are still a valid form of e-sport, that true RPGs should be turn-based (with huge casts of characters), and that AAA games have a long way to go before they earn back our trust. He is the Lead Writer for Pathea Games's My Time at Sandrock, and his work can be seen in Playboy, South China Morning Post, The Daily Beast, and many other places.