Traditionally, first-person and third-person shooter games are successful because they offer a variety of classes of characters to broaden the gameplay, and appeal to varied audience who might gravitate towards one class over another. Breaking off one of those classes, and crafting an entire game around just one aspect of it seems like the developers would be, figuratively, shooting themselves in the foot. However, Rebellion Developments and 505 Games are trying to prove that snipers are one class that can carry their own game, as they're on the verge of releasing a follow-up to a seven-year-old game with Sniper Elite V2.
Set during the invasion of Europe of 1945, Sniper Elite V2 puts you in the boots of highly trained, U.S. sniper Karl Fairburne. This soldier is on a mission in Berlin to assassinate or rescue five of Germany's highest-ranking scientists who are working on Hitler's V2 rocket program to make sure the Russian's don’t get their hands on them. It's a return to form for a genre that seems to have moved away from WWII-centric games after the market became over-saturated only a few years ago.
Sniper Elite V2 has a unique take on gameplay, with the majority of the action taking place in third-person, but most of the killing taking place while staring down a scope in first-person view. The game's main sell, sniping, is bookended with segments of third-person stealth and shooting sequences that help shed new light on the challenges of being the ninjas WWII. Ultimately, the combination makes sense for a game like this, since it was necessary for snipers to be silent killers, as far away from the action as possible, but still, undoubtedly, had to stand their ground every now and again.
During the game's demo, Rebellion's Tim Jones demonstrated just how Fairburne is given a chance to survive in even the prickliest of situations. The most important aspect of sniping involves getting your character into position, and to do so, Karl has to sneak around the edges of the battlefield as quickly and quietly as possible, using a silenced handgun if he came across any stray soldiers. Very much in the style of the Hitman games, if someone has to be taken out in the open, it's the player's job to make sure their bodies are moved out of the view of their comrades in order to not alert anyone of their presence.
Once in position, Fairburne can mark as many enemies as he can spot with his binoculars in order to be constantly aware of where they move. The next step is lining up and timing your shots, and this is where V2 particularly shines. Stare down your scope and focus your breathing to knock off a target hundreds of meters away, and if you can do it while another loud noise is happening, you're less likely to be detected. It's a much more in-depth process than most other FPS games where sniping tends to be a lone dedicated mission, and very similar to shooting any other weapon, just with a better scope. Pop off your shots just right, and you'll be treated to an x-ray kill cam, showcasing just what happens as the bullets enter the body.
Whereas sniping in real life tends to be a solitary activity, in Sniper Elite V2 it doesn't need to be. You can play through every one of the game's campaign missions in co-op, or delve into the game's three multiplayer modes with one of your friends. Kill Tally is most similar to horde mode, Bombing Run tasks players with fixing a getaway vehicle before the area is blanketed in bombs, and Overwatch has one player covering the other as they hit a series of checkpoints on the board. While some players may actually enjoy the game for its solitude, the inclusion of co-op seems like it may actually enhance the game, especially since extra set of eyes in a stealth game is always a welcome addition.
Rebellion also gave us a preview of the game's first DLC/pre-order bonus, the Kill Hilter expansion. After receiving a tip that the Fuehrer would be traveling through a train station, it’s the player's job to take out the most notorious dictator of all time. After making your way to a hill just outside of the town, you have a very small window to trap Hitler, and take him out before he makes his escape on a train that's about to leave. Even though it's wildly outside the realm of historical accuracy, the short mission gives players a taste of what it could have been like to change the world by putting a bullet in Hitler.
The original Sniper Elite hit store shelves at the end of the last console generation, and as the game industry's obsession with World War II was waning. While it's highly regarded as one of the best sniper games released for consoles (so much so that it saw a Wii port in 2010), the landscape of games have changed so drastically it beckons the question of whether or not a follow up has the chops to survive. With solid gameplay, enjoyable co-op, and the chance to kill the most hated man ever to walk the earth, it seems like Sniper Elite V2 should certainly hold up when it hits stores on May 1.