There are a number of reasons that I end up playing games that are half a decade old before I get around to them. Sometimes it’s because they’re on sale for a giveaway price, sometimes they have been upgraded with newer technologies, and sometimes I end up working from the newest to oldest in a venerable series. Sometimes a retread comes along that matches all three of those criteria. In this case, I’ve been playing a game first released in 2012 because 1) I have played two of its progeny, 2) because it’s very low cost, and 3) it’s underlying graphics have been upgraded to modern standards, sort of. Having started this lengthy journey with a Summer Sale purchase of Sniper Elite 4, and continuing with a later purchase if Sniper Elite 3, I am now playing Sniper Elite 2. But it’s not precisely the aged Sniper Elite 2 - it is actually the brand new Sniper Elite 2 - Remastered.
If you aren’t familiar with the series, here’s a quick synopsis explaining the premise of the series and a couple of specifics about the remastering, courtesy of the Steam store page:
You are elite sniper Karl Fairburne, parachuted into Berlin amidst the Germans’ final stand.
Your mission is to prevent Nazi V2 rocket technology falling into the hands of the Red Army. You must aid key scientists keen to defect to the US, and terminate those who stand in your way.
Stealth is key as you find yourself trapped between two desperate armies in a race against time. Master authentic weaponry, stalk your target, fortify your position, set up the shot, and use your skill, patience and cunning to achieve the mission.
All new graphics and rendering technology gives you improved X-ray kill camera detail. Witness the terrifying power of your bullet as it enters an enemy’s body.
With all DLC missions included, take the fate of the war into your own hands, and hunt the Führer himself.
The most obvious difference is, of course, in the graphics. A lot has changed in the intervening years with regards to graphics capabilities, but have the gains in resolution and complexity really changed all that much in 5-ish years? Is it really worth it for someone that already has Sniper Elite 2 to upgrade to the remastered version? Well, I’m going to have to dodge that question because it is entirely dependent on personal priorities. At the end of the day, the objects and landscapes haven’t changed, they are just rendered in a higher resolution. It is absolutely a noticeable difference, and it could possibly have an effect on gameplay if the higher resolution helps with seeing an enemy sniper perched on a roof 1,000’ away, but it still all comes down to personal taste.
The decision is much more obvious for a first-time buyer, or a previous owner that didn’t buy the contemporaneous DLC missions. For them, the purchase is about more than better graphics - it’s also about picking up all of the DLC in one swoop.
Veteran players more or less know what they’re buying into, but the newcomers would want to know a bit more about the gameplay. For the veterans, it is likely to be enough to say that Sniper Elite 2 is a “dumbed-down” version of SE3 and SE4, or will seem that way. In SE2, guard alert symbols are not as informative or complex, the controls are clunkier and less responsive, and the path your player follows is far more linear, although still just a smidge short of being on rails in that there are built-in paths to allow for flanking an entrenched enemy. Both SE3 and SE4 made great strides in opening up the playing field and providing well-oiled controls.
For newcomers, Sniper Elite 2 was one of the best sniper/stealth games available. One needs to make a clear distinction between ‘sniper’ and ‘stealth’ because while they often go hand in hand, they are not synonymous. In the world of Sniper Elite, ‘sniper’ means ‘shots taken from a long distance.” ‘Stealth’ is just a way of getting into and out of your sniping position with a reduced chance of being detected, or in other words, stealth is how you stay alive long enough to find and kill your assigned target. Killing everyone that gets in your way is a viable alternative to stealth, albeit quite a bit more challenging. Noise brings other enemies, and ammo can be hard to come by. That’s a devilish mix - stealth is clearly the preferred option.
Stealth’s kissing cousin, ‘cover’, also plays a significant role. While the cover mechanic feels clumsy in comparison with modern games, it still provides a valuable function in providing spots where you can hunker down and collect your wits. It’s not a panacea, though - enemies will eventually swarm you if you stay parked too long. Swarming and long-range sniping are the decent only strengths of the AI, however. For the most part, the AI troops must have been selected from men too abjectly stupid to go to the front lines. They do silly things like yap at each other while you’re lying await in an ambush, they fall asleep at their posts, and they cluster into “one grenade to rule them all” groups. The secret to success in this game is only tangentially good aim - it’s mostly just a matter of patience. AI troops are easily duped into walking into your traps, and are just as easily distracted so you can sneak by. Their pathological need to track down the source of a tossed rock is eerily akin to a dog’s fascination with a tennis ball or a squirrel, although far more deadly for the man than the dog.
Another benefit of making as few kills, or a high percentage of neck-breaking stealth kills, as possible is the paucity of refill ammo. Your sniper rifle starts out with a generous 100 rounds, but your machine gun and silenced pistol both start out with much less. If you try to shoot your way through a level, expect to spend some time scavenging for ammo. Oddly enough, the best way to find Ally ammo is by searching dead German guards, most of whom are inexplicably carrying ammo for your gun, not theirs. I kept having flashbacks to all of the looting in did in Red Dead Redemption.
Fortunately, health regeneration is automatic, so you don’t have to spend any time at all hunting for medical kits. Just hunker down somewhere and wait it out. Treat it like having your in-laws over for the holidays and you’ll get the idea.
You are also issued a very nice pair of binoculars. These are extremely useful for reconnoitering an area before you blithely go waltzing in. The best part about that is that you can also mark each enemy that you see which is a great help when it comes time to start sneaking your way around them, or killing them if that’s your cup of tea. Caveat: I was playing in Marksman level, which is only one step up from Far Too Easy level. Higher levels may not have some of the helper features such as marking enemies. I chose Marksman for a different reason than that, though. I chose it because it has the least difficult bullet physics - the easy level has none at all, while the higher levels have more realistic models of bullet drop and wind correction. I found it to be hard enough with just a modicum of bullet drop and no wind whatsoever; it can take a lot of time to get positioned for a shot, so missing because of misjudging the wind or range becomes infuriatingly frustrating. I want to be clear, here: this is NOT a fault with the game. The fault lies entirely with me. I’m simply not a good shooter.
Another potential frustration could have been the checkpoint system. There are no fast saves or any other way for the player to save progress, and missions can go on for a great while, so getting killed after half an hour of working through a mission only to have to start over from the beginning would be a nightmare. The checkpoints address that potential problem by being fairly close together. I don’t think I ever lost more than five or ten minutes of play. That turned out to be critically important on a few of the trickier objectives where I died a dozen times before I figured out workable/survivable tactics to fit the situation.
The Sniper Elite series might be best known for the gruesome x-ray views of a bullet travelling through an enemies body. Personally, I don’t like it, but others must because it still exists in SE4. The difference is that it can be turned off completely in SE4, but can only be set to ‘minimal’ in SE2. While I would have preferred to never see it (and yes, I get the irony of playing a sniper game but disliking what happens when I succeed), it did sometimes come in handy as an indicator that I had killed the last enemy currently in play.
Even “remastered,” Sniper Elite 2 is an old game. There are frustrations that have been ironed out in new versions, such as your ability to climb - in SE2, whether or not you can climb something is not dependent on the height of the object, but on whether the path needs you to be able to climb it. NPCs often behave in awkward ways, or get fused with walls and the like during their death throes. The AI are either predictably dense, or amazingly accurate shooters, and sometimes both. It has always been thus, but it now does it far more attractively. At its core, Sniper Elite 2 - Remastered is similar to an above average, but not great, older car with a fresh coat of paint. It is just as enjoyable, or not, as it ever was or will be, but either way you still look good sitting in it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.
While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.
My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.