It’s common knowledge that WWII shooting games is a rather saturated market, which makes it all the more impressive when a game cut from said cloth manages to provide somewhat of a fresh perspective to a done-to-death theme. Sniper Elite is similar to its peers – Call of Duty 2 and Brothers in Arms to name just two – in theme at least, but its approach is markedly different. Employing a lengthy single-player campaign with an emphasis on realistic sniping missions with bullet drop, wind direction, and long-range shooting tactics, Sniper Elite is as impressive today as most current games only just manage to be. This review covers its unique gameplay and warns of any negatives you may encounter.
Rather unusually for a WWII game, Sniper Elite takes place not at the outset or even the middle of the conflict, but in the closing months of the war. It isn’t a straight-up USA v evil Nazis affair either. Instead, you play as an American sniper disguised as a German soldier. Your mission? To prevent the NKVD (aka the Russian Secret Service) from laying their soviet hands on Germany’s plans for atomic bomb technology.
Cue your intervention in the situation, which involves a range of different stealthy sniping scenarios taking place across a rather hefty 28 missions against the backdrop of a war-ravaged Germany. The game does a great job of portraying the significant physical toll of the war on the buildings of Germany, many of which you’ll be using as vantage points for your missions.
Expect the usual long-range sniping missions typical of other sniper games or sniping-sections of war games (Battlefield and the like), as well as various espionage objectives that range from taking out government/high-ranking officials to stealing vital documents. The action takes place primarily in the third-person, but when it comes to sniper rifles, you’re able to drill down to the first-person perspective.
Sniper Elite executes the stealth and sniping aspects of the gameplay extremely well. Equip a sniper rifle and you’re able to slow down your movements, get into prone position, and steady your hands while keeping an eye on your heartbeat and your breathing. Rushing into shots can cause the scope to bounce catastrophically at the worst time if you’re not careful, so taking your time is key here.
The third-person shooting aspects of the game are executed somewhat poorly however, at least compared to the sniping aspects. You know things have gone wrong when you’re having to awkwardly strafe around your enemy in the third-person in order to aim your pistol or SMG at them. In contrast to the sniping, close-quarters combat feels clunky and awkward, a much like an afterthought.
Missions and Sniping Physics
Though there are many types of missions, you may find that they can get somewhat repetitive. This is down to the similar nature of design between levels – you’ll likely get sick of blown-out buildings by the time you’re done with the 28 missions!
What makes up for the fairly monotonous level designs however, is the fact that the game’s physics ensure realism that’s unparalleled by other shooting games of the time. A tap of a button and you can vacate the breath in your lungs, steadying your scope and allowing for greater accuracy. You’ve also got the option to enable/disable the effects of wind and gravity on the path of the bullet as well. The further you are from the target, the more you have to compensate for bullet drop, and the same goes for wind direction. These features are elaborated on in Sniper Elite III (including the addition of an internal x-ray style bullet-cam), but for 2005 the features in Sniper Elite were impressive.
If you’re going to own Sniper Elite, it is recommended that you go for the PC version due to the higher resolution, sharper graphics, and increased accuracy that comes as a result of using a mouse for aiming. This game does first-person sniping, stealth, and espionage-like missions very well, though falls short on the third-person aspects as well as being a little overwhelming/patience-depleting for newer players. Rebellion’s success in Sniper Elite is echoed through time to this very day (Sniper Elite V2 and III are available now and doing very well) making it one of the most recognisable WWII Shooting Games on PC, but the original laid down the building blocks for what was to become a stand-out sniping series.