Violence in video games doesn’t bother me. Violence in video games, dare I suggest, is a good thing. We’re all human animals; we need a way to sublimate our baser urges that don’t, you know, actually hurt other people. Nobody’s going to become a mass-murderer because they want to replicate the pleasure of squishing Goombas by dropping cinder blocks on pedestrians from their third-story window. Plus, so many video-game villains have it coming. Demons, ogres, mutant aliens from beyond space, Nazis…they’re all just begging to have their wretched and profoundly unfriendly existences ripped out from their own chest cavities in graphic, bloody detail.
That was how I felt before Sniper Elite V2. Now, I kind of feel bad. Even for the Nazis.
This game is all about gore. Remember the JFK assassination game? How everyone was shocked and appalled at the tasteless, forensic precision that went into blowing out the brain matter of our most beloved boy-president? Sniper Elite takes that concept, upgrades about a billion times in terms of both terrifying mechanical accuracy and unabashedly gritty detail, and then tries to sort of smooth it over by letting bring it all to bear on Real Life’s least-sympathetic group of villains. To be honest, it’s really well-done, but it’s still kind of…harsh.
It’s a very polished game, to be sure. As the name suggests, while there are small arms and machine-guns available, Sniper Elite is all about our trusty scoped companions. Every bastard who has ever gleefully camped with an AWP is going to pee their pants in anticipation of the exacting controls and deliberate focus on stealth, sneakiness, and general underhanded trickery that goes into being a successful video-game sniper. The “V2” in the title is supposedly a reference to the ballistic wunderwaffen that the Germans leaned on late in the war to turn the tide by striking Allied cities, though you can read it as “version two” with acceptable accuracy, as it’s essentially an update of the previous Sniper Elite. You’ll creep through the ruins of Germany at the tail end of the war, far from the masses of Russian, American, and British troops that inch inexorably towards the Nazi capital. A practiced hand at the controls and careful eye towards the many subtle game-world factors that can make or break a crucial shot are indispensable skills. You’ll need to know your weapon and it’s attachments, watch the wind, consider the durability of any surfaces or materials between you and your target, and, if your position is particularly disadvantageous, wait patiently for some ambient noise – the crack of thunder, or the rumble or artillery – to assure that your rifle’s report doesn’t bring down a squad of SS troopers on your position, sealing your own fate along with your target’s.
One of the big perks of the first Sniper Elite, though, was the kill-cam. In V2, it’s not just a sideshow – it’s the main attraction. After each kill, you’ll strap yourself to the back of the bullet, and take a gloriously stomach-churning tour of the biological trauma it wreaks, as your cartridge smashes through bone, explodes tissue, wrenches organs, and rips the insides of your unassuming victim from one end of his body to the other. Over-the-top doesn’t really go far enough. “Gruesome” is a pale approximation of what these scenes are actually like, and the frequency with which you’re forced to view them. After a while, I had to take a break and wander around trying to blow up tanks by shooting their fuel tanks (which you can also do). A busted tank doesn’t remind me of how fragile my own soft little body is, nor prompt me to rationalize, “he probably died instantly from the hydrostatic shock…that didn’t hurt as much as it looked like it did.”
Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t the video game equivalent of A Serbian Film. Just…don’t get too happy watching Nazi brains paint the crumbing walls of the ruins of Berlin. If you find yourself sitting in the dark with a gleeful grin as you replay the death footage for the sixteenth time, maybe it’s really time to put down the controller and go get a breath of fresh air. Say hi to your neighbor or something. He’s a nice man, and in no way deserving of a 7.62mm hollow-point to the skill.
Just don’t forget to hold your breath (left button) before you shoot.