We've grown quite fond of the Sniper Elite series over the years. While we missed the first game, we've played them all since V2 and every time a new one comes around you can be reasonably assured that it's going to give you a good time as you to sneak around the battlefields of WW2 with your trusty sniper rifle in-hand.
When we reviewed the original Sniper Elite V2 back in 2012 we enjoyed the visceral combat and long-range gunplay, but the low-quality enemy AI and clunky close-quarters combat held it back. Since then we've been treated to two more mainline entries in the series, with each one refining the gameplay in a number of ways. For starters, the close-quarters combat has gone up a gear in the last seven years, and while it's certainly not the optimal way to play, much was done to improve the experience when you have to put the rifle away to deal with a more direct attack.
Another area where the series has changed is the maps that you explore. In the North African setting of the third game, and in Italy in the fourth, the maps are significantly bigger than they are in V2, and those games were all the better for the shift in scale. That being the case, returning to the bedraggled streets of 1945-Berlin put into focus for us just how far Rebellion has come when it comes to building sandbox levels for Sniper Elite. It's not a game-ruining flaw by any means, but the twisting yet ultimately linear city setting is less interesting to explore.
That's not to say that's it not worth making a return, though. The upgrade on PC is very competitively priced and we'd have no issues spending the money on an upgrade that brings with it a bunch of additional content beyond the main campaign. On console, however, it's a little less clear cut, and it's hard to argue a case for the more expensive V2 Remastered when you can get Sniper Elite 4 for less. On the other hand, if you've never played the original but enjoyed the more recent games, well, you've got a decision to make.
While the gap between the first game and V2 was huge in more ways than one, subsequent entries are much closer together in terms of release and quality. It's a nice option to be able to play through the entire trilogy in order on the same platform, and Rebellion has done a decent job with certain parts of this remaster. Sniper-in-chief Karl Fairburne still has a dodgy haircut, the animations aren't always the most natural-looking, and it didn't particularly impress even when we played on "ultra" on PC. That said, the studio has updated a lot of textures and made many refinements; it looks decent and not out of place on this current console generation.
One area that didn't need updating was the clever use of audio. When bombs drop and bells ring, the player can use those loud noises as cover for their shots, and this game of skill and patience is still as compelling in 2019 as it was seven years ago. Whether you're playing the campaign or one of the challenge maps, there is usually ample opportunity to time your shots to perfection in accordance with the background sound effects. When it all comes together it's borderline euphoric, especially if you've resisted the urge to use the aim-assists and your shot is an organic one that takes into account things like bullet drop. There's plenty of room for flair and skill, and the bullet physics remain rock solid.
Of course, the series is now synonymous with the X-ray kill-cam that has featured in the game since the original V2. We loved it the first time we encountered it but extended exposure to this centerpiece mechanic has lessened its impact somewhat. You still get the chance to watch skulls explode and bones shatter if that's your thing, but its most useful function is connecting you to your actions behind the scope, joining the dots between your pull of the trigger and the death of the soldier in the streets down below your hiding place.
Once again these soldiers are limited in terms of their AI, which dictates your actions somewhat, although we did notice that other snipers seem to relocate more frequently. We can't be sure whether that's our imagination playing tricks on us, or whether Rebellion has tinkered with this part of the game, but we enjoyed going up against other snipers more than taking aim at groups of rank and file soldiers.
Moving between sniper nests means utilising the game's stealth mechanics, and this part of the game is certainly functional. The more memorable moments involve sneaking through busy areas, taking out patrolling guards and trying to avoid disturbing anyone who can raise the alarm before you're ready. There are tools to help with this, such as rocks that can be thrown to distract guards, and Karl has a bunch of traps that he can also use to protect himself when settling down to scope out a situation from a useful vantage point.
Taking long shots and sneaking around the rubble of Berlin is the very heart of the experience. There's a story that holds it together involving rocket scientists, but it's not that interesting, nor is it particularly well told, it's more a justification for the various things you get up to behind enemy lines. There's a briefing before each mission, but more often than not you'll know everything you need to know from the map marker and the objective written on the screen.
Beyond the story campaign, there are a bunch of additional challenge maps to busy yourself with, including the Assassinate the Fuhrer bonus mission which has you sneaking through a train station before heading up a hill to take out Hitler and his minions down below. These missions are a nice complement to the main campaign and they add a lot of sniping to the experience, although Rebellion has recycled some of these maps before so long-time players may feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.
Finally, the inclusion of multiplayer is another good option for players looking to either co-op certain missions, or take each other on during tense long-range battles. It's hard to say how long people will stick around and play a remaster, but overall, in terms of the content on offer, you'd have to say that it's a well-rounded package.
There are some extra features, such as the new photo mode and a number of additional playable characters (pulled from the Zombie Amy Trilogy), and it does get better the further you dig into things thanks to some interesting challenges that can be found both in and out of the campaign. Overall Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is an acceptable update of a good game, however, a lot has happened in the last seven years and, even though we're confident that a lot of people will enjoy visiting/revisiting Berlin circa 1945, we're much more excited by the prospect of a fifth main entry that picks up where Sniper Elite 4 left off.