This virtual experience makes sniping feel more real than ever.
In the heyday of arcade parlours, a game that impressed me quite a bit was Silent Scope - a sniper simulator with a full-sized rifle which had a small monitor inside its scope. Using the main monitor to get your bearings and locating the next target, you would lean into the rifle, close one eye, and staring down that scope, get a highly magnified view of your mark, putting impressive long-distance stopping power at your fingertips. Suffice to say, no console conversion of the game could ever re-create that feeling, and making a consumer version of that rifle with the scope monitor would have been insanely pricey. So that particular feeling of gameplay could never be replicated at home - up until the arrival of today's virtual reality and Sniper Elite VR!
True to the series, said sniping takes place in World War II. The game begins at present day and we find ourselves in the body of an old Italian man with wrinkled hands, who watches his grandchildren play while telling us of his exploits in the war, being a member of the Italian resistance in 1943. His father's farm was turned into a shooting range, and early on in the game we acquaint ourselves with the deadly arsenal at our disposal. First of all, there is the long-range rifle with scope that gave the series its name. As it is customary in many VR games, the operation of the weapons is much more lifelike than in traditional games. We pull back the bolt and insert a clip of ammunition, which we then lock and load. After each shot, we have to cycle the bolt to eject the spent round and load the next one into the chamber. After shooting five times, it's time to load a new clip. Aiming down the sights works great, and we can even apply increased focus by pushing the left trigger button, to zoom in even farther and get a kind of slow-motion effect. That way, we make short work of the cutout targets at the rifle range and continue to pistols, submachine guns and explosives.
This is an ad:
Once we're ready for war, it's time to tackle the individual missions, of which there is a total of 16. They take us across a typical range of World War II locations. Sometimes, our task is really centred on sniping enemies from a high vantage point, and to us, this clearly is the area where the game is the most fun and really shines. Adding to this is the "kill-cam" which made the series famous: On successful hits, an x-ray shot of the enemy shows exactly where the bullet hits and how bones and organs react to it. Mostly unfavourably, it has to be said. So these shots are gory and yet fascinating, especially in the stereoscopic 3D that VR offers, but they can be quite distracting from the gameplay. Fortunately, their frequency can be adjusted in the menu, as well as many other comfort and gameplay options. For example, the manual reloading of weapons can be switched to automatic, which makes the game significantly easier.
This is especially true for the many stealth-or even action-oriented missions of the game. To be honest, we were not too fond of those. In confined spaces, it becomes very apparent that our enemies are anything but smart and sometimes even display laughable behaviour, which feels even more blatant in a well-made virtual environment, where everything else feels real. The same can be said about some scripted events like huge explosions, which feel like a throwback to early polygonal war adventures like the first instalments of the Call of Duty or Medal of Honor series. Speaking of the latter, it seems quite obvious that Sniper Elite VR took a bunch of queues from "Above and Beyond", Medal of Honor's very own virtual reality episode. That game had a way higher budget though, and even though it had flaws of its own, this really shows and Sniper Elite VR leaves quite a bit to be desired in comparison. To be fair, it's offered for half the price and runs nicely on the Oculus Quest 2 and PlayStation VR, while its apparent role model needed a high-end PC with a top-shelf graphics card.
This is an ad:
When it comes to the different versions of Sniper Elite VR, the PSVR version clearly has the weakest graphics, and it could benefit greatly from a patch for the PS4 Pro or even PS5. Controls with the Move controllers are quite cumbersome, the Dual Shock 4 does a nice enough job, but makes the action feel way more detached. The best of the bunch is definitely the Aim Controller, which does away with manual reloading, but gives the best feeling when sniping, coming very close to the experience of playing Silent Scope in the arcade.
The Quest 2 version has much sharper graphics and controls nicely with its motion controllers, resulting in very high immersion, which is amplified by the wireless nature of the system. The environments look really impressive, given the system's performance limitations. Perched up high on a clock tower, this is a sniper's visual paradise - but again, up close in the stealth missions, the lack of detail in surroundings and also enemies' faces and bodies reminds us starkly of the limits of the Quest 2's processing power.
The PC version improves on this in terms of lighting and anti-aliasing, as is to be expected, but it's clear that it was not the lead platform - the game was mainly designed for Quest and PSVR, which shows again in the roughness of many models and surface shaders. In short, PC players looking for the next big AAA-blockbuster are bound to be disappointed, and may want to pass on this. For us, the versions for Quest 2 and PSVR - the latter especially when played with the Aim controller - were the most fun and can wholeheartedly be recommended, even though we would have preferred more sniper-centric gameplay. Still, the game's campaign offers up to five hours of good entertainment: Completionists have the additional challenge of finding numerous collectibles in all missions and completing the three optional goals each assignment has
7 / 10
Lifelike emulation of sniper action, lots of missions, stunning kill-cam visuals.