Review – Sniper Elite VR
It’s tough being a VR enthusiast with only access to a PSVR. For the last two years or so, we haven’t seen a ton of games being released for the system, with the vast majority being smaller games made by indies, usually hampered by the limitations imposed by the PS4’s aging hardware. But if there was a game I was looking forward to, hoping it would never get cancelled, that game was Sniper Elite VR. Ever since hearing from my colleage, Jordan Hawes, after his E3 2019 preview of the game, I knew this was going to be one hell of a title which would take advantage of one of the most criminally underused peripherals in recent memory: the PS AIM controller.
The game is out now, and even though I was already very hopeful about its quality, I was caught off guard with how much I ended up liking it. Sniper Elite VR is (obviously) very different from its non-VR counterparts, but that’s not a bad thing. The folks at Rebellion crafted a fantastic shooter that perfectly takes advantage of the franchise’s tropes and the PSVR’s limitations, which manages to be immersive without being hard to play. It manages to be tons of fun in a new platform without ever deviating too much from the series’ traditional gameplay elements.
The Sniper Elite franchise is what I like to call “what Metal Gear Solid should have become after Peace Walker“. They are stealth-focused games set in large levels with fixed and optional objectives, with the games never exactly telling you how to complete said objectives. Anything goes; the ends justify the means. Even though these games are known for their realistic sniping physics, as well as their gruesome (but awesome) killcams, you don’t need to solely act as a sniper, as you have access to tons of different weapons and gadgets. Sniper Elite VR is not like its counterparts, obviously. And it’s not only because it’s set in a first-person perspective. Lots of decisions had to be made in order to properly adjust the game for a VR setting, and for the most part, these decisions worked wonders.
Sniper Elite VR isn’t as open and slow-paced as its mainline counterparts. For the most part, it’s a much shorter, faster, and linear take on the franchise. Instead of being a third-person shooter, the game is (obviously) set in a first-person perspective. This linear story, which puts you in the shoes of an Italian partisan trying to take his country back from the fascists and Nazis, is a lot more direct and bullcrap-free than other entries in the series. It also features a main character who, despite never showing up in person (you ARE him, after all), is a lot more sympathetic than any other Sniper Elite protagonist. Maybe it’s the Italian accent that makes him sound like an adorable grandfather telling a story to his grandkids…
For this review, I played the game with the PS AIM controller. The rifle-shaped peripheral that not only adds an extra layer of immersion by letting you hold a proper two-hand weapon during gameplay, but also lets you move around with a twin-stick control scheme, something that was criminally absent from the Move controllers. I played Sniper Elite VR with most comfort settings turned off. I was moving freely with the analog stick, and my camera movement wasn’t limited to set angles.
In no moment I felt sick while playing it, and that was mostly due to the game’s pacing. Sure, I was playing it with the same degree of freedom as I would in Farpoint or Doom VFR, but the linear level design and focus on stealth helped alleviate these issues. For the most part, I was walking from cover to cover, crouching, and then aiming my rifle towards an unfortunate Nazi.
You have access to tons of different weapons, such as pistols, SMGs and grenades, but the obvious star of the show is your trustworthy sniper rifle. In order to properly use your rifle’s scope, you actually have to hold it as you would hold a rifle in real life, and adjust your sight towards a small scope. With the press of a button, you can then slow time for a few seconds and zoom in your sights a bit more, letting you properly aim at an enemy with your scope with a surprising degree of realism.
The franchise’s staple killcam animations are featured in here, and you can adjust how often you want to see them. Even though I was looking at a bullet flying for half a mile, in no moment I felt sick while watching these animations. Either my stomach and brain are now fully used to VR, or the game did a pretty good job with its smooth animations. Or maybe both.
As previously mentioned, most levels are a lot shorter, but they aren’t static shooting galleries like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. You will need to constantly find cover, as the Nazi AI wasn’t as dim-witted as I was expecting. You need to follow predetermined paths in order to avoid rifle fire and even enemy tanks, depending on the missions. These missions are short, but very replayable, as the game gives you points for killing enemies in succession, without ever missing a shot. This arcadey approach to the Sniper Elite formula ended up being one of my favorite aspects about Sniper Elite VR as a whole.
Finally, the game ran perfectly on a base (and granted, very dated) PS4, unlike some other recent hardware-demanding VR titles like Iron Man VR. It ran at a stable 60 frames per second at all times, even with tons of particle effects onscreen. Granted, it doesn’t look nowhere near as realistic as other Sniper Elite games (for the most part, it features the same degree of graphical fidelity as the very competent Switch ports), but its levels are detailed, with great geometry and textural quality.
Sniper Elite VR caught me off guard. I knew I should look forward to it and I was dead certain it was going to be a good game, but I just wasn’t expecting for it to be this good. The more arcadey approach to the Sniper Elite formula, coupled with smooth movement options that showcase how far we’ve come since the debut of the PSVR five years ago. The borderline perfect usage of the AIM controller resulted in one of my favorite VR experiences so far, and weirdly enough, my favorite Sniper Elite game so far, even if it has very little to do with its mainline counterparts.
Considering the limitations imposed by the PS4’s hardware, Sniper Elite VR does look pretty good for most of the time. It also never drops a single framerate, even when things get hectic.
A perfect blend of medium-paced arcadey sections, some occasional stealth bits, and a fantastic implementation of the AIM controller for sniping. Using other two-handed weapons feels great as well, but the same cannot be said about pistols. The framerate is excellent and the game never made me feel sick with its free-flowing camera controls.
The typical soundtrack you would expect from a Sniper Elite game. The sound effects are pretty good as well. The voice acting, while still far from perfect, has been vastly improved when compared to how terrible it was in previous installments.
It’s a lot more linear and arcadey than your average Sniper Elite game, but that’s far from being a bad thing. In fact, this shorter yet replayable level design ended up being a perfect fit for Sniper Elite VR. Add in the sense of immersion, the great usage of the AIM, and the novelty of killing Nazis in VR, and you end up getting one hell of a VR banger as a result.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Sniper Elite VR is available now on PSVR, Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest.
Reviewed on PSVR.
A copy of Sniper Elite VR was provided by the publisher.