STAFF REVIEW of Sniper Elite (Xbox)

Monday, December 12, 2005.
by Davilis

Sniper Elite Box art It is spring 1945, and Adolph Hitler is gone and presumed dead. The Third Reich has fallen and the Cold War is just beginning, much to the dismay of the Allied Forces. In the aftermath of the battle of Berlin, German and Russian factions continue to skirmish in the various German suburbs of the capital city. Enter YOU?as a lone marksman, charged with virtually altering the pages of history with little more than your cunning, training and skill as one of the Sniper Elite. In this first/third person action shooter, you assume the guise of an American soldier trained at the prestigious Westpoint Academy, and recruited by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to thwart the Russian search for Germany?s nuclear secrets, and prevent the scales of World power from tipping too close to Stalingrad! As the son of an American diplomat stationed in Germany, and raised in Berlin, your intimate knowledge of the country and mannerisms, coupled with your second language and superior marksman training have made you the obvious choice for arguably the most dangerous mission of anyone?s life! Whether you?re into hardcore head-to-head action, or covert seek and destroy stealth, Sniper Elite really does deliver the goods.

Sniper Elite marks publisher Namco?s first foray into the FPS realm, and with SO many military games out there, developer Rebellion really had their work cut out for them! I am quickly becoming a ?born-again? FPS fan, and Sniper Elite really delivers a solid effort with their unique spin on the familiar global domination angle. A good degree of historical authenticity was employed in the game to give it some clout, but the game?s real claim to fame is?drum roll please?the long-distance sniping! I don?t claim to speak for everyone when I say that MY most enjoyable parts of games like Goldeneye, Die Another Day, Splinter Cell and the like, are clearly the sniper modes?but THERE, I said it?lol. Sure, running up to an enemy hand-to-hand is pretty cool? You know, leave em spitting out chicklets etc. There are many instances where one will be confronted by enemy soldiers at close range, and you will have to fight fire with fire in the ?up close and personal? manner, utilizing everything from a silenced P-38 pistol, various semi and fully automatic machine guns, frag grenades and stick grenades. However, your ultimate claim to fame is your trusty sniper rifle.
As you might expect, your character can move covertly from either a crouching or fully prone belly crawl (which is particularly effective for sniping from underneath obstructions). In the course of your movement, the game employs an effective ?cover meter? assigning you from 0-100% camouflage in quarterly increments, depending on terrain and environmental factors. I particularly liked the ability to crawl into bomb craters on the streets for cover while really out in the open! The game?s authenticity really shines through, as one might expect, in the sniper view. The chosen level of difficulty will dictate how realistic the sniping experience will be, insofar as factors like gravity, wind, heart rate and empty lung coming into play! Yes, all of these factors really exist in the physical world of marksmanship. Mercifully, all of these factors can be shut off in the rookie or custom modes, while you get a handle on the game logistics.
Enemy AI is quite impressive for each of the difficulty levels, and I can honestly say that even the introductory Rookie level is still no walk in the park. I can?t even begin to tell you how many times the bloody Russians got the drop on me by sneaking up behind while I was busy looking for that cherry Head Shot? The game also utilizes intelligent concepts like being able to search both friendly and enemy corpses for supplies (bandages, ammo, medikits, grenades etc.) and the ability to pick up and conceal those same corpses to prevent your detection due to enemy discovery of fallen comrades. Moving around a lot is key here, as you?re understandably harder to find if you don?t stay put! The war-torn buildings and ravaged city scapes provide more than enough fully exploreable areas to keep even the most detail-oriented fans happy, and there are many covert vantage points to snipe from. The game controls are wonderfully straight-forward and not at all difficult to master. The left and right triggers quickly engage your binocular and sniper views respectively, while the D-pad handles zoom vertically and item selection horizontally. One button reloads and map pull ups are also easy to navigate, leaving you the precious time to do what you came to do!
Sniper Elite also boasts a multitude of LIVE and multiplayer options as well as its 28 single player and cooperative missions. The LIVE gameplay can incorporate up to eight players on a Quick Match, Opti Match or Host Match venue. There are also Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and an Assassination Mode. As the online variables like friendly fire damage, points-per-frag and spawn invulnerability can all be altered, the LIVE experience will certainly help with the games replayability!

As I previously mentioned, Sniper Elite uses a good deal of detail in its? graphical presentation. Some ?unnamed? web critics have complained that the colours and textures used in the game were repetitive and routine? Hello?it is wartime? How pretty should a ruined building be? Do you really NEED to be able to count the individual bits of cracked pavement after a bomb blast? I myself don?t think so?lol. Now, the slow-motion camera tracking of your long-range kill shot spinning its way to your (hopefully) unaware victim IS of particular note in Sniper Elite! This Matrix-style slightly blurred phenomena is the ultimate compliment for your ?shot well done?, and you?ll undoubtedly be looking for the longest shot bragging rights with your chums! In the course of my gameplay, I think the longest one I nailed was something like 58 yards; but my son pulled off a 96 yard near-decapitation!!! I still don?t know how the heck he did that?lol.
The impact of these slo-mo shots is also quite satisfying, albeit a little gory, and your shots appear to appropriately kill or incapacitate your target. For instance, you can deliberately ?wing? and enemy to slow him down during a dash for cover, or drop him like a bad habit with a well placed head shot? Flesh wounds will leave your target writhing around on the ground, making a good deal of noise that WILL attract the attention of his peers, and likely make your life a little more difficult!
Just in case I?ve given the impression that you?re a marksman God amongst men?I should mention that there most certainly are enemy snipers too! Although I hadn?t the time to play on the sniper elite difficulty (the most difficult), I can tell you that even on the introductory two levels of play, the enemy snipers are not only difficult to find, but they are frighteningly accurate too. The level of graphic ?realism? incorporated into the sniper scope view and the always handy Binocular view (the latter of which actually zooms in much further than the sniper scope) are excellent, and completely necessary for the nature of the game. The game physics are impressive to say the least, as one really must compensate for gravity (ie. bullet drop over long range), wind will blow your shot off a bit, and heart rate does affect your shot. In fact, the detail is so realistic that with a well-aimed shot it IS possible to hit a grenade on your enemy?s body or in their hand, causing it to explode! Wicked cool actually, tee hee.

Rebellion did an awesome job on the sound in Sniper Elite! Sneaking around trying to not be seen or shot at is hard enough without the incessant haunting sounds of people moaning and wailing in the distance, or hearing enemy soldiers prattling away in their foreign tongues?often before you can even see them! Incendiary bombing, air squadrons flying (and sometimes crashing!) overhead and the near constant machine fire will be your sole companions in the dark. The environmental effects were also particularly well done and did a great job underscoring the desperation of your various missions. Just hearing the rain pounding down is enough to make you FEEL the chill in the air, and the cold wetness in your boots. Near misses and ricochets, shells bouncing off tank armour and the clinking sound of a ?too close for comfort? grenade landing near you are all right on the mark. The many instances of voice acting are well done, and I have a particular fondness for audible dialogue accompanying on screen story lines or directives; both for younger gamers (granted it is rated M-but Disney can?t always cut it?) and hearing impaired individuals? Bravo guys?good job!

No specific suggestions...when\'s the sequel? LOL

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.2 / 10


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