Dropping Into 1943
HIGH Getting a scope shot from 250 meters away.
LOW Fighting against technical limitations on PSVR.
WTF That’s a strange replacement for Swastikas everywhere!
There wasn’t a moment of Sniper Elite VR that didn’t feel familiar to me. Sniping German officers from church towers like a holy avenging angel, infiltrating rail yards to sabotage infrastructure, having run-and-gun battles through bombed-out villages — everything it has to offer, I’ve already seen in Sniper Elite 4. Literally, in most cases, because the game is built almost entirely from assets snagged from it. That said, if a game is going to be made out of recycled assets, this is the way to do it.
A first-person VR take on Sniper Elite 4, Sniper Elite VR starts in the 1980s as a now-elderly partisan spends his days reminiscing about the bloodshed he was responsible for while taking Italy back from the fascists, and attempting to convince himself that it was all worth it because it created a comparatively safe and free world for his children to grow up in. It’s a hell of a framing device to come back to between each mission of virtual reality sniping, because the game is constantly reminding the player of the stakes of each mission.
It’s impressive how thoroughly the developers have recreated the Sniper Elite experience in VR — this isn’t merely a stationary shooter where the player perches on a series of rooftops and kills their targets. No, players will be taking on nearly all of the activities one would expect from a SE game like sneaking through enemy lines, executing soldiers with their silenced Welrod pistol, and sabotaging generators to give them audio cover while they snipe enemy soldiers.
The only thing that doesn’t feel completely Sniper Elite is the stealth, which is a little on the awkward side. There’s a reason that most stealth games tend to have a third-person perspective — the ability to follow enemy movements while remaining in cover is integral to an accessible stealth experience. SEVR does a good job of keeping things playable by not packing levels full of enemies whenever stealth is a necessity, but they’re consistently the most difficult sections to play because of the limited perspective.
Thankfully, Sniper Elite VR‘s sniping is impeccably tuned. There’s a wide variety of rifles, and the devs go to great lengths to adhere to realism as much as possible. True to their historical counterparts, the rifles all have fixed-range scopes — the only zooming possible is when the player uses their ‘focus’ meter to slow down time and perfect their aim, and even that only lasts a few seconds. The vast majority of sniping takes place in the 100-250 meter range, though, so it shouldn’t be too taxing. There’s even an easy mode that turns bullet drop off and makes every bullet hit the center of the crosshairs.
As usual, there’s also a red dot sight that shows where a bullet will hit before the trigger is pulled, effectively teaching players how to compensate for bullet drop in case they ever want to play the game on a higher difficulty level. The developers even added a red circle that lets players see where their SMG and pistol rounds are going to hit for people uncomfortable with VR aiming — in a nod to realism, the aimpoint only appears if they physically raise the gun up to their eye level and look down the sights. Essentially, every aim support in the game is designed to get the player comfortable enough with the controls so that they won’t have to use them any more.
In a slightly bizarre move, the developers have made the decision to include their famous ‘bullet cam’ sequences — when the player makes a particularly skillfull shot, the camera will follow the bullet through the air on the way to its target, then show the bullet tearing the enemy’s body apart in excruciating detail. My objection isn’t to the brutality on display — I’ve long since made my peace with this aspect of the franchise — but instead, the issue is in how these bullet-cam sequences break the flow of gameplay in a way they never did in non-VR iterations.
In a regular Sniper Elite, when the bullet cam ends, the player is returned to the moment they fired, aiming at the exact same point when they pulled the trigger. In VR, if the player moves their hands even slightly while watching the violent execution, it’s impossible to predict where they’ll be looking when the camera snaps back. This loss of situational awareness got me killed more than once, and after struggling against it for the better part of an hour, I did the unthinkable and turned off the X-Ray camera.
Apart from this issue, I ran into a few fairly serious technical problems while playing the game. For example, when playing with a Dual Shock, instead of letting the player aim with their eyes as in Resident Evil 7‘s VR mode, the developers expect players to awkwardly lift their controllers in front of their faces. It’s a disaster.
The Aim controller makes sniping feel much more natural since I was actually holding a ‘rifle’ up to my shoulder to shoot, and the thumbsticks ensure that navigating levels is a breeze. Trying to use pistols or picking up items feels unnatural, though, so it’s a tradeoff.
The Move controllers let the player realistically grab things in the environment, wield a pistol in each hand, and manually throw grenades, so if immersion is important, that’s the way to go. That said, the biggest problem with the PSVR is an issue of lag. Not only did I have an unusually large amount of drift, but there was a slight lag between my real-life movement and actions happening in-game. It wasn’t much more than a quarter-second, but in VR any delay is extremely noticeable. I also played the game on Vive with motion controllers and experienced none of these issues — if it’s possible, PCVR is the best way to play.
Sniper Elite VR has scrunched down everything great about the series and created a near-perfect recreation that players can now experience from the inside.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Just Add Water and published by Rebellion. It is currently available on PC/PS4/PS5. Copies of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC and PS5. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game was rated M by the ESRB, and it contains, Blood, Intense Violence, Language. There’s some mild swearing in the game, but as usual, the main reason to keep kids way from the game is the omnipresent hyper-gore that happens whenever a bullet explodes someone’s eye.
Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes for the game’s subtitles, allowing players to choose the main and background colors that are most visible to them.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be be altered and/or resized. I played much of the game without sound and encountered zero difficulties. While there’s no enemy radar, there are onscreen indicators to let players know which directions they’re being fired at from. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The game can be played with a DS4, Aim Controller, or Move controllers on Playstation, and with Motion controllers on PC.