Sniper Elite VR is the first virtual reality version of Sniper Elite, but does this original tale and shift in perspective work?
VR shooters are a dime a dozen these days, especially on the Oculus Quest, Rift, and Steam VR platforms. PSVR, not so much, though we’re going through something of a revival this summer with a few top tier releases, and Sniper Elite VR is starting the summer season with a bang in the balls. I mean that in a good way… You know, because you can shoot Nazis in their little tallywackers and watch their plums pop in gruesome detail.
Release Date: July 8th, 2021
Developer: Rebellion, Just Add Water, Coatsink
Availability: PSN (Digital)
Lining up the perfect shot, holding my breath and pulling slowly on the trigger of my PSVR Aim controller, I could almost imagine being in the tower overlooking my allies as I defended them against Nazi scum. My air conditioning ruined it, as did the buzz of my phone between my legs. My colleague Jeremy didn’t realise he’d just buzzed my happy place and taken me right out of the moment. But he wasn’t the only distraction. The PSVR’s tracking had once again gone a little haywire and I needed to abort my shots and give the controller the Firewall wiggle.
My single biggest complaint with Sniper Elite VR is not with the game itself, but the platform it’s running on and the tech that’s holding it back. The game itself is brilliant and it stands as one of the best shooters on PSVR, so long as you’re playing with the right equipment.
The PSVR Aim controller is the best way to experience Sniper Elite VR. I tried to play with the PS Move wands and after half an hour I was ready to bite their glowing heads off. The idea is sound and I imagine on the Quest and other headsets, the game will handle two-handed play far better, but here on the PSVR, the wands are showing their age. They’re in their teenage years now and they’re starting to rebel. Fancy aiming down the sights of your two-handed weapon? The PS Move controllers would rather you didn’t. The PSVR Aim controller, however, is good enough, even if it’s still a little iffy, at least it’s got sticks for movement, which puts it streets ahead of the wands.
So, the controller woes out of the way, what about the rest of the package? It’s fantastic but flawed. It wants to be the proper VR version of the traditional games, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark, and at times I forgot I was even playing a Sniper Elite game.
All the standard hallmarks of Sniper Elite are here. The gruesome x-ray cams give you unprecedented access to the innards of Nazis. The familiar focusing of a shot to bring that diamond right where you want it is still in. And placing a good shot amongst the noise of explosions or other gunfire will still conceal your handiwork. But… you don’t need to worry about any of that. If you want, you can treat Sniper Elite VR like a Call of Duty game and go running through the levels blasting Nazis in the face with pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and more. At times, you’re forced into such gameplay, but mostly the game encourages stealth. However, and this is something being tweaked in the day one-update – the stealth is a little basic and for me, it just didn’t feel like a viable option.
The A.I will have been tweaked once this review is live, but it won’t change how I play the game, at least not until I get to collecting the trophies where I’ll need to sneak my way through some levels to get all of the stars.
This was something of an annoyance, actually, as I was making fast progress but toward the end of the game, when I could sniff those end credits, I ran into some progression blocking in the form of star counts.
Each mission gives you the chance to earn three stars through a selection of in-mission challenges, like don’t get spotted, get X amount of kills with weapon X, and so on. It was only when the end was in sight that the game said I needed more stars, forcing me back to some earlier levels to collect a few pointless points, ruining the flow of the narrative and annoying me in the process. I appreciate the star system and the replayability, but not at the expense of keeping me hooked on the story I’d invested a few hours into. Not that it’s a particularly great tale, mind you…
The story serves to put you and your trusty rifle in situations, and nothing more. The writing works around the level structure, sometimes having to explain and exposit why you’re playing the same level again, but from a different approach; the recycling of levels isn’t awful but it’s noticeable.
Come the end of the story – and the game – I was left a bit disappointed with how it concluded, but the few hours before were mostly filled with arcadey fun that took me from the streets of Italy to a Nazi fortress by the ocean, and I can overlook a damp finale when the preceding hours were so good. Gameplay is what we’re all here for and Sniper Elite VR delivers a decent Sniper Elite game, in VR, though minus the big spectacles and the long-range high-value targets – I think that in total there were perhaps three long-range human targets essential to a mission, which felt a little short and I thought the game would put a bigger focus on these tests of sniping skill. Instead, the bulk of the gameplay is what I imagine Call of Duty 2 would feel like in VR, and that’s not a bad thing. I just wish there was more urgency to my actions.
For a greater challenge, you can kick up the difficulty and try to play as a true marksman. I played through the entire campaign on easy mode at first and this encouraged my Rambo behaviour. On normal, that just doesn’t fly as well due to enemies being a fair bit more deadly. On the hardest setting, you should forget about using the SMG and focus on your sniping, silenced pistol, and distractions. Annoyingly, though, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of melee attack available, which seems like a massive oversight. I did try and hit a soldier with my gun, but he just stumbled backwards and then shot me dead. I didn’t try it again…
Sniper Elite VR is good fun, even if it falls a bit short in some aspects and doesn’t quite hold itself up to the same standards as its flat-screen predecessors. Given the limitations, Sniper Elite VR holds together a decent single-player World War 2 shooter on PSVR, and that’s not something any other developer has managed to do.
Sniper Elite VR PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Sniper Elite VR is a great first-person VR shooter wrapped in the familiar camouflage of Rebellion's famous franchise. The story is nothing to get excited about but the moment to moment gameplay, whether you're going for thrills and kills or sneaky silenced shots, is more than worth the budget-friendly asking price.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4/PSVR. Reviewed using: PSVR/PS5/Oculus Quest (video review/comparison)