It's 1945. The Second World War is drawing to a close as Hitler's Reich is forced further into retreat. The streets of Berlin have become a warzone with Allied and Nazi forces wrestling for control of the city. But the Germans have one last card to play. The V2 rocket program is one of the most advanced weapon systems of its time, capable of unleashing long range devastation on London, Paris and other Allied strongholds. The Nazis are losing the war, but they're willing to burn the world down before they do.
While the battle rages on in a more traditional guise in the rest of the city, one man has been sent into the heart of the war to ensure the V2 program is shut down for good. The Soviets are eyeing the scientists of this nightmarish innovation just as much as the Americans, so it's up to you to use your rifle, your gear and your wits to ensure this deadly threat is finally stopped. And so with that heavy responsibility, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered begins. You're Karl Fairburne, the aforementioned one man army who is – quite literally – aiming to bring the war to a close.
Originally released in 2012, Sniper Elite V2 was a refreshing step in the right direction for the period shooter. Like its 2005 predecessor, it was part sniping simulator, part stealth experience, and Rebellion managed to take a time period that had largely been played out by more recognisable brands (both Medal of Honor and Call of Duty had long since abandoned WW2 by this time) by taking a more unconventional angle. As a single sniper, you could sow chaos and death into a platoon of infantry. You could destroy tanks with a single hit and engulf entire bases in flames. But you were also extremely vulnerable, and not every level design and structure lent itself to seamless stealth.
Seven years on, Sniper Elite V2 is still wrestling with this internal struggle. It certainly looks better – even on Nintendo Switch the draw distances are cleaner, there's some well-used dynamic lighting on occassion and rarely any sign of slowdown – but the mechanics of its world never quite gel as well as they did in its sequel, Sniper Elite III (which is also getting a Switch re-release later this year). Its levels are far more linear than they appear, so your tactics aren't quite as vast you'd expect, while its stealth mechanics don't always function as they should; furthermore, the lack of a manual save option really dates Sniper Elite V2 when compared to the excellent sequels that followed it.
Yet, despite these persistent issues, there's still something utterly engrossing about Sniper Elite V2. You always feel under threat from an enemy more than capable of hunting you down. You'll use the sound of cannon fire and loud PA announcements to mask the sound of your rifle, throw rocks to draw the attention of troopers away from a doorway you need to enter, deploy landmines to disable vehicles and use your silenced Welrod pistol to take some well-placed headshots when you’re up close and personal.
One of the major new additions that sets the Switch version apart is motion controls. As the name implies, you can wave the controller or system around to move your crosshair in smoother, more reliable movements than relying on the old twin stick system alone. As you’re playing as a sniper, this not only helps to add a touch of finer tuning to your aiming, but can also cause real-world movements to drastically affect your aim, which – you could argue – takes things to another level of realism. If someone pops up and starts shooting you moments before you were about to take a shot, your hands may well move enough to throw your aim off. It’s a double-edged sword, but one we quite like.
When you’re scouting an area with your binoculars to tag targets, crawling through wreckage to reach a high vantage point and taking a shot that punctures a Nazi’s head like a ripe watermelon, Sniper Elite V2 is magnificent. Few games can match the sadistic joy of aiming a shot, calibrating for bullet drop and wind before earning a cutscene of the bullet leaving your gun, which shows it colliding fatally with your target’s body, their freshly-eviscerated organs revealed in all their grisly glory in worryingly voyeuristic X-ray vision. It’s a mechanic that never gets old, even if the game sometimes does its best to force you into less-satisfying open combat.
For a game all about killing your foes like a phantom predator, you’re often at odds with near-clairvoyant enemies who always seem to spot you, or too few opportunities to mask your non-silenced rifle shots. When you’re forced to run-and-gun with an MP40 or a Thompson like a traditional third-person cover shooter, Sniper Elite V2 simply falls apart. Enemy AI swings wildly between aggressive and timid, and anything other than your trusty rifle feels woefully inaccurate. It’s a fantastic sniper shooter when its stealth mechanics come together, but it struggles when it has to be anything else.
Of course, the mechanical issues that hampered Sniper Elite V2 originally are all still here. The more sandbox-style levels of Sniper Elite III make the often enclosed and frustratingly linear areas of this forerunner really stand out, especially now the series has progressed with Sniper Elite 4. Despite having a Far Cry-esque line-of-sight stealth and evasion system, enemies are still possessed of incredibly precise sight, making stealth more of a chore that needs to be. The lack of a manual save system also feels incredibly archaic, especially if you’ve played the more recent entries in the series.
Co-op returns, with the ability to play through campaign missions and specific game types (such as the wave-based Kill Tally (which you can also play solo), as do the extensive number of multiplayer modes. Unfortunately, the servers weren’t live at the time of writing, but local co-op works great when you’re laying trip wires and mines while a friend provides cover. The servers of the original game rarely fell over, so we’re hoping for a similar performance from the remaster when it launches (we played on underpopulated pre-release servers). On top of this you get all the DLC, which includes Sniper Elite V2’s brilliant photo mode, should you want to get the best angle on that recent gory headshot you just pulled off.
The game runs smoothly in both handheld and docked modes, although when blown up on a big screen it’s harder to miss some of the technical adjustments that have been made to get Sniper Elite V2 running on Switch. There are moments where the lighting model really shines – especially at night – but maps bathed in daylight often look washed out. There’s quite a few rasterized edges and the occasional bit of blurring, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before with similar last-generation ports.
As was the case with Rogue Trooper Redux and Battlezone Gold Edition previously, Rebellion has done justice to one of its most enduring franchises here. While Sniper Elite V2 Remastered isn’t the series' high point, it does offer a fine opportunity to sample its most enjoyable features – including scouting entire locations and taking incredible shots at even more incredible distances – on a brand new platform. However, while its long-range action is as gripping as ever, the more traditional run-and-gun sections stick out like a sore thumb, and the absense of auto-saving can lead to some frustrating moments. While it still very much looks and plays like a game from the previous hardware generation, the fact that every element from the original release – including co-op and the entire suite of multiplayer modes – has made the cut makes this is an agreeable – if imperfect – way to practice your aim before the far superior Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition drops later this year.