Sniper Elite Preview
By HatchetForce
Published : 15 August 2005
Feedback : Here
Developers Website : Rebellion.co.uk

Sniper Elite Preview

Rebellion

1945. A rare epoch in the history of warfare. Major armies from multiple nations converging on Berlin. Each with their own goals and plans. Thrust into this situation is Peter Mauer, the character whom you portray in Sniper Elite, the latest game from UK based Rebellion Studios.

Rebellion produced the memorable Aliens versus Predator. They also developed Delta Force Urban Warfare, a little known title that still stands as one of the 3 best shooters ever on the PS1. Rebellion worked on the recent Delta Force Blackhawk Down (PS2). Currently in development at Rebellion alongside Sniper Elite is the intriguing Rogue Trooper, a title that is demonstrating a great deal of potential.

The Plot

The story in Sniper Elite is fictional yet set among historical events. The basic premise is that the player character Peter Mauer grew up in Berlin as the son of an American diplomat. After 4 years at West Point, he is back working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services – forerunner of the CIA) as a sniper. Western intelligence has learned that as the Russians close on Berlin, the NKVD – precursor to the KGB, has been tasked with obtaining the work completed by the German government on the A bomb. As Peter Mauer, you are there to see that they do not succeed. In order to allow you to move successfully against the Russians, you have donned the disguise of a German sniper.

Lately, games, particularly WWII titles are focused on the squad experience in both Single and Multiplayer. Sniper Elite takes the load less traveled and punches the player straight into the heart of combat alone. With plenty of Enemy at the Gates action and a dash of Sam Fisher stealth thrown in, Sniper Elite stands, or rather lies in the prone all alone.

The game opens in April 1945 with historical and well rendered footage of bombings and sniper attacks as Mauer tells his story and relates how he became involved as one of the first soldiers of the coming cold war.

The player is then taken to the main screen where they can set up their player name and choose one of 8 MP skins (4 German and 4 Russian).

Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

 

Settings

Rebellion has offered players standard fare regarding the ability to adjust game settings such as Video resolution, FSAA and ATF. However they also offer the ability to adjust Motion Blur, Bloom Filter and interestingly enough Aspect Ratio. Yes you heard correctly Widescreen fans, prepare for a treat. 4:3 or 16:9. Video resolutions are available up to 1600X1200.

Despite these tweaks, it is actually in the diverse offering of game settings that Sniper Elite begins to show its greatness.

Once you adjust the normal features such as Friendly Fire, you select a mission and the Difficulty Menu appears.

Here the player has the ability to set up items such as Overall Difficulty, AI Difficulty, and whether there is an instant switch between binoculars and the rifle scope. Selecting No means the player burns time in a transition. Definitely the selection for those that want more tension.

Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

Also available is the ability to pick whether items such as Wind, Posture, Pulse, Gravity, and the length of time the player can go without breathing after exhale (Empty Lung) affect shooting.

In addition, Sniper Elite supports Gamespy’s Online High Ranking Score system. The player can easily skip this option if they so choose.

The first level begins with a sepia toned instruction film concerning crawling, using binoculars, posture, and movement. The player then begins the 1st mission, Karlshorst, with a briefing and orders from Ft Meade, Md. The player gains a good grasp of the situation as the briefing is thorough without being tedious or annoying. There is also a good chance for the gamer to view the map of the upcoming area of operations. The entire briefing can be skipped by hitting the Enter key at any time and the mission begins immediately.

Graphics

The graphics of Sniper Elite are by no means Half Life 2 or Unreal 3 quality. They are reminiscent of the recent Hidden and Dangerous 2 but with vast improvements.

As the first level opens the gamer is in a bombed out city in the middle of a rainstorm. Reflections are well handled and the engine is quite forgiving, even at high resolution.

Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

Levels were run with video settings, of 1600X1200, 4 X FSAA, 4 X Anisotropic Filtering, and all effects turned on. While the system used was a 256 MB Geforce 6800, P4 3.04 GHz, a slower laptop with a Geforce 4200 Go (64MB), P4 2.4 GHz also ran the title with no issues. Shadowing is also well implemented. The only time resolution was lowered was in order to capture video with software utilities.

Over all, animations have a major impact in the game. Everything is deliberate and often takes real time. This means actions such as throwing a grenade are a tactical decision. No snatch and grab here. In a recent title that shall remain nameless it became obvious that coding was in place so that enemies which could not see you charged whenever you began pulling a grenade. And it was obvious. Testing a level proved this to be 100% true. This sort of contrived tension leaves nothing to chance. Thankfully Sniper Elite is devoid of this mechanism and often chance determines the player’s existence. Chance which the player can lessen through skill and tactics.

The player enters the game with a sniper rifle and a suppressed pistol. More weapons can be acquired allowing the gamer 3 at a time plus grenades and demolitions.

The player can crawl, move at a crouch, or stand up and run. All movement is variable in speed by pushing or pulling the mouse wheel and animations are in accordance with speed.

Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

 

Enemy Intelligence

The use of the pistol at close range should not be underestimated as a weapon of choice. Several times on various levels, failure to kill stealthily or pickup and hide bodies brought numerous individuals out on the hunt with the worst possible bad karma in mind for the gamer.

Shooting an enemy soldier and expecting the others to keep on patrolling like nothing happened is not the case in Sniper Elite. Alerting enemies will result in their attempting to flank you while using fire and maneuver techniques. Or else when you least expect it they will track you to your location and spray you while you are locked on your scope. Trust this, if you shoot and alert the enemy for whatever reason, move. Pickup and change location and elevation. It will save you a game reload.

Hitting enemy troops without killing them can generate a variety of responses. Nearby troops will move to the aid of a fallen comrade. This becomes a viable technique for engaging multiple targets. But be advised, while one soldier is dragging his wounded to safety, a second soldier will either open up or flank you. And you are not the only one with a sniper rifle either.

Aiming requires hold off and range estimation using the scope’s stadia lines. Also it may be necessary to go prone. Current accuracy conditions are rated by a number in the HUD.

As mentioned bodies can be picked up and moved and sometimes it is necessary to move wounded friendlies in a similar fashion.

 

Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

Also weapons and ammunition can be recovered from friendly and enemy troops alike.

Bullet Cam

One feature about which much has been written is the bullet cam. When a particularly noteworthy shot is made the camera automatically tracks the bullet to the target. The reward for a great shot can be quite amazing and never the same twice. In one shot, an individual spraying machine gun fire was shot through the right eye and the event was graphically depicted. You can view that footage here. Longer shots wounded soldiers and as they would stand and struggle along dragging a leg, additional rounds kicked up dirt all around them.

A shot in a later level hit an enemy in the shoulder. As he fell backward, the next shot was fired and the bullet cam showed the soldier falling backward from the first shot as the second shot struck him in the head. An entire day of Sniper Elite never revealed the same shot occurring twice.

Non-Linear Gameplay

When the sniper rifle is slung and combat gets up close it can be brutal. In one level, a Nazi named Bormann must be eliminated. While taking out another soldier on foot, Bormann’s car was fired upon and his driver killed. He was then cut down attempting to pull a weapon and exit the passenger door. All the while, the player is being engaged by hostile sniper and small arms fire from cross the plaza. These moments occur but never by design of the developers. The reason being is the world goes about it’s business in Sniper Elite. In some titles such as Medal of Honor, there are scripted events such as artillery barrages that are a source of developer contrived frustration as they tried to force the moments that occur naturally in Sniper Elite. Scripting does occur in Sniper Elite on many occasions. But the ability of the player to choose their own course of action makes such scripting unimportant. Whether that choice is to get up close and eliminate a target with a PPsHK or take a different route to a target than partisan forces suggested.

Weapons

Weapons choices were driven by the game and no load-out was available prior to each level. This may frustrate some gamers but the fact is in 1945 you sometimes, but not always “got what you got.” Upgrades are provided through either battlefield recovery or contacts bringing you something pleasant from higher headquarters. Personally I prefer this to seeing a message at the end of the level stating “You have now unlocked the M31 Broom for use in Single play.” Prominent weapons available are Russian or German in make. Besides sniper rifles and the suppressed pistol, several automatic weapons are modeled. The PPsHK, the MP-40, and the particularly devastating MG34. As mentioned, if the enemy has it and you want it, well you know what to do…

Grenades are available as what seems to be the Russian F1 pineapple and the German stick grenade nicknamed the ‘Potato Masher’. The player can adjust the blast radius in the game menu. Throwing the grenades was better implemented in most games. In many titles gamers just look and think “Well it’s going in that direction.” In Sniper Elite, pressing the left mouse button brings up a throwing arc that extends or retracts based on pressure. Once the exact shot is achieved, holding this in place and pressing the right mouse button throws the grenade. This made grenade ambushes quite enjoyable.

Only 5 missions were available in our preview build, and none of them were similar. Missions varied from intelligence gathering to outright assassination. It may also require link up with partisan forces or stealing a log book.

Music is atmospheric without being an intrusion. It is also not an event indicator. Rising tempos did not precede enemy assaults or appearances. Against my normal habit, I chose to leave it on.

The player may save anywhere they choose. On Sniper Elite difficulty, the gamer is currently able to save 4 times without penalty. After that the player may still save whenever and wherever they choose, but it will affect the score at the end of the level. It is a nice balance by Rebellion. Often developers attempt to force game play by limiting saves. This method never works and only leads to frustration. Rebellion has struck a nice balance by offering a reward to the stout of heart. Sniper Elite - click for larger image.

Level ends provide the gamer with stats on 13 various items including longest shot and moving targets as well as targeting and objective completion.

Spawning by AI was not evident although one level did find four enemy troops in a room thought top previously have been cleared. Over all AI was well programmed with only a few minor instances where AI would go prone when fired upon. Generally, they seek cover and call for back up.

Conclusion

Overall there are high expectations for Sniper Elite and rightly so. The game play is innovative and refreshing and the combat gritty. The 5 mission preview found me with even more anticipation for Sniper Elite. The only things missing are Intel on the release date and the release date of the sequel.

Hatchetforce

 

 


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