The Sniper Elite series has taken its first step into the world of VR, allowing players to get immersed in the action like never before.
Available via pretty much all VR platforms, Sniper Elite VR presents players with 18 missions in which to sneak and shoot. They won’t be taking control of series stalwart Karl Fairburne, however. Set in Southern Italy in 1943, instead they’ll assume the role of a man fighting for the Italian resistance, pushing back against the fascist forces that are occupying his homeland. And thanks to VR, you really will feel like you’re in the thick of the action.
Being a VR game, the missions are typically shorter than those in the mainline entries of the Sniper Elite series, with most taking around 20 minutes or so to complete. They do, however, have multiple objectives, and there’s a score system to make going back and replaying them again a worthwhile endeavour. They’re a varied bunch, too, presenting you with range of scenarios across multiple locations. In one mission you might find yourself defending a position from waves of attackers. In another, you might need to push forward into enemy territory, opting for sneaking rather than sniping.
The gameplay remains largely true to Sniper Elite’s roots; you can move freely through environments, for example, and make use of a wide range of weapons and gadgets to achieve your goal. Thanks to VR, however, you’re much more involved in the action. You’ll move faster when your weapon is stowed, so you’ll need to get into the habit of reaching over your shoulder to retrieve it and put it away between bouts of combat. And of course, you’ll need to hold your gun up so you can look through your scope to shoot, as well as perform the weapon-appropriate actions to reload.
There are some compromises though. You can’t go prone, for example, which can make you feel like a sitting duck in some scenarios. In fact, your movement is fairly limited in all ways. It’s perhaps understandable, given that this is a VR game – movement often leads to discomfort, after all. On that note, it’s probably a good time to mention that Sniper Elite VR has a wide range of options for you to tweak to make it as comfortable an experience as possible for you. If you don’t like free movement you can use teleportation, for example, and you can also enable snap turning.
Unfortunately though, sniping in VR ultimately isn’t as much fun as simply playing one of the mainline Sniper Elite games. A part of that is simply because like many VR games, it’s fiddly. Picking up items in the environment and then using them can be a faff and that includes using your guns. When it works, it works rather well, but most of the time it just looks and feels awkward. You might release a great shot, for example, triggering kill-cam mode which lets you see the results in full, gory detail. But then, when control is back in your hands, your sniper rifle may be held in an awkward position, perhaps even clipping into your body, making it hard to reload and get back into the swing of things. And that can quickly lead to your death.
On the subject of the kill-cam, while it’s great in the regular Sniper Elite games, it’s a bit of a pain here, so you might want to disable it. With VR all about being further immersed in the action, the kill-cam is counter-intuitive, disconnecting you from your presence in the game world. The somewhat basic visuals work against you getting totally immersed too, but that’s not particularly the game’s fault; the Oculus Quest hardware isn’t particularly powerful. It does mean, however, that sniping enemies in certain environments can be trickier than it should be. The lack of clarity can result in some enemy soldiers being hard to spot, even though they’re not all that far away.
Ultimately, Sniper Elite VR is what it is. If you want to snipe enemies across a range of scenarios, all the while carrying out the actions required to reload a bolt-action rifle between shots, you’ll no doubt get some enjoyment out of it. It’s not particularly impressive visually, however, and beyond the additional arm-work required the dispatch the enemies you’re up against, the gameplay is rather basic. Throw in the additional fiddliness associated with VR, and the fact that the series’ kill-cam doesn’t quite gel with the format, and you have a game that’s fun to delve in and out of as a curio, but largely forgettable overall.
Sniper Elite VR Review: GameSpew’s Score