If you watch any of my Let’s Play Badly videos from my YouTube channel (erm, probably not the Minecraft ones so much – I’m talking about the Borderlands and Just Cause 2 videos), you’re probably aware than I’m a little keen on games that feature sniper based combat. I do enjoy popping the old heads from a safe vantage point, yes siree!
So when Sniper Elite V2 came up on sale for cheap, I thought I’d snap it up and check it out. I’d never bothered with the original game and it is a Rebellion game so I wasn’t really expecting great things. But as with most games I pick up for pennies, I figure if it manages to keep me distracted for a few afternoons, it’s a fair exchange.
So I gave it a bash yesterday. I only played the first level – which is basically a tutorial – before I had to come away and think about what the game was trying to teach me.
It all started well enough. The grumbly voiced actor told me that the Nazi Army were still the bad guys and how the game centres around V-2 rocket shenanigans. Then I was on a mission to assassinate a defecting General. Creeping through the ruined city, I was encouraged to string a trip mine across a doorway (to protect my rear, and help with my escape, apparently) then booby-trap a recent kill with a landmine. Use this cover, hop over that gate, clamber under this debris – all the regular tutorial checklist items such a game would be expected to tick off.
Then it was onto the main event and I held my breath, pulled the trigger and watched a lump of metal shear through the air until it found its grisly x-rayed target, the General’s skull. All good fun so far. Of course, the ‘S’ hit the ‘F’ and I had to leg it. Aware of my presence, the soldiers fell foul of my landmine but before I could crawl back along my previous route, a tank burst through the wall, blocking the way. Another path was found and my trip mine had done its job. I probably wasn’t as stealthy as I could have been and a lot more skulls began to sport ventilation where previously there was none. Eventually, I hopped one final wall and the mission ended. Here’s your score, well done.
But the thing that stuck with me was my preparation. How I’d dotted mines from my limited arsenal in the hopes that they’d bear fruit and make my life as a sniper elite that much easier. But when the game features scripted events and clearly isn’t averse to throwing me down alternate routes, how am I supposed to know when placing anything isn’t going to be just a waste of time (and vital resources)? It seemed to me that the only way to make sure that I got the most out of my kit was to memorise the mission and use that knowledge to replay it.
I realise that in real-life situations change and the best laid plans can go out the window but this is a game. The very first mission out the door basically tells you both that a) preparation is important and b) your preparation could become completely irrelevant due to a level designer’s decision to script an ‘exciting’ set-piece to spice the mission up. Is it a conflicting design flaw in the game? Are developers under pressure to include modern scripted ‘events’ (all the cool kids/shooters are doing them, you should too!)?
It hasn’t completely put me off playing the game but it will make me more wary/blasé regarding preparation. If it’s merely a case of guessing when the game is/isn’t going to render it all irrelevant, why bother putting it down? There’s no skill involved and I won’t learn through experience in-game how to maximise the effectiveness of my tools. So is the only time I can ensure my traps are useful is when I fail a mission and armed with foresight, can prepare retroactively?