Developer / Publisher – Rebellion / Just Add Water / Coatsink
Price – US $29.99 / CA $34.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £25.99 / AU $38.95
Release date – July 8th, 2021
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Game Controllers, (PSVR) Aim, DS4, 2 x Moves
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Reviewed on – PSVR (PS5), Quest 2, Quest 2 w/ link
Store Links – PSVR, Oculus, Steam
With 8 entries in a meager 15 years, the Sniper Elite franchise has proven itself to be a reliable shooter based around the idea of hiding and killing your foes from a distance. In Sniper Elite VR, you play a member of the resistance against the Nazi incursion in Italy circa 1943 and must take arms against your oppressors, fighting them at every turn and, as the stakes increase, your situation only gets more dire.
On the PC and Quest headsets, this controls identically with said controls being familiar to anyone who has played an FPS in VR. Beyond the base controls are a plethora of options that can tailor the game to your liking including a wide array of comfort settings that leave nothing out and even include a few color blind options. You can further customize how you play the game by choosing how you grab and hold on to items as well as how you rearm your weapons so if you want to go the more sim route, you can, having to cock and reload every shot and grab ammo from your waist and place it in the weapon when you run out. If you want to go a more arcade route, you can relegate those controls to button presses or even make things fully automatic, removing most of the simulation in the gunplay but streamlining the encounters as you fire round after round with little interruption. Those options are also available for the Moves on the PlayStation VR headset though I found the button layout to be incredibly cumbersome and quickly moved on to the Aim and DS4 options, which remove the realism of reloading weapons, but having an Aim controller in my hands while holding a sniper rifle is a sacrifice worth making with the DS4 playing identically but creates a disconnect between what your hands are doing in real life compared to the game. Ammo will be scattered around a stage with grenades and explosives also being available though (thankfully) you don’t physically throw them but equipping them brings up a throwing arc marker so you can accurately toss them without fail. It’s not just about sniping either as you’ll find a host of automated firearms, pistols, shotguns and few others that can be added to your arsenal and chosen at anytime at your armory, allowing you 3 custom loadouts. Once you find said items and complete that stage, those weapons become available to you, possibly making previous stages a little easier as automatic and silenced weapons are found later in the campaign with the latter being sooooooo satisfying to use. There are 18 stages in the campaign, each with their own 3-star objectives, some as simple as just beating a stage, doing so in a set time, using specific weapons, getting ‘x’ number of kills and so on, adding some fun reasons to go back to stages already beaten. Each stage has attached online leaderboards with points being rewarded for accurate kills (headshots for the most points, of course) and the distance of your shot, time you completed the mission and probably a few more options I’m not aware of. Some of the stages can be beaten in only a few short minutes while others are substantially longer giving the campaign a decent 6-hour length in my playthough. I’m sure once a stage has been memorized, you could probably shave a few hours of that time by just running and gunning like a madman. It may not be as ‘open-world’ as its non-VR counterparts and plays in a very linear fashion but given just how much there is to do here and the many ways you can do that, it still feels like a full game.
Presentation is up next and while I wouldn’t say this is a AAA VR experience, it’s no slouch either offering up some impressive moments no matter which headset you play this on. Playing on the PC offers up the best fidelity with better lighting, textures and details and thanks to the higher resolution of the Quest 2 (with link) everything looks crisp and clear making this the clear winner as far as looks go. Playing on the PSVR offers up a similar quality though the lower resolution of that headset combined with the apparent lack of a PS4 Pro or PS5 optimized patch makes everything in here look blurry and washed out and while not terrible, is off putting, especially in the darker areas where textures are more washed out making some of the geometry look very bland. None of these complaints for that headset are game breaking by any stretch and if I wasn’t comparing all the versions side-by-side I would excuse most of these shortcoming save for the “blurry” visuals which make everything just look a bit fuzzy. Lastly would be the Quest 2 version which is surprisingly comparable to it’s more powerful counterparts thanks to the higher resolution of the headset. Sacrifices have clearly been made to cram all this game onto the Quest as textures and detritus around the environment have been dumbed down or removed completely but given the scope and scale of the game, it is arguably one the best-looking games available for that headset and it’s nothing short of impressive that Coat Sink managed to translate Sniper Elite VR to the level that they did.
As you progress through the story, you’ll start off in the besieged town of Pazzano before travelling across the Italian landscape in search of lost allies and retribution. Destroyed cities, Nazi bases, factories, cliffsides & country sides all await your arrival, each of which carrying its own unique designs that change up how you play the game. Some missions are almost exclusively all about sniping as you’ll be defending a location from a Nazi incursion from a high vantage point while others are much more compact requiring some more close quarters action as you sneak through hallways and tunnels trying to elude or kill your enemies with many stages mixing up the action by combining elements of both to make for a campaign that kept me on my toes though never strays too far from sniping action. The Sniper Elite franchise is famous for it’s bullet cam kills which are thankfully in the VR version and are just as satisfying as ever no matter which headset you play this on. You customize how often you see these from none at all to way too much and I set these to the minimum as they can really break up the gameplay, especially when was on a sniping role though are immensely satisfying EVERY TIME as I watched a bullet penetrate the X-rayed version of my target, shattering bones and obliterating organs before exiting the body. You don’t have a full body and are just a pair of floating hands with a belt at waist level which is a tad disappointing but not unexpected with the guns you handle all being rendered quite nicely and as they are the star of the show, that makes sense. Bringing your scope to eye level and zooming in on a target has never been more satisfying in VR and once downed, there bodies remain, highlighting just how deadly you are. As I said, environments come in a wide variety and while it may not be the prettiest game on the market, the level design and polish in each stage did an excellent job of making me feel like I was in a battle for my life during World War II and that’s really all that counts.
Audio is a little more a mixed bag with some odd choices made that aren’t’ equal across all the headsets. The opening monologue on the PSVR by the protagonist some time after the war, plays to a subtle music track that cuts to silence while he talks before kicking back in during his pauses in speech, and then cutting off once more when he talks, is hilariously bad though I only noticed this at the game’s onset and only on that version of the game. The music is timely for the era, offering up some patriotic war time music typical of World War 2 films and games, that kicks in during those bigger moments with many stages bathed in silence, which is good as you’ll have to use the environment to hide the sounds of you bullets and steps IF you are trying to play stealthily. Those louder noises typically only come in the form of planes flying overhead or busted generators though a few stages have some wartime sounds that give you the advantage in surprising your foes. 3D audio is here, and maybe it’s just me but I found it incredibly erratic with soldiers sounding like they were right behind me when no one was nearby or maybe even a few rooms away and I quickly learned to not rely on my auditory senses. The ambient noises sounded fine, but soldiers and other noises became too hard to tell where they were coming from causing frustration and this was once again especially apparent on the PSVR version. As a bulk of the action in here is from a distance, this is less of an issue than it sounds, but it is here and it did bug me with it being better on the other headsets, but still being a minor issue.
Sniper Elite VR is great, though admittedly I am a huge sucker for sniping in VR. It feels like a more streamlined version of what we have come to expect from the franchise, but it still works offering a satisfying campaign that never once bored me. There are a few odd choices or omittances made here that did take away from the realism like the inability go prone or the lack of a melee attack, the latter of which could definitely be used when trying to stealithily take down your foes. Not all of the stages are created equal as some, on my 1st go, took no longer than 3 minutes to complete which was a bit jarring as it felt like I had barely started before it was over while others take upwards of 20 minutes or more when I was trying to play things safe. You can run and gun through this, but the most satisfying way to play Sniper Elite is by carefully planning each shot and taking your time to get through a stage unseen and though no matter how you choose to play, with leaderboards, objectives and hidden items needing to found or shot in each stage, there are plenty of reasons to replay each level, especially when you factor in the various loadouts and thus play styles you can choose from. I had no issues with tracking on the PC or Quest side save some minor jank when trying to manually reload on the quest which just felt a tad finicky as I fumbled to place ammo in my weapons and cock back handles though the PSVR is a different beast. On PSVR I was constantly fighting drift with both the DS4 and Aim controller, oftentimes resetting them as the game became unplayable with said reset remedying that issue for a bit, but I always returned. I had very little tracking issues with the moves though my camera is placed fairly high to ensure it can see everything it needs to avoid tracking issues and give the obtuse button layout, I stuck with the Aim while playing that version anyways.
Sniper Elite VR takes a few missteps and is a smaller game than I expected, but still kicks a ton of ass. Sniping in VR just never gets old to me and the campaign did an excellent job of mixing up the action to ensure those that might get sick of the scope still have plenty to play around with. In many ways it feels like a Medal of Honor Game with one soldier taking on the world in a linear WW2 campaign and that’s not a bad thing as it offers up a very satisfying and rewarding experience. Bottom line here is no matter which headset you pick this up for, you are going to have a blast ridding the world of the Nazi scum.
What would I pay? This is $30 US no matter which version you decide to purchase and that’s a damn fine price for the content offered up. A highly repayable, lengthy campaign that mixes up sniping and run & gun action with a variety of stage designs, objectives and online leaderboards and some kick-ass kill cams that NEVER get old!
Rebellion provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!