Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is an excellent remaster that fans will adore, but the less devout would be better off just playing the sequels.
Sniper Elite creator Rebellion Developments is on a bit of a spree right now on the lead-up to its next mainline game in the series, and Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is the first offering in this lineup that fans can get a hold of. A reboot of the original game that started it all, 2012's Sniper Elite V2 saw players aim down the sights as Lieutenant Karl Fairburne, an elite OSS operative tasked with assassinating German officers and scientists before they can defect to the Soviet Union at the close of WWII.
A remaster in the traditional sense (and a well-optimized one at that), Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is the exact same game beneath the hood despite the fact that it sports improved visuals and a few additional bells and whistles. It's not surprising, then, that the new paint job does nothing to prevent the game from suffering from all the same issues that held back the original, and these imperfections have grown less forgivable with age. Though a fun experience lies at its core, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered has a severe identity disorder, as it never seems sure if it should put stealth combat or overt shooter action first - and when it does decide halfway through, it chooses poorly. Its setting and premise is fascinatingly unique, but uninspired storytelling and erratic world design prevent the game from ever being better than just good enough.
Though the flawed foundation is the same, the remaster does offer a considerable amount of new features that somewhat redeem the base package. The most prominent change is the upgrade to 4K textures and HDR support, and the difference these changes alone make is night-and-day. In addition to elucidating textures that were simply blurry before, character, weapon, and vehicle models have been remade, a beautiful dynamic lighting system has been added, and particle effects have been greatly improved. They don't fully redeem the gameplay, but these updates go a long way to benefit the overall experience and bring the visuals to rest somewhere between Sniper Elite 3 and 4. Luckily, players can use the new Photo Mode to capture and modify their favorite in-game views.
It's only been seven years since the original Sniper Elite V2 released, but quite a lot has changed since then in terms of game design. Surprisingly, that doesn't stop the game's remaster from still holding up relatively well when revisited in 2019. Despite being set in the all too familiar era of WWII, the premise of playing as a cold, calculating sniper behind German and Soviet lines as part of the intriguing Project Paperclip is still novel today. The series' trademark Bullet Cam is still as much morbid fun as ever, and the option to turn the feature up, down, or off is a thoughtful inclusion. Looking back, it's also clear that the game's HUD was ahead of its time with its refreshingly minimal presence - something even its sequels could stand to learn from.
As it's one of the year's only WWII games, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered provides a satisfying dose of putting Wehrmacht soldiers and high-ranking Nazis, as well as Red Army troops and officers, to rest. This sense of release is never greater than when hunting down and killing Adolf Hitler in the Assasinate the Führer DLC mission, which is included with the remaster along with the rest of the original game's DLC. Outside of sniping 4K Hitler in his alleged sole testicle, though, these missions offer little that the main game doesn't and is just more of the same - unfortunately, that's not a good thing.
Though the game's optimization on PC is admirably well-done, it's not bugs or crashes that break the game, but rather the gameplay itself. Whereas the series later figured itself out in terms of genre, playing Sniper Elite V2 reveals an astonishingly confused shooter. Though it prepares the player for covert marksmanship by providing systems and equipment for stealth, the game quickly begins to morph into a traditional third-person shooter. This isn't a world-ending issue as the player can take a beating outside of Elite difficulty, but it's just a shame as the game is only fun when it makes stealth a priority and relegates open combat to a last-ditch option. When those roles inexplicably reverse and rarely ever turn back about halfway through the game, it just transforms into a boring slog.
This is made worse by the fact that Sniper Elite V2 falls victim to the usual stealth game trappings: the AI is dumber than a box of rocks, the player can be detected without clear cause, and enemies stop searching for the sniper that's murdering their friends at the drop of a helmet. On its own, this would be mostly forgivable in an actual stealth shooter, but for some inexplicable reason this particular game was primarily designed as a traditional shooter. And even that would be fine if it weren't for the fact that traditional firefights in Sniper Elite V2 just aren't any fun, and its lack of sufficient aiming and cover systems prevents it from being any good at its apparent true ambition.
This misguided focus on all-out firefights is accompanied by inconsistent level design and combat pacing that swings between impressive and absolutely disappointing. Kreuzburg Headquarters, a stage near the game's end, perfectly demonstrates this problem. On the way into the ruins of a verdant courtyard, players are let loose in a large, open space that they can move through however they like; high enemy presence and lots of cover encourage a stealthy approach, but it's left open-ended. Additionally, the infiltration section includes loud battlefield distractions that the player can use to mask the sound of their rifle shots, which is easily the game's best feature.
After reaching the destination and triggering a cutscene, however, enemies are suddenly swarming the player - even if they weren't alerted prior to the cutscene. In the exact space in which players were given the conditions to live out the sniper fantasy that the game outwardly purports, suddenly and without explanation the carefully crafted area is misused as yet another boring killing field, requiring little to no stealth or strategy to bypass. When considered alongside the story's lackadaisical anticlimax, Sniper Elite V2 warps itself entirely into something players just want to be over and done with already before the end is even quite in sight.
Overall, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a brilliant remaster of a mediocre game. The central concept is still cool and players will have fun with it at its best moments, but there are just too many glaring design flaws that no visual overhaul could ever fix. History buffs and fans of the series looking to tide themselves over until the game's next outings will have an easier time focusing only on the game's newfound outward beauty, but everyone else will likely be reminded of the original's internal ugliness and wasted potential.