In the last few years, VR has been growing from a niche product for early adopters into a popular consumer-level gaming platform. While shooters have always been a popular genre, VR’s depth and immersive capabilities add another layer to this style of game that makes it particularly compelling. One such shooter is Rebellion Developments’ Sniper Elite, which was released in 2012 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Sniper Elite VR is essentially the same game but adapted to work with the Oculus Quest.
Sniper Elite VR takes place during World War II. You are sent into Berlin as part of a covert operation to assist anti-Nazi resistance forces in their final assault against Hitler’s Third Reich. You will take on the role of an American sniper, working with several different resistance groups to complete distinct objectives. While Sniper Elite VR is a single-player only game, once you’ve finished it multiple difficulty levels and a free play mode is unlocked.
The core gameplay in Sniper Elite VR is unchanged from the original games in the series, although some concessions have been made to work better with VR. You see the game world through your sniper scope, which you use to mark and tag enemies in order to track their movements after you’ve taken them out. As with earlier versions of the game, taking out targets in creative ways yields bonus experience points that can be used for weapon upgrades.
Scoring major kills will also trigger slow-motion moments which allow you to carefully aim at specific body parts, which itself unlocks another set of achievements. Depending on your movement speed and how quickly you match your scope’s zoom level with the enemy’s head, shooting them in the head will award even more experience points.
VR players are able to look around by moving their heads or using a controller, but cannot turn around. The controls are fairly intuitive; either move your face where you want to look or use a control stick to rotate left or right / up and down / closer/further away from the action. If you have an Oculus Touch controller, holding it vertically allows for precise aiming by placing it against one side of your temple so that your hand represents the rifle scope. As with the original game, this simplification of aiming is one of the concessions made to work better in VR.
The maps are very large and open-ended, allowing you to proceed however you choose without offering any guidance or hints on how best to proceed. The freedom makes Sniper Elite VR very replayable, but it also means that map navigation can be difficult at times because there’s no way to judge distances accurately since there is no mini-map. This lack is felt particularly when trying to navigate areas where enemies are likely stationed out of your line of sight.
While there are plenty of weapons available in typical shooter fashion-including knives, pistols, rocket launchers etc.-the most satisfying seems to be sniping people from a distance. You can even shoot explosive barrels, tanks and fuel trucks for a variety of effects including collateral damage onto nearby enemies. In the original Sniper Elite, you could also shoot historical artefacts to see them explode, which is not available in this version.
The graphics are solid without being spectacular, although the art design helps give each level its own unique character. Most levels have a bright day or early evening look, which makes identifying targets easy at a distance but doesn’t provide any cover if they spot you first. The controls work well, and there’s no sense of nausea or discomfort when playing-although it sounds like using a controller might make taking out moving targets more difficult than with head tracking alone.
Compared to earlier games in the series, the main campaign only lasts about 6-8 hours, depending on how thorough you are. The game is not very difficult without making full use of its stealth elements; most enemies die in one hit with a silenced weapon and don’t seem to notice if their friends got shot behind them seconds ago. However, moving quickly will draw attention so it’s best to slow down and take time to line up your shots perfectly.
Not necessarily part of the game itself but worth mentioning: I found my play experience improved after putting on headphones because it added immersion that made me feel more like I was actually sniping than just “doing things” with a VR headset strapped on my face. My guess is that this might come down to personal preference though. As an introduction to the world of virtual reality, Sniper Elite VR does a pretty good job. It’s entertaining in its own right, offers enough difficulty to keep things interesting, and feels like it would be fun to replay levels with different tactics. As someone who really enjoys the core game but also wants more tactical options when playing on PC, I’m very happy that this is available in VR mode and that it works well too.
This review was written by longtime gamer Mike Hood after he spent several hours playing the game on his Oculus Quest setup. If you’re interested in writing for us too then get in touch at [email protected] so we can discuss details!