Back to Berlin (again) – hands on Sniper Elite V2 Remastered

Karl is back, back again.

I’ve no doubt that someone, somewhere within Rebellion has already pointed this out internally, but Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a remaster of a remake. Imagine if, a decade from now, Activision decided to remaster Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy? Or maybe Square Enix will get around to remastering Tomb Raider Anniversary?

It’s sheer madness from a marketing perspective, but it makes much more sense when you consider the game itself. As Martin Caine, programmer at Rebellion explained, “I think Sniper Elite didn’t really take off as well as Rebellion really wanted, so they went back to the design board and redesigned the game, and then Sniper Elite V2 was that redesign. It had all those aspects in it that made it such a good game, and critically it’s their most well received game. Everyone says, ‘I’ve played Sniper Elite 4, but Sniper Elite V2 is the best!'”

Sniper Elite V2 effectively means that we can put the original Sniper Elite to one side, as an ageing artefact that has been comprehensively surpassed. It was really with V2 that the series found its groove as a stealth action sniper game, and more importantly the distinctive identity leant to it with the slow motion X-Ray Kill Cam. While Sniper Elite III and 4 are both on Xbox One and PS4, V2 preceded this current generation, and so this remaster reunites them.

Sniper Elite V2 Remastered actually started as a project in the hands of TickTock Games (who worked on Rogue Trooper Redux for Rebellion back in 2017), but as of a few months ago, it’s actually shifted over to the newly created Rebellion North. Development hell for a remaster? Not quite. They’re actually one and the same, as Rebellion have gone on a bit of a growing and spending spree this past few years.

“Rebellion North has developed this, and as a company we’ve only existed for three months!” Martin said. “I used to work at TickTock games for six years, and we remastered Rogue Trooper for Rebellion, and then when they released it they asked us to start working on Sniper 2. Recently they bought the company, so we’re now part of Rebellion, but until that point, we didn’t really have much access to their newer code from Sniper 3 or Sniper 4, so pretty much everything that we’ve remastered was done by us ourselves.”

The game now sports 4K support on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, and HDR wherever it’s supported. Beyond that, Rebellion North have gone through the game and spruced up some of the rougher edges.

“There’s definitely a couple hundred assets throughout the game that really looked low definition, low quality, so we’ve updated all of those. All of the major things like weapons, the actual character models, have all been upgraded or replaced with ones from Sniper Elite 4, and all the textures were uprezzed where suitable, we’ve added detail textures where they were missing before.

“We’ve also gently changed how the tone mapping works for HDR. When you play an Xbox One game [with HDR] compared to an Xbox 360 game, 360 games kind of look flat and we wanted to make sure that contrast in the image, the darkness can come through and the bright white when you get the bloom off the sun. You’ll see that now with the remaster.”

Sitting down to play for a few minutes and it, well, it feels like Sniper Elite V2. This isn’t a wholesale transformation of the game, and the level design and world generally feel of their time, with the relatively linear level design through the brown bombed out shell of Berlin at the close of the Second World War. With a HDR monitor attached to the demo PCs, the lighting does pop quite a bit more, that’s for sure.

It still feels good though. The Kill Cam was turned up to the point that almost every single shot I took ended up with a slow-motion flight through the level, but it can obviously be turned down to trigger less frequently or not at all, and there’s enough difficulty settings and options that players can find the right mixture of gameplay for them. You won’t find many of the newer gameplay bells and whistles from Sniper Elite III or 4 here, but remasters rarely fiddle with a game’s workings to that extent.

What this can do is bundle in the DLC missions and all of the extra multiplayer content that was added over time. New maps and modes, like Capture the Flag and Dogtag Harvest were added over time, and they’ll be in the bundle from the off, hopefully helping to spark a new interest in the game’s multiplayer.

The one fly in the ointment might come on PC, where the relative size of Rebellion as a self-publishing studio means they aren’t following in the footsteps of, say, Borderlands and making the Remaster a free update to existing owners. It’s a separate product that will be available for a relatively modest upgrade price of £6.99 if you do own the original V2 release. Additionally, while it would have been nice to ape Blizzard and the StarCraft remaster, the multiplayer between original V2 and its remaster won’t be compatible.

But for Switch owners, they’ve also got Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate to look forward to. Martin revealed, “About half way through working on this, we started work on Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate as well. The code for the two projects was only a couple years apart, so it’s not been a massive job to port Sniper 3 over, but we’ve not had to remaster visuals and things like that, so it’s more of just getting the game running on the platform, getting multiplayer running…

“We’ve used the PC assets, so the same as Sniper V2, we’ve tried to keep things part across all platforms and have only made small sacrifices to get the game running on Switch that most gamers wouldn’t even notice. The resolution is noticeably a bit lower on Switch because of the GPU, but the detail in the game is the same between that, PS4 and Xbox One. For Sniper 3, it’s pretty much the same. It looks really good for a Switch game, especially when you’re docked.”

And for Sniper Elite fans in general, this is just a prelude for greater things to come, with the recent announcement of Sniper Elite VR and a fifth full Sniper Elite game. As Martin said, “We’re not the kind of studio that tells people what we’re doing during development. We prefer to get closer to release when it’s almost a complete game before we bring it to some shows and the you can play the game in six months time. We’re not going to show anything when it’s only a year into development and it’s not going to be out for another four, but I think it’s important to let the fans know that we’re working on the next Sniper game and that we’re working on Sniper Elite VR. Hopefully these remasters will whet people’s appetite again, whether they’re veterans or they want to experience them for the first time.”

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