Sniper rifles have never been my weapon of choice in video games, but Rebellion might just be changing my mind thanks to their upcoming release slate. The prolific game studio is at E3 showing off a variety of titles, but I got to spend hands-on time with two games that shared some common DNA: Zombie Army 4: Dead War and Sniper Elite VR.
Zombie Army 4 impressed me from the get-go. I got to play through a brief mission involving surviving waves of the walking dead, clearing out zombie infestations and reclaiming destroyed train stations. It was a thrilling experience from beginning to end, thanks in huge part to how successfully the shooting and mechanics of Sniper Elite transfer to a co-op zombie slaughtering game.
It will immediately feel familiar to anyone that’s played Zombie Army Trilogy, but even if you’ve only had experience with Sniper Elite, this is a Z-headed spin-off. The game’s been designed with co-op in mind, but you can play solo. There’s an impressive sense of solitude and helplessness in Zombie Army 4 if you play it alone, narrowly avoiding hordes of fatal enemies. The satisfying sense of power that you get from your weapons helps give you the feeling that you’ve got a chance in this dark, desolate world.
SMGs and trench rifles pack an impressive punch, but nothing is quite as satisfying as mowing down zombies with your trusty sniper rifle. The focus button and slow-mo Kill Cam kills of Sniper Elite return in Zombie Army 4, giving you a satisfying cinematic pat on the back every time you land a slick shot on an unsuspecting enemy.
Things are made even more enjoyable by the satisfying special abilities you have access to, all of which are new to the game. Smashing your boot into zombies can knock out some extra ammo to keep you in the fight, while special Takedown attacks let you instantly assassinate a foe and get rewarded with a beefy bonus health pack. Further to this, there’s plenty of customisations and weapon modes to make you even more powerful.
These tools help add a fun loop to the gameplay that rewards you for getting up-close and dirty with your foes, while also giving you what you need to hang back and slaughter the undead with your sniper rifle.
Sniper Elite VR, meanwhile, takes the iconic rifle action of the franchise to a more intimate dimension. I got to play the game on PSVR with a PlayStation Aim Controller, but the game is slated to launch on a bevy of other virtual reality headsets including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and you can play with a pair of motion controllers.
For me, the sign of a solid VR title is accessibility options, and Sniper Elite VR is full to the brim with them. Camera movement options, player movement options, height adjustment and gun calibration help you make the experience as comfortable as possible. For players sensitive to movement inside the virtual reality headset, Sniper Elite VR is here to help.
Once you hop in, it’s quick to learn and even quicker to enjoy. I paused for a second, asking my demo-assistant what button I needed to press in order to look down the scope. As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized the foolishly simple answer.
To look down the scope, all I had to do was… look down the scope.
Holding the Aim controller up to your eye brings the magnifying scope into sight, and closing a single eye in real life helps you get a clearer look like it would when handling an actual gun. This sensation led to an immediately satisfying and realistic gameplay experience that brought me into the world and never let me out.
You won’t be getting down and dirty with stealth takedowns on the ground, as the game keeps you up on rooftops and overhangs, but this is more than a basic shooting gallery with you rooted to the spot. Moving between vantage points, you can either use the standard VR method of teleporting around or have more traditional first person shooter smooth walking and turning. Even with these more intense options, the whole experience was as comfortable as I’ve been in VR.
I spent about 15 minutes blasting enemies with my rifle, activating slow-mo kills, and racking combos. The same satisfying action of Sniper Elite transfers perfectly to VR, and at the end of my demo I was left with zero motion sickness and plenty of happy memories.
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