As the scattered gunfire from the Germans whizzed over my head, clattered into the surrounding environment, and chipped away at my scant cover I checked how many rounds my trusty rifle had left.
Only a single bullet.
As the stomping of goose-stepping boots got closer I knew that my time was up.
In such a real-life situation, this scenario would be utterly terrifying, but in Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior it's something else entirely:
It was thrilling.
For a series known for its intensely brutal x-ray kill cams and pixel-perfect accuracy requirements, I never expected Sniper Elite to embrace close combat and frantic action sequences quite so much, and yet that’s exactly what this spin-off from the main series serves up in VR form. Thankfully these sequences feel tense and always keep that “fish out of water with a high caliber scope” vibe constant, with you fighting tooth and nail to extract under a hail of gunfire, which is sure to please action fans and at best temper complaints from Sniper Elite die hards on the shift from near 100% stealth.
I won’t lie to you, I’m a relative newcomer to the VR scene, and so my interpretation of the ease of Winter Warriors controls needs to have that factored in, however, I had zero complaints with how quickly I got to grips with the core mechanics and was lobbing bottles as distractions, clonking guards with the butt of my rifle and laying down suppressing fire as I moved from cover with little issue.
The only sticking point for me at first was using the scoped weapons that this series is so famed for, and for a while, I was experiencing my own personal shell shock as my fumbling hands pulled the sight out of line of my shots. However, upon actually sitting back and thinking about the guns in question I was soon able to replicate pulling the sock up to my shoulder (or resting the controller against my cheek/chin) which gave me so much more control and stability.
Unlocking this motion was as much key to my enjoyment of Winter Warrior as it was my survival, as this game is relentless if and when your cover is blown, and if you’ve not mastered quickly switching between your weapons and key items on the fly you’ll not even hit double digits in the titles featured “Last Stand” Mode. I had a tonne of fun with this mode which is a riotous romp of destruction
Yet this isn’t the only new mode worth talking about as in Sniper Hunt you’re tasked with taking on elite German snipers, drawing them out of hiding by clipping their mates, and then lining up the perfect shot to take them out. It’s a great interactive puzzle in which you’ll need to discern where the sniper is hiding before setting up traps and ambushes to make them poke their nose in before getting it blown off. If Last Stand teaches you the mechanics under threat of death, Sniper Hunt allows you to get creative with them.
Both modes bolster a surprisingly lengthy campaign (or at least lengthy for the scant price tag of just over ten dollars) and offer great variation in both day cycles and locations. You’ll be sneaking through Italian villas at the dead of night in one mission, then taking down monstrous canons across chilly winter mornings. Each is threaded together by our player character The Partisan as he narrates the greatest adventures of his life, although there is a heavy tinge of sadness that he does so in an isolated remote household, perfectly contrasting what he gave to help his nation and the solitude he is “rewarded” with.
In comparative terms, this is a significant improvement from the original Sniper Elite VR game, with more expansive levels, which while still being fairly linear do allow for some creativity when it comes to approaching your target. The weapons control well and feel responsive, however there were a few instances where I’d try to stow weapons only to see them thrown to the floor and inversely where I was unable to pick up or interact with objects unless I was in a very specific position, which when you’ve got bullets giving you a haircut isn’t what you need at all.
Graphically speaking I would say this falls into that middling category of “fine but not outstanding” with only the visceral X-ray kills really racking up any significant detail. In some areas the levels can look very appealing but in others low-quality meshes pull you back into a console generation prior. Sound design on the other hand is excellent and consistent, with echoing gunfire and explosions reverberating inside the headset, and even though the use of music is scant, the tracks and stingers on show are powerful and emotionally charged.
The new campaign feels much meatier than in the prior entry and when propped up by two legitimately fun and challenging modes really gives good value for the $11 asking price. If you love sniping games this is a no-brainer, and if you’re interested in dipping in a toe then the streamlined gameplay and tight execution of the firing mechanics will give you an enjoyable experience.