The long-awaited and eagerly anticipated Sniper Elite VR has finally hit all major headsets, with a release for PSVR, Oculus Quest, Rift and Steam-based VR systems. Was it worth the wait? It’s not perfect, but we certainly believe so.
We remember seeing Sniper Elite VR being shown off in the pre-covid era, so for a VR game in particular there’s been quite the leadup to this one. As a frame of reference, Doom 3 VR was announced mere weeks before it launched on PSVR earlier this year, so there were definitely times where we thought “I wonder what happened to Sniper Elite VR?”.
Part of that wasn’t doubt, but anticipation, as publisher Rebellion was right there when the first wave of PSVR titles hit and they released Battle Zone. They’ve also consistently entertained us with their Sniper Elite games and their many DLC addons, so we were more than a little curious what Sniper Elite VR would provide us with. Sniping in VR is great, as a game like Phantom: Covert Ops showed us last year, but there was also the risk of just being placed in a tower for a bit of sniping – resulting in a shooting gallery rather than a proper VR first person shooter.
Luckily, Sniper Elite VR delivers. There’s a proper campaign that isn’t much shorter than a AAA shooter at about five to six hours (and this one is half the price of those games), it has solid production values and some excellent control options. The campaign also offers up plenty of mission and objective types, from straight up sniping to infiltration missions where you sneak your way around the enemy and more explosive sequences.
Much of that will feel familiar to Sniper Elite veterans, so if you enjoyed Sniper Elite 3 or 4 in recent years you’ll instantly feel at home here as well. The World War II setting and enemies aren’t new, and even the slow-mo kill cam returns, showing you how your bullets connect to an enemy in a sometimes gruesome way – shattering a skull or perforating a vital organ. And when you feel you’ve seen enough of that (which comes when animations start to repeat themselves), you can dial down the frequency with which they appear.
What makes Sniper Elite VR different, however, is how it controls. We played it on a PlayStation VR back in its trade show demo days, and if you’re one of the lucky owners of this under-used controller (fingers crossed for PSVR2 compatibility!) then this is a game you’ll want to pick up. The feeling of actually gripping a rifle, holding it to your head to aim down your sights and then pulling the trigger is extremely satisfying and highly immersive – perhaps even more so than sniping in Phantom because of the physical nature of the controller.
Sniper Elite VR turns into a different beast when you switch to motion controls though, as having access to your hands also ups the immersion in terms of gun handling. You get to manually reload and ready your rifle before firing it, which can make for some stressful moments under gunfire – especially when you feel your next shot has to connect or you’ll be overrun. It’s too bad that kind of immersion doesn’t extend to your ability to physically interact with objects in the world, but the gunplay is a blast and feels like a whole new experience compared to how the Aim plays.
Of course this isn’t completely unique and there are other games that has mechanics like these at their core (like Gun Club VR), but Sniper Elite strikes a nice balance between fun and authenticity here – even though that means that weapons never feel all that different as long as you stick to the same weapon type. Sniper Elite games always feel more like fun than simulation, and the VR take is no exception – especially with the simplified controls of the Aim controller.
We felt the UI could have been more subtle in places as “move here” markers (for example) felt too large and immersion-breaking – as did the inability to manipulate certain parts of the environment. Melee combat also doesn’t fare as well as the gunplay, because even though there are some great melee fighters in VR it feels like a ‘hit X to knock out the enemy’ situation here.
The issues mentioned are all quite minor though, because the thing you’re really here for (the gunplay) works great. The campaign also has a solid length, different objective types and controls that work well – especially when handling guns. It’s not Alyx, but it’s one of our favorite VR releases this year so far. What helps are solid production values, which even manage to shine on the more modern Quest headset.