One vs. One In Sniper Elite Is Still As Tense As Games Get

The everlasting threat of a single bullet, the terrifying glint of a sniper scope in your eyes, and the darkness that covers your enemy make Sniper Elite V2 [official site] one of the most gripping gaming experiences I’ve had. You can’t take your eyes off the screen for a second; instead, you must remain calm, remain patient, and study your environment. Was that sliver of movement in the corner of your eye the enemy or foliage shifting in the wind? Does that scope glint signal impending death or did they fail to see you as you had failed to see them?

The tension is greatest in a one-on-one deathmatch fight, in which one wrong move can be your end. The skills of a sniper are your only help.

I carefully dragged my body out from under the shadowy cover of a boulder, scanning the environment for signs of life. A small piece of debris drifted across my vision. My finger twitched.

I had no cover here; any sort of ledge would give away my position like I was wearing a neon jacket. I had to find something better. I could run forwards, possibly into my enemy, or I could run backwards, up the hill, backing myself into the corner. I decided backwards, took a deep breath, and sprinted as fast as I could towards a small hut. Its many windows seemed useful.

Then I was dead, bits of my body up the walls, a fist on my desk. I’d set off an unseen tripwire because I had rushed.

I’ve never played anything that comes close to matching the tension of a one-on-one match of Sniper Elite V2. I bought the game at release, as did a friend of mine, and we played through the campaign together, as well as the duo missions with one spotter and one person on the ground. Eventually, we moved on to competitive multiplayer, mostly joining empty servers.

The majority of our time was spent on our own, the multiplayer wasn’t too popular. We stuck to one map in particular, called Quarry, which featured a long stretch of land and was mostly flat apart from a dip in the middle. This map was set at night with only a few indoor areas, so we found that the best tactic was to keep moving, methodically, to use the cover of darkness to our advantage.

As the two of us got better at the game, we both drifted into a very slow strategy to suit the map’s style. Every move would be calculated, every single visible area scanned for movement, to try and find each other.

Most shots in Sniper Elite are 1-hit kills if you’re an average or better player. Any headshot is death, many torso shots mean death, and anything else throws you about enough to give the enemy time to get the killing shot in. To win in a one-on-one match, you need to have patience, you need to stay calm, you need to keep a level head.

There’s a mechanic in Sniper Elite V2 where a player’s scope will glint at you when it passes over your body. A tiny flash in the distance, light shining off the glass of their weapon. A hint at a possibly imminent bullet to the skull, or a lucky break if the enemy didn’t notice you. Looking across the dark map, that glint, if you even notice it, is a glimpse into the long barrel of death.

There’s only one thing you really can do: stay absolutely still. In Quarry, the darkness allows you to sometimes hide in plain sight. Take a deep breath, and count to 5. If you’re still alive, get out of there now.

The fear of the glint, the darkness obscuring your vision, the constant threat of sudden death. Patience and stillness are hard earned.

There’s a mechanic in some sniper games, including the Sniper Elite series, through which your heart rate affects the stability of your weapon when aiming down the scope. High heart rate, and you’ll be shaking all over the place. This doesn’t just represent the character, it represents the player, too.

In a one-on-one game, a brash decision can cost you your life. In fact, if you’re not paying attention, a player can sit in one area and constantly pick you off, while you’ll never notice the scope glint. Panicking will make you miss details. Maybe you would have noticed the enemy’s foot sticking out if you hadn’t rushed that scan of the area.

Sniper Elite V2 taught me a valuable lesson in competitive gaming: controlling your movements outside of the game is often just as important as inside the game. It’s all well and good not sprinting in Sniper Elite to maintain a low heart rate, but allowing it to increase and for panic to set in outside of the game can handicap you even more severely.

The game might have been built to have a multiplayer mode with many people running around together and constant firefights, but that’s just not where Sniper Elite shines. In a one-on-one, you get to become a sniper and embody their skills.

14 Comments

  1. Heliocentric says:

    The same patient paranoia runs through all of the bigger mapped games once the population slips below maximum. But pound for pound I’d say the mod Hidden: Source* is the most able to maintain tense, oppressive and startling throughout.
    * link to hidden-source.com

    • Heliocentric says:

      For a surprising contrast on this, if you have it and a friend to play it with Splinter Cell conviction has a 1vs1vsMooks competitive mode. You have stealth and a vast array of weaponry, but you’ll still get nailed to the wall buy the squads of guards if you stop treating them as a hazard while hunting your rival. Imagine playing Counterstrike against another team with Left4Dead’s zombies pouring over the map… Yes, That Resident evil Racoon City tried that exact scenario and it was rubbish but SC:Conviction does it’s version brilliantly.

  2. Palladian says:

    It’s interesting that one of the most ‘arcadey’ single-player shooters (complete with slow-time, x-ray bullets, comically evil Nazis, heroic Americans and slaughtering hordes of enemies) seems to have such a comparatively ‘authentic’ multiplayer which represents a real experience pretty well. I’ll have to give it a go.

    • check engine says:

      Why exactly are heroic Americans ‘arcadey’?

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’d mostly agree, but the plot of the single player of Sniper Elite V2 was deeply cynical, and was about getting Nazis to America, so they could assist with the space race. It did not allow the player to hide behind morality, any more than they hid behind a scope.

  3. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Reminds me of how tense a good sniper duel can get in Planetside 2.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Agreed!

      Will the hit reg work
      Will he or i rubber band before i can make the shot
      Will my mouse track accurately enough with this awful engine to make the shot in the first place
      Will i die of boredom and do something useful instead of hunting after this kill
      Will i make the perfect shot and the server just pretend i didn’t

      • SlimShanks says:

        Doesn’t even matter because Vanu just rolled the whole area! Again…

  4. liquidsoap89 says:

    The only time I ever played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was when I was playing on a sniper map. It was just two big buildings on opposite sides of the map, and snipers would hide and slowly try to find their enemies. It was excellent!

  5. Keasar says:

    Crap, wish this was posted earlier when the Sniper Elite series was on the Steam daily sale. :P

    In the case of it coming back as a big sale on the last day, is V2 recommended over 3 for its multiplayer?

  6. abHowitzer says:

    I had the same experiences playing rifle-only on the Pavlov level in multiplayer Call of Duty (the first one). Three buildings to hide in. Three buildings your enemy might be creeping around in. Three buildings you need to watch. But not too obviously watching, because if your rifle poked out into the open, he’d hit you within a millisecond.

    • bishmanrock says:

      Yes! I have these exact same memories, and it still stands as some of the best multi-player experiences I’ve ever had. Constantly peeking out of the window to see if your opponent was in one of the other buildings – but constantly having to turn t look at the door behind you just in case you’re both in the same one…

  7. vlonk says:

    Something something Spy Party hype.