Sniper Elite VR hands-on preview at PAX South 2020

We caught up to Rebellion at PAX South to take the rifle in our own hands and put some dirty Nazis down in Sniper Elite VR.

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Sniper Elite has always been ridiculously fun for the ways in which it allows you to outmaneuver your enemies, use the environment against them, and then splatter them with the bombastically gory x-ray kills that show you exactly what your bullets are doing to nasty Nazi insides, so color me intrigued when I learned that Rebellion was taking their iconic series into the realm of virtual reality with Sniper Elite VR. I caught up to them at PAX South and strapped on the headset for myself to see what it was like to take the iconic rifle in hand and fight back the Nazis one deftly placed bullet at a time. Spoilers: It’s both immersive and as immensely satisfying as ever.

Becoming the Sniper Elite

Sniper Elite VR is coming to PlayStation VR and Microsoft Windows, but for my demo, we took up the PSVR. From the get-go, the first thing I noticed what how the rifle handled with the way I used the controllers. Where the regular game has you change weapons and use an aim button to look down the sights, you’re handling the trajectory of the gun in your own two hands in Sniper Elite VR. That means that you can also lift it up to your face to look down the scope and focus in on targets. It might seem so small a detail, but it instantly got us into the mood of the game as we started zeroing in on the enemies and lining up our shots. Don’t worry if you’re a terrible shot. Sniper Elite VR still has the Focus Aim function that will allow you to slowly zoom further in on your targets for the killing blow.

For my demo, I started on a broken roof top and had to traverse different impromptu roofway paths to get my angles on Nazi soldiers on balconies, behind trenches, hiding near building corners, and more. Of course, occasionally when I’d line up a particularly lethal shot, the action would pause and I’d get the kill cam that would show the bullet destroying a Nazi in x-ray vision. These moments felt exactly the way they should for a Sniper Elite game.

Sniper Elite VR offers players free movement of their characters to interact with levels, which should make for interesting engagements and disengagements as you play through the game's campaign.
Sniper Elite VR offers players free movement of their characters to interact with levels, which should make for interesting engagements and disengagements as you play through the game's campaign.

For the short time I played, the shooting mechanics were the star of the show and it played out somewhat like a shooting gallery, and while Sniper Elite VR won’t quite feature the sprawling maps of Sniper Elite 4, Sniper Elite VR Assistant Producer Thomas Biggins mentioned that it will still feature its own full campaign, designed from the ground-up for a good, full-length game.

“You won’t get the same open landscape of Sniper Elite 4, but that means we can cater levels specifically to VR moments,” Biggins told us. “We can set up these core scenarios for people with full levels and a full campaign featuring full movement. It’s not quite open world, but we can craft these cool VR experiences in each level.”

That is to say, while it might feel a little bit like a shooting gallery at times in Sniper Elite VR based on my demo, there was also a solid range of movement and interaction that seemed set for more complex levels.

The VR experience on Sniper Elite

As virtual reality continues to evolve, so too do the options and accessibility that games should be offering. We see this in the design rhetoric of games like Half-Life: Alyx, where Valve is actively pursuing accessibility options for players, but Sniper Elite VR is offering some creature comforts for VR players of every kind too.

Comfort is eveyrthing in VR and Sniper Elite VR offers numerous options to keep the player comfortable while keeping the Sniper Elite experience intact.
Comfort is eveyrthing in VR and Sniper Elite VR offers numerous options to keep the player comfortable while keeping the Sniper Elite experience intact.

From the start of the demo, I was asked how I wanted to play the game. Sniper Elite VR offered me smoothly controlled directional movement and teleportation movement for this choice. Then I got the option of whether I wanted smooth vision movement or snap directional movement. These are the usual options we ought to see. I chose smooth movement and vision at first and ended up a little seasick as a result, so having the option to switch over to the other options at any time was nice. Furthermore, my demo allowed me to reset the game’s visual representation, as well as the orientation of my weapon, with just a press and hold of a single button. The whole experience controlled well and was seemed pleasantly adaptable from the beginning to the end.

If the demo was anything to go by, Sniper Elite VR is shaping up to offer nearly everything that a Sniper Elite game should be about in a gratifying fashion. The aiming, shooting, and repositioning were a top-notch experience during the demo, and the accessible features to make the VR fit my comfort needs were much appreciated. By the time I was done, I was left wanting to try again, and I absolutely want to see more.

Sniper Elite VR is slated for launch from Rebellion on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive in late 2020. If you want to learn more about the game, be sure to follow Rebellion on Twitter, or check out the game’s website for the latest updates.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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