In Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior, you target enemys and infiltrate bases like Sam Fischer once did. How does it play on Meta Quest 3?
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is the second VR outing for Rebellion’s traditional stealth shooter series. As in the first game, you take on the role of an Italian freedom fighter and assassinate Nazis in a World War II setting.
For the preview of Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior, I was allowed to play the first two missions after the tutorial on Meta Quest 3.
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is as close to its predecessor as it gets
Like its PC VR predecessor, Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior pits you against the Nazis in Italy as the lone fighter, “The Partisan”. They want to win the World War II with mysterious “wonder weapons”.
My humble mission is to destroy the plans for those weapons, eliminate all those behind them, and drive the Nazis out of my homeland once and for all.
Anyone who has played Sniper Elite VR on PSVR or PC VR will feel right at home. The partisan is voiced by the same voice actor, the menus are familiar, and the gameplay of Winter Warrior is almost identical to its predecessor.
Sneak, shoot, repeat
At the beginning of a mission, the Partisan briefly explains what I have to do and how best to proceed. In the first two missions, I have to plant an explosive device in a harbor and locate and eliminate an important officer in an old Nazi villa.
The core gameplay consists of sneaking and shooting. I decide if I want to move silently or behave like a bulldozer. To infiltrate a camp unseen, I have to move carefully between crates or under the cover of darkness. I also have smaller alternate routes off the main path at my disposal. The first two maps, however, are not particularly large.
At the push of a button, I crouch down and silently approach a guard. Once I’m close enough, I draw my weapon and hit the bad guy in the head. In some situations, I can also shoot undetected if very loud ambient noises drown out the shot.
In my first mission, the Nazis were firing a powerful cannon in the distance. The sound helped me move undetected. These stealth moments are inevitably one of the game’s strengths, even if they are not too challenging — at least at the first two missions.
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior doesn’t have the smartest opponents
As a native German speaker, the unintentionally funny dubbed German voices of the guards sound like something out of an 80s B-movie and always make me smile. Unfortunately, the movement sequences of the bots are blessed with much less charm.
In the nearly two hours I’ve spent with Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior so far, I’ve rarely encountered coherent enemy behavior. The guards have clearly defined routes that they usually do not deviate from. However, when it comes to firefights, they sometimes run around in a completely uncoordinated manner, crouching next to cover, or following me into a room, where I can easily take them out one at a time.
The alarm triggers also seem a bit arbitrary. For example, shooting outside a mansion will lure a dozen enemies into the yard. But if I’m in the building and shoot around me in the lobby, it won’t scare the guy in the next room away from his desk.
Extensive and authentic arsenal of weapons
The developers have provided an extensive arsenal of authentic WWII weapons for the firefights. Even in the first two missions, there are about ten different pistols and rifles lying around. Gun enthusiasts will have a lot of fun, especially since most of the weapons behave differently.
Pistols and ammunition can be stored in an adjustable holster on the body, while rifles can be slung over the back with a handle. However, the gunplay, which is so important for a shooter, hasn’t convinced me yet. The weapons sound a bit tinny, there’s a lack of hit feedback, and reloading doesn’t always work smoothly.
Of course, I understand that virtual reality makes it tempting to make the handling of weapons as realistic as possible. But this is rarely a good idea. If reloading a weapon requires up to four hand movements, but the controls are not one hundred percent accurate, the desired realism will promote frustration instead of immersion.
On the bolt-action rifle, for example, the grip points for the bolt and the grip are so close together that the game keeps misinterpreting my input. Fortunately, I have a wide variety of weapons to choose from, and between missions I can pick out the most practical weapons for the next mission.
Kill Cam in VR with typical Sniper Elite camerawork
The sniper rifle, which is so important to the series, has been the most fun for me so far. I have to hold the rifle with both hands and keep my eye on the scope. While looking through it, I can activate a focus mode that makes my virtual hands more stable and stabilizes the image. A red circle that gets smaller with every breath also helps me aim.
If I score a direct hit, the camera elegantly follows the bullet to the enemy, then switches to a third-person x-ray view that shows the penetration of the skull or intestines in detail. This may sound a bit macabre, but it is so exaggerated that even those with a weak stomach should have no problems with it.
It’s just a shame that the developers didn’t implement the kill cam in VR more consistently. The abrupt change of perspective takes me out of the immersion. I would have liked the camera to stay on the bullet and let me run through the enemy in slow motion with an all-around view.
My assessment of Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior
The stealth genre seems to be back in vogue in VR. Fast Travel Games just brought a real hit to Quest 3, PSVR 2, and PC with their World of Darkness conversion Vampire: The Masquerade — Justice, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Nexus could be the next big VR hit with stealth potential.
If you’re not into vampires or assassins, the world war setting of Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior is an interesting alternative. In terms of gameplay, however, I see little chance for the stealth-shooter mix in a direct comparison.
The second VR spin-off of the popular Sniper series doesn’t bring any fresh impulses, the enemy AI is immature, and the game doesn’t look up-to-date graphically either. However, if Rebellion can score points with creative mission design in the remaining levels, Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior could at least be a decent VR game for stealth and shooter fans.
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior will be released on November 30th, 2023 for Meta Quest 3, Quest 2 and Quest Pro.
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