Returning to the Italian front of World War II, and the backdrop of 2017’s Sniper Elite 4, Sniper Elite VR shelves main marksman Karl Fairburne and casts us as a rough n’ tumble Italian resistance fighter with a similarly potent penchant for putting holes in Nazis. Boasting a hearty arsenal of World War II weapons that feel great to shoot, Sniper Elite VR’s arcade-style combat is bloody fun, though a number of technical kinks and a poorly-paced story hold it back from being a bona fide bullseye.
Sniper Elite VR performs well on the Oculus Quest 2. It’s easy to sustain 90 frames per second in the heat of the action, and that’s especially important given that you need those high framerates in order to keep your edge in the midst of Sniper Elite VR’s regularly frantic and fast-paced combat. There can be quite a lot going on at any given moment.
Sniper Elite VR Gameplay Screenshots
Most of the time you spend in Sniper Elite VR has you exploring on your own, sneaking through enemy lines, perching yourself upon vantage points for the best shot, and performing specific objectives to move through each map. There’s a thin story here but it’s poorly told and even more poorly paced. It’s literally impossible to care about any of these characters because just as soon as they’re introduced, they either die or betray you. The chronic narration is also downright awkward – the narrator’s wistful tone completely clashes with Sniper Elite VR’s constant carnage – and missions simply end with a Mission Complete menu that shows you your score. The story serves solely as a reason to run around, blow things up, and kill Nazis.
That said, this is an arcade game at its core. It features enjoyable arcade-style combat that clearly displays how many points you earn per action, and it rewards you the highest bonuses for pulling off the most creative or tricky kills with your sniper rifle. It’s cool that you get bonus points, for example, against enemies that were distracted by fighter planes droning overhead. Other environmental sounds can disguise your gunshots as well, and you can earn some major bonuses by masterminding intricate kills with your rifle. Sniper Elite VR also retains the series’ positively wild killcam and, depending on how far you dial it up, you can see your best kills in intense, x-ray detail. This is only recommended if you’re able to stomach it, though. Not only is it jarring to experience the full effect in VR – your screen can even follow the bullet out of your rifle when you have that feature toggled – but Sniper Elite’s killcam is famously brutal and depicts bullets shredding through bones and other essential organs with gruesome detail.
There are plenty of different classic WWII-era firearms, like the Karabiner 98K and the MP40, and it’s great that you can customize your loadout between missions to get the weapons you want right out of the gate. Each one operates differently and has an appropriate kick. On Marksman difficulty (or below) every bullet is a tracer, meaning you can immediately adjust your accuracy as needed. It doesn’t look that cool, but it’s useful for practicing your shot and being more effective in combat. It’s especially useful when playing with a weapon that suffers from serious bullet drop at long ranges (such as the M1934 pistol) or when other simulation elements like noise or exact timing come into play and you need to be very deliberate with your shots.
Unfortunately there are no melee weapons, and the melee combat that does exist – where you swipe enemies with the butt of your rifle – is pretty weak. It’s also annoying that you can’t hold your sidearms with two hands, and you must manually reach in and pull out the magazine when you want to reload (instead of just tapping the X or A button as in other popular VR shooters).
Fortunately, you can hold your offhand trigger to activate slow motion. This also displays a reticle where you’re aiming your gun. Due to the fact that, for some reason, every weapon fires a little above your sights, I found myself leaning on this feature a lot by the end – like how it’s easy to end up relying too much on V.A.T.S. in Fallout, or the Dead Eye system in Red Dead Redemption.
Enemies do try to flank you, but they also sometimes shoot through walls – and the lack of indicators means it can be difficult to figure out where you’re getting shot at from. The fact that there are no autosaves doesn’t help, especially since the save points you do find are wildly inconsistent. Sometimes they’re unnecessarily close together, and other times they’re placed way too far apart. This may result in sections where you might die over and over again before gaining any ground.
Grabbing and reloading weapons feels more natural than it did in Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, and there are some great accessibility options and difficulty settings that help customize your experience. The Oculus Quest 2’s tracking itself is pretty iffy, though, and there are too many moments where you might accidentally grab your sidearm or outright drop your rifle when you’re trying to reload.
There are some other kinks to work out, too. For instance, attempting to crouch in the real world causes Sniper Elite VR to stop and show an “out of bounds” sign until you press a button that makes your character crouch for you. Other times, things just outright stop working. At one point, I had to completely restart a mission due to corrupt save data. Another time, my Panzerfaust fired backwards and killed me instantly.
It’s also particularly aggravating that the final few missions are locked behind completely arbitrary and random progress gates that force replays of several missions before it’s even possible to finish the main story. You have to do a relatively high number of bonus objectives in order to wrap things up, and it’s frustrating. By the end, all I wanted to do was be done with it. I can’t help but think this is meant to pad the length of the campaign, but the campaign’s length wasn’t much of an issue to begin with. I’d have been happier if they made challenges and bonus activities fun for their own sake rather than vital to even reach the last level. None of the individual activities are too unreasonable – most of them equate to something like “beat the level in under 10 minutes” or “kill 12 enemies with grenades” – but there are a lot of them, and you basically have to get them all.