I've had my sights firmly set on Sniper Elite VR ever since its initial announcement in 2019. As a big fan of both the flat Sniper Elite games, and open-world VR experiences, the thought of playing a combination of both of these things put my excitement into overdrive. But, after sniping and stealthing my way through the first half of the game, does Sniper Elite VR have a shot at living up to the hype in my head?
You can decide for yourself by watching this week's episode of Ian's VR Corner where you'll be able to follow me through two full levels of the PC VR version of Sniper Elite VR. Both levels are fairly short, but they'll give you a good idea about the mixture of gameplay styles that you'll encounter during the game.
The first level featured is basically a standard VR shooting gallery where, with the help a group of resistance fighters, I have to defend an oil refinery from waves of Wehrmacht. The second level feels much more like a classic Sniper Elite level though. That means there's a semi-open-world structure to the level which encourages you to use stealth, planning and patience in order to take out as many Nazis as possible before they spot you and set off an alarm.
You'll notice in the video above, that in Sniper Elite VR, you're not playing as the series' usual protagonist, Karl Fairburne. Instead, you'll be filling the boots of a member of the Italian Resistance who also acts as the narrator for your adventures.
The levels themselves, especially in the first few hours, are very short indeed and each one can be easily completed in less than 10 minutes. These types of bitesized missions work great if you're new to VR and need regular breaks, but for someone like me who enjoys spending hours at a time inside virtual worlds, being constantly pulled in and out of the action really hurt the immersion.
It's the same trap that Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond fell into. By breaking the game up into tiny chunks in order to appeal to newcomers rather than letting us lose ourselves in large open worlds that we can explore at our own pace, players are never given enough time to truly feel like they're part of the world. Instead it's almost like your watching an interactive slide show - a series of loosely connected scenes that are bookended with lengthy periods of narration and loading.
But that's not to say it's not fun. The constant skipping around at the start does get aggravating, but in later levels like the second one featured in the video above you do start to feel a lot more freedom. It's during these levels that you can really lose yourself in the experience and live out your sniper fantasies and it's where Sniper Elite VR really begins to feel like it's capturing the atmosphere of the traditional games.
As you'd hope, the weapon handling here is top notch and the swapping, firing and reloading of the guns was pretty much stress free (aside from the double barrel shotgun, which you'll be able to see me 'attempt' to wield in the video). The stars of the show though are undoubtably the sniper rifles, which benefit massively from having fully virtual scopes to peer through.
I've played plenty of VR games that feature sniper rifles but many have opted for the frankly terrible alternative of bringing up a flat screen when you look down your sights. The way the scopes are modelled in Sniper Elite VR however, is pretty much perfect. The magnification on the scopes works really well, there's a curve to the lenses which bends the edge of the image slightly and you can see the blurred innards of the scope when you're not holding it directly up to your eye. It really is a masterclass in how to do scoped weapons in VR and honestly, this will be the standard by which I judge sniper rifles in other VR games going forward.
That means, if you're heading into Sniper Elite VR with the expectation of firing a selection of accurately modelled WW2 sniper rifles, you'll be in for a treat. However, at least for the first part of the game, those moments when you truly feel like a stealthy sniper will be few and far between. I'm not sure if the levels will get much bigger or longer than the second one you can see in the video above. I've not had the chance to play past that point yet but if they don't, I think that Sniper Elite VR's potential to be an immersive sniping simulator will suffer greatly and it may just miss the mark for me.
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian's VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I've covered Valheim VR's motion controls mod, Doom 3 VR Edition and everything we know about PSVR 2 so far. You can also read our list of the best VR games.