Sniper: Art of Victory

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Feeling and looking more like the lone refugee from a circa-1990s discount bin, this highly flawed Polish import is so wrong in so many ways that it really can't be recommended to anyone, despite its discounted price point. The story goes like this: You take the role of a Soviet marksman shot down behind enemy lines during World War II. Your goal is to use your smarts and your sniping expertise to make your way back through a gaggle of headhunting Nazis to the nearest Allied unit.

This scenario, as utterly dull as it is, is soon lost in a raging sea of disappointing graphics, ridiculous artificial intelligence, and woeful shooting mechanics. In Sniper, you can walk up to an enemy soldier, shoot him in the face, and somehow miss your target. You can spot a Nazi through a window, set up your shot, then watch helplessly as your bullet fails to penetrate said window. You can take pot shots all over the place, making a ton of noise in the process and whizzing hot lead past the eyeballs of the bad guys, only to only to have them continue on their merry way, unaware of anything at all.

Perhaps most annoyingly, you can stealthily advance though a given mission, sneaking about and watching your every move and taking out the enemies you're somehow able to spot behind all the scenery and the fog, but then fall immediately dead, the victim of a single blast from an unseen source. Grr.

Sniping is, not surprisingly, the game's key element. It's played up in a big way, with a "Snipe mode" that zooms your perspective and offers all manner of gauges and displays and effects that take into account real life factors such as wind direction and resistance, target distance, and even your own heartbeat. Indeed, the screen itself appears to move about as you breathe, which necessitates that you hit a key to hold your breath when you shoot. It all looks and seems pretty cool actually, but when you completely miss your target on the first shot then hit it on a second shot aimed in precisely the same spot, you can't help but feel a bit cynical about the whole thing.

But a sniper rifle isn't the only weapon at your disposal. You'll also pack a Luger and a knife when you begin, and you'll have a chance to grab other guns and even grenades as you stroll about. Sadly, our experience with the alternate weapons, in particular the Luger, proved to be a wholesale disappointment.

For starters, the game loses most of its already slim fun quotient when the sniping element and sniping interface have been removed. It's not a pretty game by today's standards, it doesn't sound particularly thrilling, and the missions are nauseatingly repetitive. But the worst part of all is that the Luger offers such brutal accuracy that you'd swear it's broken.

As we just alluded, Sniper is darn near ugly. Its palette is drab and lifeless, its animations are rudimentary (we watched one soldier move back and forth, back and forth, like one of those metal animals at a circus shooting gallery), and its pixels are big and prominent. And honestly, what soldier worth his salt will float in mid-air after he dies?

It does load and unload very quickly and it is stable. For that we give thanks.

Things are slightly better from an audio perspective. Although the voice acting, of which there is little, is stiff and totally unconvincing, the game regales you with thoughtful details such as the whoosh of the wind, the crunch of your footsteps, and the sound of your own breathing. You'll also hear so many twittering birds that you may think you're playing the latest in the Tiger Woods PGA series.

The gameplay as a whole is little more than a series of generally unimaginative, dead linear missions that completely fail to captivate or compel you to drive forward. Some variety is offered in the fact that you can jump to the far more Veteran level after you've completed the comparatively easy Recruit level, though the number of your sudden deaths will only incrementally increase once you're there. A multiplayer mode would likely have added a little more intrigue if just so you could bitch to your buddies about the awfulness of the game, but none can be found.

System Requirements

Windows XP/ Vitsa/ 7;
DirectX 9.0 or higher (included on DVD);
1.6 GHz CPU;
512MB of RAM; ATI Radeon 8500 or GeForce3 class graphics card (or better recommended);
16-bit DirectX9 compatible sound card;
2GB Hard Disk Space;

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