Sniper: Art of Victory

Sniper: Art of Victory is a game that caught me off guard with how much I enjoyed it.

The basic premise is straightforward and only moderately unusual: it's a first-person shooter, you're specifically playing a Russian sniper in World War II, and it's distinguishing point is that it shoots for greater realism in bullet physics. Gravity drags your shots down an appreciable distance (Where bullets in most games travel in a straight line over any amount of distance), wind can pull your bullet left or right, and your innate qualities as a squishy body of meat mean you don't hold your aim perfectly steady, with the game including crouch and crawl modes that improve your aim. Even your breathing influences your aim!

In practical implementation, the first third to half of the game (There's no multiplayer mode) works out as an unusual and interesting stealth game that happens to be an FPS. You die incredibly fast to being shot, with the only qualifier there being non-sniper enemies have terrible accuracy at longer ranges. This latter reinforces the former's implications; ideally, you kill enemies without being detected, preferably by sniping them at long range, the latter in part because if you do miss the shot or the shot alerts other enemies in the area you're unlikely to be killed by retaliatory fire.

This whole thing contrasts sharply with typical stealth gameplay, where the focus is on sneaking up behind targets to take them out, and thus is a fairly novel experience even if you've played a lot of stealth games. Maintaining an awareness of and retaining control of lines of sight is still important, but very different in implications and execution, with different priorities. Naturally, one of those different priorities is that getting to a tall point with a clear view to a large portion of the map is ideal, because you'll be able to fairly safely kill a number of enemies -even if they manage to spot you.

Unfortunately, the game has two key flaws that drag it down a bit. The first is that it's a very sort game with limited replay value. There's only two difficulty modes, and there's something like ten missions, which can generally be completed in under 20 minutes apiece, even with fairly cautious play. The second is that once you're a third or so of the way into the game it switches from fairly basic setup of 'here's a map, here's where you need to go, now try not to get killed by Nazis' to heavily scripted sequences. This is a problem for a lot of reasons, such as that the game is poor at what it really wants you to do at any given moment, but the key problem is that it's a near-total abandonment of the initial portion's interesting and encouraging-of-creativity gameplay. Maps become too linear to allow for more than a handful of correct answers, enemies are often 'activated' through no fault of your own so that the stealth gameplay is thrown out the window entirely, and there are specific scripted sequences that deliberately toss out the core gameplay. (Such as when you're forced to flee from a couple of tanks for a minute)

There's minor flaws I could point to as well, such as how the 'breathing effects your aim' mechanic is so mild in its influence it might as well not be a mechanic at all, but really if the game had just been twice as long and restricted itself to a series of sandbox stealth sequences I'd feel it was outright great. As-is, those two flaws drag it down to... something I'm quite glad to have played, but wish it was more like a full game rather than a demo of a really interesting concept.

Unfortunately, its sequel seems to have looked at the weak parts of the game and somehow concluded those were the parts to emulate and expand on, so it doesn't look like I can expect the Really Cool Parts of Art of Victory to be expanded into a proper game.


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