Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior hits Quest soon, but what’s changed from Sniper Elite VR? Read on for our developer interview:
Two years on from Sniper Elite VR, Winter Warrior calls us to arms once again. Like before, there’s no Karl Fairburne saving the day and, instead, this latest campaign sees us destroying Nazi ‘wonder-weapons’ with the Italian Resistance. We interviewed Rebellion and Just Add Water to learn more, who provided UploadVR with exclusive gameplay footage:
“VR has come a long way since the first game came out,” Jordan Woodward, Head of Design at Rebellion, told me. “We’ve been paying attention to the user experience. As new headsets come out, there’s a lot more consistency in control schemes in the way people play VR.”
With the setting shifting to Northern Italy in winter ’44, Kieran Forrester, Associate Producer at Just Add Water, explained the team wanted to “completely move away” from what they had already done, looking toward the northern Gothic Line during that time.
“It was less, ‘let’s do a similar game in winter,’ and more, ‘let’s move this where it was relevant,’ Forrester advised, calling the snowy setting a nice visual break from the original. “It’s also something a lot of Sniper Elite fans have asked us for.”
Diving into the specifics, I asked if there’s any particular feedback both teams addressed from the original game. “All of it,” said Les Ellis, Studio Director from Just Add Water.
“There was lots of talking about changes we could make to melee combat, stealth, improving the gunplay, which is what Sniper [Elite] is all about. What they did with the original Sniper stuff was really good but there was room for improvement. We were all keen to get those issues resolved as quickly as we could and there was quite a hit list when we started out.”
Forrester explained they’ve also worked on making enemies react differently, instead of simply adding more variants. “When you go loud, it feels like going loud. You’re feeling that response back from the enemies. Or if you’re going down the stealth route, you’re feeling that you’ve got the opportunity to be stealthy here.”
Part of this involves lobbing snowballs to distract enemies, who will then investigate the sound. “We’ve tried to make sure that there were as many opportunities for players to leverage that sound detection by making sure that there are items around in, especially in the areas where stealth is a viable option,” Forrester continued.
I’m also told Winter Warrior adds some “fan favorite” new weapons, though don’t expect too many. “I wouldn’t say there is a greater range, but we’ve made sure that we haven’t just copy and pasted,” Forrester replied. “Most weapons have been carried over from the original Sniper Elite VR but we are introducing some weapons like the M1A1 Thompson SMG and M1 Garand rifle.”
I asked if the campaign contains locked levels again, something our review criticized. Forrester said that’s no longer the case. “The star system that was before locking missions before has now become a challenge system. It’s an additional way for players to try things they wouldn’t necessarily do the first time round.” Woodward believes this adds replayability by encouraging different play styles.
It’s not just the campaign this time, and Winter Warrior features two solo modes – ‘Sniper Hunt’ sees you fight an AI Nazi sniper, while ‘Last Stand’ pits you against increasing enemy waves. “We wanted to cater to the wider fan base,” Woodward told me. “We haven’t got invasion mode or a 1v1 multiplayer mode in a VR title just yet, but this is the next best thing in Winter Warrior.”
Asking why they didn’t add multiplayer, I’m told it was discussed but they had to consider Quest 2 limitations. “We’re pushing the hardware a hell of a lot with this one,” Ellis stated. “Adding other players adds extra stresses to things like your framerate, there are limits we’re not allowed to drop below.”
Ellis says they would have to lower the campaign’s visual fidelity for multiplayer, which would create further time-consuming challenges with testing. “We wanted to polish and improve everything from the first game in a single-player game and then think about multiplayer maybe further down the line,” he explains, saying it’s something the teams would consider if there’s another game.
While Woodward can’t confirm Rebellion’s future plans, I also asked whether the studio’s ever considered bringing Zombie Army to VR. “I think it would be a really good fit for the VR platform. Both shooting and zombie games do very well in VR and I think Zombie Army would look pretty great.”
As for Quest 3 improvements, Forrester said “it’s going to look a lot more sharp. We’ve come in during that really awkward position of the Quest 3 happening to launch during development, so we didn’t get much time to put into the Quest 3 version.”
Given the recent push toward mixed reality games on Quest 3, I checked whether MR was ever considered. Though the teams looked at ideas, this ultimately didn’t fit the game’s more realistic approach, saying “it wouldn’t necessarily be a great fit to put Nazis in your living room.”
Ellis calls it “a fine line to walk” between realistic visuals and gritty gameplay. “Doing something like [mixed reality] just for the sake of doing it would have been wrong. I think would have pulled away from the emotion and the realism of the game, and the complex storyline.” Woodward believes MR features are “incredibly exciting” on Quest 3 and says “there could be more exploration in future titles.”
Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior arrives on November 30 on the Meta Quest platform for $15.