At E3, you end up playing builds of games that are coming to PC, but demoed on a different system entirely. For Sniper Elite VR, I was playing on a PlayStation 4 with that console's strange gun controller (opens in new tab)—and that's how I ended up poking myself in the face while I was trying to aim my gun at some Nazis. I guess that means I was getting a bit too into it.
This demo is nice and simple. It's basically a shooting gallery from a rooftop, though you can freely move around to get better angles on your targets, and it's a good representation of how aiming and shooting works in VR. There are essentially two stages to picking off a target in Sniper Elite VR: you need to hold the rifle to your eye line correctly, otherwise the game will show you the inside of the scope. Then, of course, you need to actually aim while you're holding the rifle steady. Collectively, those two elements make the weapon in your hands feel nice and real.
You're playing as a member of the Italian resistance, trying to oust the Nazi threat from Sicily, as part of a new campaign. The X-Ray killcam returns from elsewhere in the series, only now you get the bizarre sensation of enjoying each bone-shattering kill in VR. There's no shortage of shooting gallery-type games for VR headsets, of course, but it feels like Rebellion's expertise in making sniping games is what you're getting here—the essential elements from Sniper Elite seem to have made it across.
"I was a bit concerned whether the Sniper Elite experience would translate into VR when we were first discussing it, because I was really concerned about the Killcam, for example, and how that would work," says Rebellion CEO and creative director Jason Kingsley. "And I was quite concerned about how you would aim and all that."
"So I was dubious at the beginning when we were talking about it, but I really like VR. VR is to me a kind of a new medium, because it's a relatively unexplored game space. I imagine it’s a bit like mountaineers suddenly discovering a whole new range of mountains that nobody knew about and 'Wow, how exciting is that?'
"We're still fighting with it as a medium, we’re still trying to find the grammar that helps us understand how to make a game in that space," Kingsley says. "We had to unlearn a lot of things, and reinvent things."
If I had one issue with the build, aiming at distant enemies is blurrier than I'd like, but that's more of a hardware limitation issue than anything. I'm also curious about how aiming will feel on PC minus the dedicated PlayStation gun controller, which is the only way I could sample the game at E3—it's coming to Viveport, Steam VR and Oculus Rift, after all. It feels like the key parts of Sniper Elite are here, though, and it's likely that fans of the series will get a kick out of enjoying the guns from this new perspective.