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Shooting Nazis in the arse while lying flat out in the prone position in the middle of my living room might be the best video game experience I’ve ever had

My first attempt at incapacitating the patrolling Nazi soldier on the rooftop of this enemy-occupied infantry base ended in failure. Carved into the snowy hills of La Spezia, a city in the Liguria region of northern Italy, the view from up here is spectacular. Off in the distance, a long strand of cloud sits just about the horizon leaving a strip of clear blue beneath it. In-game, I turn my head a full 360 degrees to take it all in, and the same line follows me all the way around. In reality, I’m in the middle of my living room with the table pushed into the corner. I have a Meta Quest 3 headset strapped to my face, and I’m deep in the throes of Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior.

I survey my surroundings. I move slowly. I hold my imaginary rifle with two hands across my chest as if my life depends on it. Maybe it does. I’ve only been playing for five minutes or so but I’m already taking it entirely too seriously. I look like a total dick. And I’m experiencing what is definitely one of my favorite ever moments in my 30+ years of playing video games.

Curtain call


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To be clear: in my attempt to incapacitate this Nazi bastard I’m not trying to spare him. I simply don’t want to alert his mates to my presence, and so I’ve opted to take him down quietly, which is proving easier said than done.

My first attempt saw me successfully sneak up from behind and land a punch squarely to the back of my adversary’s head. I thought this would knock him out, but instead he simply shouted what I think was “ouch” in German, before pivoting and shooting me between the eyes. On my second attempt, I tried a similar method only swapped my balled fists for the butt of my rifle. That is, until I dropped the bloody thing in the snow which fast tracked me to the same outcome above; me flat out on my back, staring wide-eyed at the gorgeous morning sky as my crimson blood turned the white ground around us red.

On my third attempt, I went full Rambo. I sprinted straight down the base’s central thoroughfare and unleashed a volley of gunfire into the torso of the offending Nazi, causing him to fold like a bad Poker hand and tumble head-first down a flight of concrete stairs. Clearly disturbed by the melee, his pal emerged from around a corner, rifle raised and ready to go. He too took a similarly unhinged shower of bullets to the face. With the base now on red alert, I flitted between whatever cover I could find until I found relative safety camped behind a stack of metal trunks filled with ammunition.

With my heart racing, in-game and in real-life, I watched as enemy soldiers scuttled back and forth like ants in a state of panic. Alarm bells rang and the frantic rumble of backup units en route grew steadily louder. Hitting the B button on the Quest Touch Plus controller lets you switch between standing and crouching – but it occurred to me that simply crouching in real-life might be reflected on-screen in the same way. To my delight, it was. Which of course saw me move from standing, to crouching, to lying flat out on my living room floor like a yoga instructor in a matter of seconds as I scoped out my next target. Thank Christ I’d drawn the curtains beforehand.

Bum steer

What followed sent me into a state of unbridled joy. In my beleaguered bid to snipe the hordes of soldiers before me, I sent my first shot so wayward that it punctured the left bum cheek of one poor bastard Nazi. He screamed, stumbled and set up the perfect head shot – through which I was treated to Sniper Elite’s signature slow-motion death cam. After that, every shot was treated the same: I aimed for the buttocks like a perverted game hunter as I wounded, then maimed with careless abandon, laughing out loud at the top of my lungs as I did so. I don’t say this lightly, but this routine is genuinely up there with some of the most fun I’ve had while playing video games in my entire life.

It’s worth noting that as well as being a big fan of Sniper Elite 5 and the wider Sniper Elite series, I’m also a child of the ’90s who has fallen for the promise of virtual reality as a concept more times than I care to admit. VR has been the next big thing for over 30 years now, and while I’ve enjoyed myself with a number of games over the years, I’ve invariably come away thinking: this is cool, but the technology doesn’t quite feel like it’s there yet. Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior isn’t the answer to this – its visuals are a little rough around the edges in parts; its movement responsiveness occasionally lags – but it is definitely great fun. And if the tech isn’t quite there to fully transport us into make believe worlds wholeheartedly, then I’ll definitely settle for having a laugh in the meantime.

As such, Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior knows what it is and who it’s for. It features the same dedication to realism found in the mainline series – in terms of the weapons you’ll fire, the settings you’ll explore and the timeline you’ll follow – while leaning heavily into its signature less credible stuff, not least its larger-than-life, organ-exploding slow-mo death cam.

Here’s the official skinny on what Winter Warrior’s all about, as per publisher Rebellion: “In Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior, you assume the role of ‘the Partisan,’ a former Italian resistance soldier, and embark on a campaign to uncover and destroy Nazi ‘wonder-weapons.’ The game offers a compelling story-driven campaign, along with two additional game modes, Sniper Hunt and Last Stand, challenging players to out-maneuver expert Nazi snipers and survive waves of enemies.”

While playing in campaign mode myself, my above scenario probably better reflected the latter’s mention of surviving enemy waves and out-maneuvering expert Nazi snipers. Victory by any means necessary is the general gist of war, right? Unorthodox as it may be, I took that to mean shooting Nazis in the arse. And what a time I had doing it.

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