Short Sessions, Part 13

This is another post in my series about the odd games that I have decided not to complete, although I will at least try them out for up to an hour or two.

Sniper Elite V2

Developer: Rebellion Developments | Released: 2012 | Genre: 3PS, Tactical

This was the second game in a popular sniper/stealth 3PS series. I remember briefly trying the first game more than 15 years ago. Just like this game, it had the renowned “bullet” cam where a successful shot with the sniper rifle from afar follows the bullets all the way to the target, sometimes then even followed by seeing the internal bones and organs of the victim as the bullet penetrates.

As such, the game was reasonable fun. I took some advice from a user review on Steam and didn’t bother using stealth at all. I just shot the nazis immediately as I found them on my way. It wasn’t too difficult on the easiest difficulty level. The soldiers ran around like chicken, took cover, flanked.

Sometimes I had to plant explosives or camp somewhere high and shoot a target. There was a little bit of Hitman in that the two real missions I tried for an hour was introduced by talking about the specific target I was supposed to kill. In one mission I had to stop a convoy first by shooting explosives.

The game used checkpoints and the mission in a mining facility set me back to the beginning after being gunned down to black and white. I chose this spot for ending what I never intended to complete anyway. I always just wanted to taste it. I’m pretty sure this game was another gift.


Developer: Radon Labs | Released: 2008 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

Played about 1½ hours of this now 15 years old RPG. It was average, without anything knocking my socks off. Sometimes it reminded me of the first isometric RPG’s in a 3D engine by more famous developers such as e.g. BioWare. Something in the line of Neverwinter Nights 2, which I completed in 2014.

The RPG used the rule set of The Dark Eye, which didn’t seem all that different from other games in the same genre. The game did offer an overwhelming palette of windows with combat stats, inventory, paper doll, perks, talents, recipes, etc. Since I had a feeling I wouldn’t be playing this for long, I didn’t really dive deep into it. I quickly created an Elementalist and started the game.

I ran around with WASD and controlled the camera with the right mouse button held down. Standard stuff. I soon found a few NPC for information and quests. Most of them didn’t have voice acting outside of actual cutscenes. I had to find people, kill a bear, and I found a female warrior as my second and only party member out of a possible four. She was angry and didn’t answer any damn questions.

Not the greatest attitude to put on your first companion.

Among the quests, two drunk kids wanted me to find their wizard teacher, and the warrior woman wanted to kill a bear in a cave. Across the river (using a bridge – of course we couldn’t just cross a two meters wide and shallow looking brook) we quickly found a cave system to explore. In there I killed big rats, bandits, found the wizard, and escorted him out. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The combat system didn’t feel all that polished. Sometimes hitting a number key for an action bar icon did nothing. I had to click the action bar icon directly to be sure. And even then, my Elementalist didn’t always cast a fire spell. The warrior companion sometimes attacked when I did, sometimes just stood there and pondered. I then had to click her and point at a rat. There. Go hit that one.

Talking with NPC also wasn’t as streamlined as it could be. There was way too much extra dialog clicking because the developers insisted on repeatedly showing the option about asking another question before leaving. In the beginning I also thought I had to mark the entire party to make sure the female warrior ran alongside me, but it turned out she did eventually follow – she just waited 50 meters or so. 😑

The game clearly wasn’t fond of Windows 10 either. It didn’t work well in full screen mode at all, so I had to switch to windowed mode. I selected the biggest screen resolution mode, which was 2560×1600, although still a window tinier than my 4K desktop. Later, when entering the cave across the brook, the game had a 2D texture problem and crashed with an exception error. Luckily it didn’t occur when retrying.

HITMAN: Season One

Developer: IO Interactive | Released: 2016 | Genre: 3PS, Stealth

Just as with Just Cause 3, it was actually my intention to play enough of this to warrant having its own blog post, but I just can’t muster the trial-and-error research gameplay style of this series anymore. It’s a wonder I made it through the first three games even if that was almost 20 years ago.

Still, I needed to try this since I had actually worked with IO Interactive in 2014-2017.

And damn if it wasn’t at least cool and stylish. I made it through the first two test missions on a staged ship, then a test mission in a staged military facility, and finally I briefly tasted the Paris and Sapienza missions. I was constantly in awe about the enormous crowds of people, the excellent animations, and the really slick user interface. Everything had been designed incredibly well. No doubt the game was a dream come true for the fans of this series. Just a shame that didn’t include me.

Right from the beginning, I was really annoyed at how easy the guards found me suspicious and sometimes eventually concluded that I was the impersonation of Hitler walking around so let’s all gun him down at the same time. I hated that shit. There was even one retry where I took the clothes of a worker in a secluded area in exactly the same way I had done several times before, yet this time around the guards instantly deemed me dangerous as I turned the corner. Gunned down just for existing. WTF!?

Oh, wait. I was holding a remote bomb device in my hands. That might actually have been it. My mistake.

I did like all the subtle gameplay details, even if it was also somehow overwhelming. Apart from all kinds of makeshift weapons lying around for the taking, there was a generator to be fiddled with, some rat poison here, a remote bomb there, a locker to hide a corpse inside, blending in a spot, quickly run from cover to cover, eavesdrop for opportunities, get intel, vaulting fences, climbing pipes – and that was just scratching the surface. A contextual crosshair of icons appeared as one of these actions nearby were possible, and it was assisted by a great mini map and a instinct hotkey for spotting people through walls.

Only the test missions were played properly. I shot the target with a silenced gun on the staged ship, then poisoned him in the second attempt. In the staged military facility, I snuck around the guards, climbed a pipe and got inside an office. The target and one guard arrived, and I popped them both.

Sounds easy, right? There were quite a few do-overs, especially on the ship.

So when I arrived in Paris, I decided to just walk around casually, checking out stuff. I watched the target walk down the stairs, presenting himself to the crowd, then walk away to attend a complicated matter. The next hall was a fashion show with really loud music. Such beautiful level design, and again an enormous crowd of people. I also loaded Sapienza and walked around in the Italian streets. Lots of shops and buildings that I could enter. The detail of everything was staggering.

PAYDAY: The Heist

Developer: Overkill Software | Released: 2011 | Genre: FPS

Tried this one for half an hour. Bank heists is not really my thing – both it and the second game in the series were gifts. I’d rather be a hero than run around shooting guards and being rude to hostages.

The premise was fundamentally simple. A team of four (three of which were AI driven in the single player mode) spawned right outside a really big city bank. As soon as I walked inside, the masks were on. Now we had to kill guards, tell hostages to keep down, maybe even tie their hands, find the manager and get the key, find some thermite for melting through a floor to the vault, fasten a drill on a gate and make sure it didn’t break down, find the security footage and delete it, etc. Lots of tasks popping up where suddenly I had to sprint to another part of the bank. Those tasks were fun and engaging in themselves.

Unfortunately, the resistance was completely over the top.

There were surprisingly many guards at first in the bank. As soon as we had eliminated those guards, enormous crowds of cops poured inside. They were all shooting like crazy, throwing smoke bombs and sometimes assisted by SWAT mates. Later I was even shot at by a sniper on a roof outside, and it didn’t seem like I could shoot back at him. Even a helicopter arrived with soldiers rappelling down.

I also had to make sure to use head shots since they were all bullet sponges.

It was crazy how ruthless the enemies were in this game. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a heist movie with this many cops and soldiers completely overwhelming the bank robbers that intensively. It sure would have made for a few very short movies indeed. I know this is a game, but still – talk about overkill.

An interesting detail was that both my mates and I wasn’t necessary killed when shot down. Another mate (or I) could run over and hold down a key for bringing me or the mate back into action. I also constantly saw messages about how the cops had freed another hostage.


Developer: Overkill Software | Released: 2013 | Genre: FPS

The sequel, released two years later, was essentially more of the same, although a little bit easier and with more varied missions. But it still had the core problem that the first game also had.

I tried the two first tutorial missions and a couple of real ones, cherry-picked from a map of icons. Again, we were four guys with masks, three of which were AI-controlled. The tutorial was about picking up a bag with coke in a mob home, then defending ourselves in a crossing where the van broke down.

Of the two real missions I picked, the first one was about damaging goods in expensive shops in a mall for 50.000 dollars worth, then escaping in a helicopter. Finally my team broke into a Russian laboratory by hacking one of two missile launchers stationed right outside the wall.

Four robbers with masks and ties in a snowy Russian landscape? 🤨

It was clearly easier than the first game. I almost didn’t die at all, and the shifting tasks in the heat of battle were once again engaging. However, it wasn’t always clear where I needed to go. Sometimes the task arrow was absent and I had to figure it out by myself. Not always fun in the middle of an ant farm of cops.

Because the core problem was back – and maybe it was even worse. Guards, cops, SWAT guys with or without big shields, snipers – sometimes they arrived at bottlenecks in clusters so massive, it almost looked liked a farce. My team mates were good shots, but they couldn’t prevent me from getting shot at almost every second while I was holding down a key for e.g. placing a drill on a locked door.

But maybe it makes for a different kind of fun in a cooperative game with four real players?

See also: Short Sessions, Part 12

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