Any game where you can shoot Nazis in the testicles and then watch an X-ray cross section of their landing gear unfold to reveal their plums popping in slow motion has no right to look good as a Sniper Elite 5. Even so, I never ceased to be amazed at how detailed and lifelike the miniature open-world environments in Rebellion’s needlessly bloody snipe-em-up could be.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the game’s Spy Factory level, set in and around a stunning recreation of Normandy’s famous tidal island, Mont-Saint-Michel. The approach to this island is littered with photorealistic rocks and sand dunes that feel like they’ve been plucked right out of the ground. Then there’s the level’s meandering web of carefully crafted corridors that run around the lower part of the island, draped in lush green ivy and covered in authentic WW2-era advertising. The real eye-catcher, however, is the abbey, which acts as the heart of the island. Its exterior is so detailed that the thought of someone creating that in a video game baffles me, and that’s before you go Inside it to see the soaring stained-glass windows, expansive marble floors, beautifully painted ceilings, and myriad rooms crammed with casual props and rich storytelling about the environment.
One of the reasons Sniper Elite 5’s levels look so damn good is due to a process called environmental photogrammetry (Rebellion’s in-house artists used environmental photogrammetry to create most of the game’s assets, and as a result everything from trees to tanks to Simple textures look so sharp and accurate, but wonderful as this method is, it wasn’t actually used for what has quickly become my favorite little detail in Sniper Elite 5 – the charming, personality-filled paintings that lined the walls in each level .
Now I feel like paintings in video games, like other casual props, are often overlooked. I mean, who has time to appreciate art when bullets are whizzing past your head? Not me. Or at least not me first. See, that was before I wandered into a wing of the Spy Factory Abbey and encountered a painting of Jason Kingsley, the CEO of Rebellion. Jason, dressed in medieval robes, is instantly recognizable thanks to his long flowing locks, but rather than being drawn by an artist, this image was actually a still from Rebellion’s short film, Grail Knight Quest.
However, that one image was enough to make me pay attention to the artwork and soon I was zooming in on every painting I saw, admiring all the small details and the variations in style. Who takes these pictures? I began to wonder. Were they made in house? Were they purchased assets? Were they scanned from reality using photogrammetry? When I thought about it on a live stream back then, my viewers got involved in the sightseeing, too, and that led to one of them tweeting one of their finds to me:
This funny little painting caught my eye in Sniper Elite 5. I don’t know anything about Rebellion developers, but I love finding things like this. @Ian Highton have you seen this one pic.twitter.com/KQ5NNUTuiT
– Ed Sears – Please be kind (@Ed2003wrx) June 7, 2022
This then started a whole thread of discovery as I called in members of the Rebellion development team to see if I could come up with an answer as to the origins of the artwork, and would you know? Most of the paintings in the game were actually the work of just one person! How wonderful is that?!
The artist in question, Edouard Groult, no longer works at Rebellion, but Take a quick look at his Artstation page and you’ll be bombarded with fantastic imagery and concept art, ranging in style from sci-fi and classic to fantastical and technical.
Which I also learned, thanks Rich May, a lead programmer at Rebellion, was that each of Edouard’s paintings also had a weird filename. The painting the viewer tweeted me was a riff on classic artworks named “Religious Headpat,” while others had similarly descriptive names like “Sad Beach Lady” and “Mr Sleeves.” This of course spurred me on to chase these images on more live streams, and by name alone I was able to quickly locate Sad Beach Lady hanging on a wall above an old bookshelf.
Discussing this piece with Chris Donlan, he surmised that Sad Beach Lady was “halfway between a Sargent/Renoir pastiche,” but being the uncultured pig that I am, those influences had slipped past me. However, what strikes me about most of the paintings in the game is how each one seems to be inspired by a different art form. Just looking at the work on his Artstation page, one can tell that Eduoard is extremely prolific and a master of many styles. This is especially true of the game, as it’s easy to believe that each painting is a different artist, but as it turns out, Edouard was even also behind most of the series’ propaganda postersso it seems his talents never end.
This little scavenger hunt I created for myself is the main reason why Sniper Elite 5’s incredible art is among my highlights of 2022. Life is in danger but spending time seeing the sights and learning how some of the game’s assets were created and who created them just felt so magical to me. Sure, I’ll still be spouting nonsense like a pro in the inevitable Sniper Elite 6, but if that ever comes up, rest assured I’ll make time to examine the artwork as well. Thanks for your hard work Edouard!
https://www.eurogamer.net/games-of-2022-sniper-elite-5-had-the-best-art Games of 2022: Sniper Elite 5 had the best art